Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Mother's Words

Two nights before my mother died we found the following writing tucked inside an old photo album in her house. It had been written some 20 years earlier. I had the privilege of reading it to her the night before she died. She just smiled and listened to her life story written in her own words. It was a special time. I want to share it because somehow it let's me know that her words will go on if only in cyberspace and there will be others who will know that she was once here living an ordinary life but not forgotten by those who loved her.

By Lolita Simpson

It is very hard to pinpoint the years of my life when I was the happiest. Every phase of my life had its’ own reward. When I was a very young child crowing up, more carefree than I would ever be, was a happy time. Even though there were hardships for my parents, I had a happy childhood.

My adventure into the world came during a great world war, also during a time of holiday festivities, December 29, 1917. It should have been a happy time although my mother had lost my little sister two years before at Christmas time in January. At that time my grandmother’s oldest son was in France fighting in the war.My mother was living in my grandmother’s home during this time because my father was in an army camp preparing to go overseas to France where the war was taking place. My father did not go overseas. The war was over before his unit was prepared to go.

During the year 1918, my mother’s only sister was burned nearly to death. She lived next door to my grandmother. One morning while she was dressing her small son, she stooped over to pick up a shoe and her starched petticoat and long starched dress went into the open flame heater. She caught fire. She ran across the yard to my grandmother’s home and fell on the back steps. All of her clothes were burned of her body.

I was very small, just seven or eight months old. They turned my Aunt’s home into a hospital as she could not be moved, and my mother, grandmother, nurses, Doctor’s and volunteer friends, took care of my aunt. She was unconscious for three months.
During this time a young girl relative about ten years old took care of my aunt’s little boy, who was about three years old and me in my grandmother’s home. My aunt did finally recover although the doctors said she wouldn’t live more than ten or fifteen years because her kidneys were damaged. They were wrong, she was ninety-five last July. She is in a rest home in Houston, Texas.

I remember vaguely living in Joplin, Missouri with my mother and father. My father had a retail shoe store there. I also remember living here in Poteau for a short while. I may have been told about this because it is so dim in my memory.

My mother was a very pretty young girl. She was a studious person and liked school. She was also a musician. She had studied piano starting at a young age. When she finished high school here she went to Murphresburo, Tennessee to a girl’s school and continued studying music. She had a beautiful alto voice and as I grew older I studied voice. I sing soprano and we enjoyed singing together until she died in 1976.

My mother met my father while she was attending school in Tennessee. He was from Chattanooga and his father was a Methodist minister there. My mother and father were divorced when I was about two and a half years old. We came back to my grandmother’s home and lived there until my mother married again.

During the time we lived with my grandmother and three of my mother’s brothers I grew very close to them. My grandmother was very much like my own mother and I was very close to my uncles. They loved me and I’m sure I probably needed more disciplining that I got but they would intervene. This was told to me.

My mother married my stepfather when I was four and a half years old. My stepfather was a quiet and reserved person, rather formal in manner. He and his first wife had owned a mercantile store in Rock Island. His wife had also taught school there. They had sold their business and bought a home here in Poteau. They had a small son. They had not lived here very long until his wife developed cancer of the breast. She did not live long after she became sick.

My stepfather was 16 years older than my mother. He was forty-five and she was twenty-nine. We moved into my stepfather’s home. It was located right across the street from the grade school and high school, where Pansy Kid Jr. High School is now.

Moving there was a great change in my life. I had always had my mother’s total attention. It was very hard to share her with someone else. She also became stepmother to a small boy, he was eleven years old. I’m not sure how old he was when his mother died. I’m sure that his father’s marrying again upset his world and added to the trauma of losing his mother and caused him a great deal of stress. My mother was quite young and there she was trying to cope with two children who were hurting, and also trying to be a wife to a new husband.

After about three years, my stepfather lost his job. His first wife’s illness had taken most of his savings and we had to make some changes in our life style. My mother owned a farm close to Gilmore about ten miles from Poteau. There was a house on the farm and we moved there. I was starting into the third grade that fall and I would have had to walk about three or four miles to school. My mother thought I was too small, so I stayed with my grandmother. I stayed with my grandmother the first semester of the second grade and then I went to live with my mother on the farm.

Living on the farm was definitely a new experience for me. I was a very active child. I loved climbing trees, turning hand springs, swimming, skating, all of the things that boys liked to do. I was a tomboy. I had a beautiful dog. I had a horse. I followed my stepfather all over that 150 acres. I also had a swimming hole as it was called in those days.

I remember having a big garden. My father always grew beautiful tomatoes. He planted cotton and corn. I remember sitting in the wagon and driving the horses down the rows for him when he pulled the corn off the stalks. I loved helping him. He took me fishing and I followed him around when he hunted squirrels and quail.

