Thursday, March 15, 2007

It felt so good to get back to choir last night with my favorite irreverent Episcopalians. I had requested they pray for my dysfunctional family as we gathered for Mother's funeral, so I was happy to report that their prayers were effective and much appreciated. I heard a couple of stories about family feuds at funerals that made my family's discord sound very mild in comparison. I also heard how much they thought I favored my mom. I heard that from several P'ville people, too. It's in my double chin, the jowls and the sad eyes where I see Jack the most.

Daddy always told me I had my mother's hands. I just wish my hands could make music the way hers did. Just about everybody who viewed her body noticed her painted nails and remarked how they had never seen them unpolished. I picked up that practice, too, due in large part to her influence, but also to my father's. He thoroughly indoctrinated me with his idea of femininity:

The girl that I marry will have to be
as soft and sweet as a nursery
A girl to call my own
She'll wear satin and laces and smell of cologne
Her nails will be polished and in her hair
She'll wear a gardenia and I'll be there
'Stead of knittin' she'll be sittin'
By my side and she'll purr like a kitten.
The girl that I marry, the girl that I carry will be.

I asked Mother to bequeath her musical talent to me, but alas, I have yet to find it if she did. I was able to sing all 3 octaves from high C to low C last night when the choir warmed up with scales, an ability of mine she claimed to envy, but the fingers are still just as lost as they ever were when I sit down at the piano. Not only was Mother able to reproduce any musical score she heard (and usually it took only one hearing), she could modulate any song to any key effortlessly. She had perfect pitch and could identify all the wrong notes we played from 3 rooms away, very disconcerting and intimidating for amateurs such as her unskilled children.

Even though Mother seemed to have zero maternal instincts, she made sure we got "mothered" by her mother; whose idea that was, I'm still not sure. I wonder if Deedo ever blamed herself that Jack was totally clueless in child-rearing skills. Probably not. She gained a lot of her own self-esteem from the fact that she and Irvin had produced a child prodigy and was happy for her to stay very child-like in many ways. Why else would she so willingly step in and "take up the slack" like she did? In more ways than child-rearing, too. The pay-off for her was considerable.

Deedo was much better equipped to be a pastor's wife than Mother was. She loved to cook and entertain guests, she enjoyed Bible study and socializing. Her domestic skills and interests, her people skills far out-weighed her daughter's. Subsequently, she served as sort of a surogate hostess at the parsonage. Mother handled those duties adequately as long as Deedo was there to coach the cooking from backstage, to arrange the flowers, starch and press the table linens, wash the dishes, pots and pans, but Deedo died in 1965. Without her, Mother floundered. Her idea of entertaining guests was to sit at the piano and play music all evening. How could she possibly do that and serve a 3 course meal? "Let them eat cake!"

1 comment:

Zoilus said...

I know you don't think Jack was the most maternal mother in the world, but I remember her mothering me in many nice ways--cooking me breakfast in the morning, washing my clothes, taking me to Verona to fill up my gas tank. If it hadn't been for Jack and Mama Rita, I wouldn't have made it through Itawamba and Ole Miss, respectively.

I know it may have paled in comparison to your grandmother, but Jack had plenty of things to recommend her besides her musical skills. Try to remember that sometimes.