Ruby's Dead and I'm Glad
In 1914, Woodrow Wilson issued a Presidential Proclamation that the second Sunday in May, shall be declared "Mother's Day.”
This is the day, we give our moms breakfast in bed, Hallmark cards, send FTD floral arrangements, and baskets of chocolate covered strawberries with fresh fruit cut into the shapes of little flowers. We may have her over for a cookout on the patio or treat her to a special buffet lunch at a local restaurant where she will receive a red carnation. According to the National Restaurant Association, Mother's Day is the most popular day of the year to dine out.
For some of us, Mom is no longer around. That could mean a visit to a cemetery, sharing memories with siblings, or perhaps digging through boxes of old pictures that we meant to put into an album years ago.
During World War II, my mother was a teenager living in Atlanta. I have seen many pictures of the city's streets crowded with hoards of uniformed service men. Most were smoking a cigarette, or had an arm draped around the slender waist of an attractive, young Southern Belle. In those faded photos, they seem to be in high spirits, enjoying a party atmosphere. I imagine the G.I.s were trying to cram in as much fun as possible before facing the uncertainty of their future in the Pacific or Atlantic Theater.
As a historian, with a special interest in World War II, and Womens’ history, I was curious about my mother’s experiences during the war. For years, I begged her to tell me what it was like living in a big city during that time. My persistence never paid off. The most she would do is smile wistfully and say……."Well, those Pennsylvania boys sure were nice.”
She briefly relented in a weak moment when I asked how she met my father. During a warm spring afternoon, while she was working as a sales clerk at the Broad Street Woolworth's Five & Dime, she noticed a tall, handsome soldier coming into the store. He caught her eye and winked. I asked, “What did you do?” She replied, “I winked back.”
Bobbie Lou was born, raised, and died a Southern Democrat. She had little use for Republicans or Yankees. According to her, there were only two religions; you were either Methodist, or “One of those damn Baptists.”
I don’t remember this story because it happened when I was quite young, but I have often heard it repeated, mainly because I'm pretty sure Mama never forgave me for such a blunder.
November 4, 1952 was election day; I had just turned four years old the month before. My parents left my brothers and me in the care of our grandmother while they went to vote. According to the story, we were happily playing in the fallen autumn leaves when a neighbor walked into our yard and asked if our mother was home. I looked up from my leaf pile and innocently replied, “No, she went to vote for Eisenhower.”
Two of the most important life lessons Mama taught me have served me well throughout the years ~ be punctual and send thank you notes. Granted, email has made writing thank you notes much more convenient, but I think it still counts.
Bobbie Lou was rarely reluctant to give advice or express an opinion. She and her neighbor, Ruby, were frequently in conflict with each other. During one of my visits, as we sat on her enclosed back porch sharing a pitcher of cold sweetened iced tea, I noticed she hadn’t mentioned her neighbor. I put down my frosty glass and asked, “So, what’s going on with Ruby?”
Mama took a long, slow sip of the sweet, icy, red liquid, glanced out the window at the row of beautiful pink azaleas separating their yards, and replied, “Ruby’s dead and I’m glad.”
Happy Mother’s Day, Mama, wherever you are.