My first Christmas on the farm my father made me a beautiful little kitchen cabinet and a doll bed painted blue and my mother made a little pillow, sheets and quilt for it, also a toll table. My grandmother gave me a pretty little tea set.

My father gave me a calf of my very own and when he was grown they sold him and got me a piano. It wasn’t a new one but it was beautiful to me.

My mother and father didn’t know too much about farming. We lived on the farm almost two and a half years. One of my mother’s brothers was an engineer on the highway that goes from Heavener through the Winding Stair Mountains to Talahina and when he got that job he hired my father as an inspector on that highway and we moved to Page, Oklahoma. I was about eight years old. My father and my uncle worked for the Oklahoma Highway Department for several years and we moved frequently. I lived in Page, Heavenor, Wilburton, and Reichart, Oklahoma during that time.

When I was eleven years old my stepfather and mother had a little boy, my half brother, Rosser Gene.My family moved to Reichert, Oklahoma when I was about twelve years old. It was a very small community not far from Heavener, Oklahoma. My father established a country grocery store there.

I went to school in a two room school house. One room had the first four grades and the other room the fifth through the eighth grade. I was the only student in the eighth grade. I helped my teacher with the younger children, especially reading, and I enjoyed it very much.

I went away from home to school at the age of thirteen. I went to Durant, Oklahoma to the Oklahoma Presbyterian College for girls also High School. I was in the ninth grade.

During my sophomore year in high school I lived with my Aunt Sestos and Uncle Bill here in Poteau. My junior year and the first semester of my senior year I lived with my Uncle Chester and Aunt Erma. The last semester of my senior year my family moved back to Poteau and lived at home. I realize that my living conditions were very unstable, however I was very fortunate that I had a close knit extended family and I knew that they loved me.

My grandmother was a very stabilizing influence in my life. I used to say that when I went into her front door I truly felt at home. One reason may have been because I was born in her home and had lived there so much during my first four years of
My family tried very hard to shield me from world events that were taking place during that time. I was in high school during the Great Depression and everyone was having a very hard time just living from one day to the next. My mother was a very good seamstress and I was proud of the clothes that she made for me. She also altered many dresses that my aunt gave me.

I belonged to a girls club during my junior and senior year. We had formal parties in our homes and informal parties after football games, etc. I had many friends, boys and girls that have remained my friends all my life.

I first dated my husband at age fifteen. I was a sophomore in high school and he was attending Poteau, Junior College. When Poteau Junior College was first established classes were held in the high school building. He attended the junior college one year and then went to Arkansas University in Fayetteville the next three years. In those days we did not date steady. I dated other boys but I dated him when he was here during holidays and in the summer time.

We were married November 12, 1937. I was nineteen years old. My twentieth birthday was in December, 1937. In 1939, World War II was just around the corner. I have just been watching the very impressive memorial tribute paid to all the men and women who died at Pearl Harbor. I was remembering where I was fifty years ago when Pearl Harbor was bombed escalating us into World War II that morning.

At that time I had been married four years. My oldest son was three years old. We lived in Ft. Smith and we were in Poteau visiting our folks that weekend. We were on our way home that morning and had stopped at the drug store downtown on our way out of town when the news came over the car radio. News that ushered in a World War and the atomic age. The people of the world have lived under the threat of atomic war ever since that day. There are some days that we never forget, this was one of those days for me.

In my early life as a young married woman I feel was a happy time. Having my first child at a young age and not having more children until he was nine and ten years old, made my time with him, as an only child, unique. He and I have very many happy memories that belong to us alone.

I suppose the happiest time would be after my family was complete. We moved to Norman Oklahoma when my oldest child, Earl Jr., was almost twelve. Mike was nearly three years old and Danise was nearly two years old.

Because my husband was away from home so much made me even closer to my children. During the week I prepared the food that the children liked to eat. I took the two younger ones to the park to play and we had picnics there. During the summer my older son played baseball and the two smaller ones and I always went to the games. On week-ends, when my husband came home, he would take use out to eat and to a drive-in movie. I attended all their school activities.

When Danise and Michael were in the third and fourth grade I sponsored the Cub Scouts for a year and I had the Blue Birds, younger Camp Fire girls, for three years. Earl Jr. was in the Boy Scouts from age ten to fourteen.

When my older son married my younger children were ten and eleven. When they were twelve and thirteen my oldest grand child was born. His sister was born when he was two years old. When they were seven and nine my daughter’s twins were born.

I have had young people and young children in my life all these years until just lately. Maybe that’s what I am missing.


marciamayo said...

Oh Dani, what a gift from your mother to you and your girls and now to all of us. I loved reading her words and knowing that your real name is Danise.

Arkansas Patti said...

That is an absolute treasure and thank God she took the time to write those words for otherwise, they would be lost and that should never happen.
Thank you so much for sharing.