Friday, March 16, 2007

A child prodigy, such as my mother, doesn't necessarily grow up to be narcissistic. I believe there were several factors that influenced Mother's self-centeredness. Deedo was only one of them.

There were also her aunts, uncles and grandparents who elevated her status at family gatherings by allowing her to perform her musical magic, while the other children were expected to be seen, but not heard, causing most of her cousins to resent her terribly. The same situation occurred at school and at church, where she garnered much more attention than her peers. She was not just a good musician, but a gifted student, as well, winning all the academic contests and skipping from first to second grade at mid-term, then breezing through third and fourth grades in one year instead of two. Had she been modest about her accomplishments, the other children would have liked her better, but she frequently derided them for being so "dumb."

"They're just jealous," her mother consoled, and she used that excuse all her life, whenever she encountered a cold shoulder. Her emotional growth was stunted by that attitude, as she came to see most of her problems as the fault of others. There were no brothers and sisters to puncture her puffed-up pride, so she grew up believing she was always in the right and others were simply wrong. Nothing frustrated my father more than her inability to admit a mistake or say she was sorry for anything. She was very insensitive to others' feelings.

Jack enjoyed other advantages that further inflated her ego. She was always dressed stylishly, thanks to her mother who was a superior seamstress. And one of the silliest things she did was to drink Coca-Colas every morning for breakfast. She didn't do this at home, but waited until she got to school, so all the others could watch her enviously. If they had that sweet elixir once a week, it was a real treat. Jack had it everyday, and for breakfast, no less. What a show-off! One of her cousins told me this not long ago, and at 80 years old, she still had a tone of resentment when she told it.

If Mother was affected by the Great Depression, I never heard her mention it. Most people her age recalled very well its hardships and deprivation, but not Jack. She never lived in a house that did not have indoor plumbing or electricity. She never wore hand-me-downs. She had very few chores to do. She never worked in the fields or the garden. Her family was not wealthy, but they had more than most during that time. She remembered the 30's as a wonderful time when she and her mother were very close. She worked at her father's sawmill as a bookkeeper, then went to Jackson Business College. The only regret from that time I ever heard her express is that she did not take the full scholarship to Blue Mountain College that she was awarded as a high school senior. She was only 16 when she graduated, and much too young, her mother said, to be that far away from home.

So no, George, she was not a spoiled only child, simply because she had no siblings. Her spoilers were many, mainly her mother, and she was enabled all her life to take a pass on anything she didn't want to do. About 10 years ago, I overheard her tell a physical therapist, "My husband never made me do anything I didn't want to do, and you're not going to either." She had fallen on ice in her driveway and broken her pelvic bone. He was trying to help her recover, but soon fled her hospital room with, "You're the stubbornest old woman I've ever seen. See if I care that you never walk again!" The poor man had no way of knowing that she was exempt from the rules that applied to everybody else. Somehow, she recovered without physical therapy, which only reinforced her obstinacy.

The remark I heard the most last week-end from those who knew her was, "What a character!" Then they would smile, or laugh. She was truly an original.


Zoilus said...

She certainly had her faults, but my don't we all? What good memories do you have of Jack? I remember her always ready to play a song to entertain me, I remember her saying, "Now whose turn is it?" when I would take too long playing Scrabble, I remember her sweet hugs and kisses for me no matter where I'd been or what I'd done, I remember everyone loving her at the People's Bank (they made a special receptionist's desk for her in the foyer, remember?), and the love of everyone in Baldwyn. So many good memories I have of her, it truly makes me cringe to watch you go on about what a spoiled brat she was in your eyes. She was both good and bad, vain and frail, as we all are, Mom. Can we just speak kindly of her now that she's gone?

C J Garrett said...

Of course, I have good memories of her, too. I'll write about those another day. Today I was answering George's complaint that the "only child" is sometimes unfairly called "spoiled." Jack knew she was a spoiled brat, and didn't mind anyone else knowing it. It helped to make her the colorful character she was.

I'm glad you have good memories of her. Her maternal instincts were more obvious with her grandchildren than her children. Maybe it was Deedo's example that helped her be a more attentive grandmother than mother.