Friday, September 28, 2012

Everybody in the South Has a Mammaw, Part 2

Last week I blogged about my mammaw. Mama Carroll, the ladies at Mount Carmel Baptist Church used to call her. I've been thinking about her ever since I published that post. She's been gone since the second semester of my junior year of college, 1978.

I remember the day she died. I came home for the weekend because my mom called me and said Mammaw was near the end of life. She was in a nursing home with a broken hip and had begun to have mini-strokes in her throat. I packed a bag, loaded my '77 Powder Blue Pinto and made the 90 minute drive from Arkansas Tech to my small hometown of Lonoke, Arkansas.

When I arrived Mom had everything under control.  "Let's make chocolate turtles," she said. So she and I took over the small kitchen and began the long process of making a bazillion chocolate turtles. (For those of you who live inside a turtle shell and don't know what this delicacy is I speak of, it is caramel with pecan pieces mixed in it, then dipped into milk chocolate. TO DIE FOR! Oops...bad choice of words in this case.)

We were about half-way through our candy making when the phone rang. It was the nursing home letting us know Mammaw had just passed. I sat at the table and began to cry. Mother cried. Daddy came in the kitchen and said, "Don't you dare cry! I forbid you to cry!"

So we held it in. A few minutes later I heard Daddy's sobs from the family room. She was the only mother he ever really knew. His own mother died when he was two years old from tuberculosis. His father remarried a number of times (I say a number, because no one knows for sure how many exactly. But that's a story for another time.)

When Daddy began to cry, Mama and I felt the freedom to do likewise. When the day of the funeral was upon us, I remember thinking I'd never seen so many people in one building before. Hundreds of people put a hold on their lives to pay their respects. People drove from far and wide to help us lay her to rest.

Remember in the last post that I mentioned her favorite hymn was "In the Garden"? Well, someone sang it at her funeral. And I fell apart. My mammaw was gone and I didn't know it then, but soon my mother would follow. Two strong Southern women whose memories still live in the hearts of those who knew them.

Mammaw: Florence Ella Duncan Carroll. She grew roses and tulips, strawberries and corn, fished with a bamboo fishing pole, wore "stockings" rolled up and tied in knots just below the knees, chopped off rattlesnake heads with a garden hoe, made snowballs and kept them in her deep freezer to use in the heat of the summer to keep a Coca-Cola nice and cold, crocheted a blue streak around all the other women, loved to bake Better-Than-Sex cakes (and spelled sex in a whisper instead of saying the word), watched Lawrence Welk every Saturday night followed by My Three Sons and Petticoat Junction, slept with her head at the foot of the bed in summer to get the fresh air from the open window, never screamed or carried on but you'd best watch out when she growled out "Good Granny".

The longer I live, the more I remember her. I recall a huge arrangement of wax flowers she put in a beautiful vase my Aunt Prudie brought her from Japan.  After arranging the flowers just so, Mammaw placed them on a table that sat centered in front of a huge picture window in my grandparents' living room. One day a hummingbird was flitting about outside the window and saw those flowers and flew smack dab right into the windowpane and fell to the ground. Mammaw ran outside and dug around in the flower bed just outside the window until she found the bird. She watched it for a minute and then it flew away. She marched into the house and moved the flowers to the dining room table where they stayed for a long time. We laughed about that for years, but knowing her the way I did, I know her heart ached over that poor little bird. The only wrath I ever saw from her was chopping the heads off unwelcome rattlers or moccasins.

Mammaw, I love you dearly. I always have and I always will. Nobody ever loved me the way you did...nobody but the One you modeled your life after. One day, day...

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