Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Expressions of Sympathy

Expressions of Sympathy
8.5" x 11"
Several posts back, I wrote about going to the cemetery to meet people coming out after a funeral. Several of us would pick wildflowers, maybe put them in a fruit jar with water, and present them to people who were leaving the cemetery after a funeral. We thought they might be sad and deserved some flowers, too. And, of course, being children, we didn't have money to contribute toward flowers for the deceased. We wouldn't have known how to go about that, anyway.
Usually, we didn't even know who the person was who died, or any of the mourners. We could tell there was going to be a funeral when the grave was being dug in the cemetery in the next block. Edie lived right across the street and I lived in the next house toward the school, so we always knew when there were funerals.
In this drawing, I showed Judy on the left, waiting to give her flowers. Edie is handing her flowers to a well dressed lady who was wearing a hat with a veil, which most ladies did back then. I'm standing next to Edie, and Tootsie is on the right. Inside the cemetery gate, a couple is leaving and my brave little sister was there, giving her flowers to the lady. (We probably either pushed her in there, or she thought that we were right behind her! Or, maybe, she just saw those people and headed for them while we stopped at the gate.) We weren't brave enough to actually go into the cemetery, with all those strangers. Most likely, we had been warned to leave those people alone and stay away from the funeral. So, this was as close as we went, the street by Edie's house.
I do know that we waited on the little hill of Edie's front yard, and went back there as soon as we had given our flowers. We watched in silence as the people left and the hearse pulled away from the drive through the cemetery. We thought of what we would do for the next funeral, wondered when it might be, and who were these people that we had given flowers to, where did they live, and who did they leave behind in the cemetery. We couldn't help but wonder about death and what it was like and hope that it wouldn't come to us in the night.
There was an empty lot between Edie's house and mine, that was solid with red Indian Paintbrushes in the spring. On the other side of my house, between there and the school, was an empty half of a block that was also filled with the Indian Paintbrushes. Along with the Indian Paintbrushes, there were always some small yellow, pink, purple, and white flowers. And sometimes we could find a good stand of Sour Grass to chew on, or pretty Queen Annes Lace to add to our arrangements.
There also was a coffee weed that grew between our houses, that was good to add to our play-like soup or mud pies. It had bean pods growing on it. Daddy warned us about eating it, though, because he said it was poisonous.
Wild plum trees grew along the fence line at the back of the lots. That made for some wonderful homemade plum jelly, and beautiful spring blossoms.
We had plenty to pick from for our flower arrangements. We didn't seem to have any Bluebonnets, though. There were lots of flowers in flower beds around the neighborhood and in the park, but we knew we would get into trouble if we picked any of those.
The cemetery in Calvert is a lovely park-like place. Beautiful old statues in there, and many interesting tombstones. Before fire ants struck our area, it was a pleasant place to sit and reflect or just read about and think of the people who are resting there.
I thought I would add this drawing today, thinking of another former Calvert resident and member of one of the old families, who has died at age 95. I remember that, when I was a child, he returned to Calvert in his blue Navy uniform during or just after WWII. I remember him coming to Sneed Memorial Methodist Church, wearing the uniform. I remember hearing of "Sock" Norton, but I don't recall any of what was said. Maybe just that he was in the service, or that he was home, or something from Calvert High School days, long before my time there. I also remember him being in his father's clothing store, Norton's.
I was reading his obituary in" the Marlin Democrat", and thought about funerals, the cemtery, and Calvert. Hammond Norton's son, Bill, has restored the old Norton homeplace, now the Hammond House B&B. Most of us remember it as the old courthouse, which turned out to be all wrong. It seems that it was actually built to be a jail. You can read more about the Hammond House and it's history, with pictures, online. I have a link to it in my sidebar.
Like many who have roots in Calvert, Ham seems to have had a long and outstanding life.
I know that his family, and those who knew him, have many wonderful memories of him. They gathered on Saturday to celebrate his life in a place near the Brazos that was dear to him.
Do you remember that almost everyone in Calvert had a nickname, or they were known as Mr. or Miss, no matter if they were married or not? I can hear my dad, my uncles, and Grandpa, people in town, saying those names and bits and pieces about them. But what did they say about them? I don't remember. Wish I had written things down.
We had "Toot", "Honey", "Pappy", "Uncle Doc", "Uncle Tom", "Bupsie", "Shrimp", "Snucky", "BB", "Uncle Goose", "ED", "Dee" in our family. There was "Jolly", "Tootsie", "Chi Chi", "T-Bone", "Slick", "Sooky", "Missie", "Estella", "Goo", among others in school. Around town, there were nicknames like "Lightning", "Hoss", and "Possum". There were lots more, but those just came to me.
Some of us never got a nickname, and was I glad to be in that group. I thought that someone would probably come up with a horrible name for me, something that would be really embarrassing. I was relieved to get through school without that happening.
One time, about 5th or 6th grade, we all decided that we would not write out our names on our papers in school, and would just put initials instead. We were really looking for shortcuts with our writing as those corns on our fingers got really sore sometimes! And, besides, if we could manage to get away with something and put something over on the teachers, that would be so great! Dutifully, one day, we all put our initials on our papers, along with our school, class, and date.
The next day, when the teacher was returning our papers, she just embarrassed us rather than just telling us not to do that anymore or it wasn't acceptable. She called out, not our names, but what the initials might spell or stand for. The first paper was for "Cap". Another was from "Eb", and there was one for "an Oak tree". She pulled mine out from the bottom of the stack and said, "Oh , here is one from the Calvert Chamber of Commerce!" I wanted to melt into the floor! I looked at the floor, and sweated, as I walked to her desk to retrieve my paper, and back. It wasn't such a good grade anyway. I shouldn't have claimed it, but she knew who I was. She knew all of us, despite our efforts to change our identitity and confuse the teacher, with all her many assignments.
Most of those nicknames were wonderful. They made us wonder how they came about, and sometimes they just really fit the person. For some people, we only knew them by nicknames, and their real names just didn't seem to fit, if we ever even knew what those real names were.
Some of those nicknames became legend, in the stories of the school and town. As the older people and families pass on, however, those names and stories are being lost.
I know that some people didn't like their nicknames, or their real names. The more they didn't like something, the more it stuck.
I can't believe that it is July already. What happened to June! I thought that I had a few days left, and, boom! All of a sudden it was the end of June!
I hope that you are planning some patriotic activities and family events for the Fourth and for the month of July.

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