Living in Arkansas 105 years ago tonight, Miss Minnie was Great with Child. It was her second one, the first being a boy born 10 years before. She was still a young woman. As I remember it, she’d had Floyd when she was 15 after getting married at age 13 to Dow, nine years her senior. I never heard anything about the birth, itself. The first one must have been a doozy since there were so many years between them. At that time, reliable birth control was still pretty much in the future so she was either not extremely fertile, Dow was at fault, or they practiced abstinence. It isn’t something that was ever discussed. At least, not in my presence.
The first instance of her upbringing that Mother told me about was when the little family lived on a houseboat. Little Floyd was a toddler of two and managed to fall overboard. Minnie reached down and grabbed him by the dress and pulled him out. Mother might have wished she’d let him go.
She and Floyd got along like cats and dogs. She hated it when he would “gick” at her. He’d point his finger and make a sound with his mouth that would set her off every time. She was a fiery sort, anyway, and he brought out the worst in her.
By and by the family moved to Tennessee. Artie was musical by nature and could play any song she heard. When she was a child, she played the old pump organ for church. At age 12, she was playing the piano on a showboat with the band. Six years later, she was on the road touring with as a chorus girl. She had the coveted position as “end girl”. Later on, she would play the piano again—this time in her father’s theater. He would show silent movies and she would follow along with the score that was sent with the reels. While Dow showed the movie and Artie played, Minnie would sell popcorn to the patrons. It was a real family business.
Artie was ill-fated when it came to men and marriage. Her first marriage produced my three older sisters, the second, another sister, and the third, me. When she married for the fourth time, she was 60 years old and would joke that if she had another child, she would name it Isaac. That wasn’t to be. I was still the end of the line.
Her first two marriages ended in divorce and she was widowed twice. She maintained she’d had her share and three other women’s and that was enough. That didn’t keep her from looking, though, and she did enjoy the company of a handsome man.
Over the years, she traveled a lot. She enjoyed seeing new places. There was always home and she never got over leaving her beautiful house of hand-set stone and moving into a double-wide. Toward the end of her life, she would talk about buying the house back. There wasn’t any use to try to talk her out of it so a lot of our phone conversations were built on fantasy.
She did, with considerable help from my two North Carolina sisters and my brother-in-law, manage to live in her own home until she was past 100. One day, she had to be taken to the hospital and from there to a stay in skilled nursing. Her last illness took her on the 12th day of her residence in a nursing home. Tomorrow, she would have been 105.
Her grave has been bare for many weeks now. As her birthday has gotten closer and closer, I decided to remedy that in her memory. Today, I assembled all the components for a new arrangement and went to work.
Here’s what the remains of the other arrangement looked like:
It was even more bare than that but I stuck some of the pieces I gathered up from the ground into it for carrying. I took everything off and taped the covering down since it was the worst for wear, too.
First thing I should have done was clean the dirt off of it. I’m going to have to shampoo the footstool after all this.
I got the greenery out I’d salvaged plus what I’d bought.
Using the pliers to cut the stems apart was harder than I thought it would be but I got ‘er done. I ended up not using one of the fern bunches. Unless I need it later, I’ll return it for a refund.
Here’s what it looks like now.
Tomorrow, I’ll head for the cemetery and anchor it to her grave. It will be the best I can do in the way of a gift.