Friday, May 11, 2018

Angel From Alabama

Mother's Day 2018

“My latest sun is sinking fast, my race is nearly run
My strongest trials now are past, my triumph has begun
Oh, come angel band come and around me stand
Oh bear me away on your snow white wings to my immortal home.”

                             “Angel Band”-Emmylou Harris

By Doc Lawrence

Mothers are precious. I miss this wonderful woman, her laughter, her favorite songs and her Southern dinner table, particularly Sunday after church and on holidays. What a spread: fried chicken, meat loaf (we always had two meats), creamed corn, fried okra, congealed salad, whatever greens were in season, pole beans, field peas, macaroni and cheese and choices of desert ranging from coconut layer cake to peach cobbler. I still believe she made her lemon meringue pie just for me and to this day I've not had a dessert that could come close to matching its dazzling array of flavors and gently browned meringue.

The memories of those days together may be a little faded, but, in the words of one of her favorite hymns, "how they linger, ever near me, and the sacred past unfolds."

A child of the Depression and World War II, my mother represented the finest of the Deep South. Although she never said it, her role model had to be Scarlett O’Hara. Survival and accomplishment were embodied in a beautiful woman who faced fate squarely and despite unconscionable losses along the way including the death of her youngest child, moved forward to face life relentlessly. 

Her name was Carrie and true to the good manners of her time, she was addressed with respect as “Miss Carrie.” Cruel poverty denied her much formal education, but she loved to read and found time to read bedtime stories to me before I was in kindergarten. Saturdays were library days. Books, newspapers and magazines have been vital, enriching parts of my daily living thanks to her. Names like Celestine Sibley, Margaret Ann Barnes, Catherine Marshall, Harper Lee and Margaret Mitchell were on the dust covers of her books.

She departed this world before my first book was published, but she is the reason it happened.

She enjoyed working, earning some extra cash to keep her three children a little ahead with occasional extras. While I was a skinny teenager, she worked in the record shop at Rich’s, a legendary department store in Atlanta. She brought home promotional sample records, and I was introduced to then obscure names like Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson, Bo Diddly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Patsy Cline and Elvis. A new world of rhythm and harmony opened and I became a rocker, playing and singing with a good band in college. No one ever introduced me to the majestic music of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Screaming' Jay Hawkins or John Lee Hooker. Their music was played loud and clear on those 45's Mom supplied regularly. 

I have never been happier.

It's possible that my mother attended all of Elvis’ concerts in Atlanta. One morning during the Dog Days of August, she called and informed me of his death. I still remember the sharp pain in her voice. 

A devoted Atlanta Braves fan, it was understood that she would never die during baseball season. Her time on earth ended during the December holidays while her beloved Braves were on vacation.

Like Emmylou Harris, Zelda Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, Helen Keller, Tallulah Bankhead and Truman Capote’s Aunt Sook, Mom was an Alabama girl. Born and raised in Sulphur Springs in the northeast corner of the state, Lookout Mountain forms a spectacular backdrop. I always thought it would be a wonderful place for a child.

I’ll visit her grave early Sunday morning to place roses. As the Georgia sun peeks through the pines, sometimes the air stirs a little. During moments of great peace, I listen carefully for the flutter of angel wings. 

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