The Last Widows of the Confederacy
By Beverly Hicks Burch
It happened on the Friday before Labor Day 2007. Tall and Handsome and I were driving back to Knoxville from another lovely Southern city. We’d been in this city for about two weeks…well at least Scoot, AKA Watson the Wonder dog and I had been in this city with T & H for that long. Tall and Handsome had been there since about the first of August working. We’ve been checking things out for a possible move.
Anyway, the Friday before Labor Day we’re heading back to Knoxville to take care of a few things and check things out at the house there. Before we leave this quintessential Southern town, Tall and Handsome pulls into a gas station to fill the tank up before we hit the road. He pulls up to the pump, whips out his card and reaches for the nozzle and faster than you could say ♪ “Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton…”♪ an attendant appeared and said…
“I’m sorry, suh, but this is full serve. Self serve is on the other island.”
Whoa! After I did a double-take, cleaned my ears out really well and watched a stunned, wide-eyed, disoriented T & H mumble “Thank-you” and stumble back to the Jeep…I mean this had seriously broken his stride and routine…I made the comment to him when he got back in the Jeep…
“These pumps must be for the last widows of the Confederacy.”
I must have intoned some special incantation, because, I kid you not, within about 45 seconds a little blue-haired lady in a little car pulled up to the full serve island and had her gas pumped. You have to admire her…and the Confederate pension she receives must be substantial because the dang stuff on that side of the station was impressive…well over $3.00 a gallon…approaching $4.00. The petrol on our side was much more to our liking…almost a dollar a gallon less…well under a $3.00 gallon. I can say one thing for her, she had full command of that little wagon she was driving…I truly admire her moxie!
Well, we have a running joke in my family with my Momma…about pumping gas. When I saw this full serve gas, I picked up my cell phone and called her while T & H was out there slaving at the pump squeezing that handle, pumping the gas into our Jeep.
“Well, I have a reason you’re going to want to move where we might be moving.”
There was alarm in her voice. I guess she though this was some kind of new sick prank phone call…you know like, “M’am, is your refrigerator running?” or “Do you have Prince Albert in the can?”
She responded with, “Is this Bev? Who is this?”
“Mom, yeah, this is Bev and I have a really good reason you’re going to want to move where we might be moving!”
Now I must explain that my momma and Daddy are in the midst of moving themselves. It’s the first time they’ve moved since the middle of the 1960’s when I was 12 years old! Needless to say this has been a very stressful time for them. They are moving into a really great home up on a mountain top not too far from my home in Alabama. They’ve had a fantastic home built, but it’s been a stressful process none the less.
They’re having to move because their current neighborhood, an extremely nice and stately neighborhood in its day, has become increasingly dangerous. Not too long ago their front doorbell rang, Mom answered the door, and an unknown young man was standing there…sweating bullets…and quicker than Momma could think “Toto, were not in Kansas anymore” the police came up behind him and apprehended the unknown young fellow at my parents’ doorstep!
Sadly, this isn’t the only alarming occurrence to happen to them lately. One fair day, after hearing a rather loud commotion outside, they looked out their front window to discover that a drug dealer’s car had rolled down the hill and landed in their dogwood tree. Hum…I feel like I should be playing the theme song from Cops here and I guess it kind of looked like it that day.
So now, they’re in the midst of this move and I’m hundreds of miles away caught up in a transition of my own…a stress of it’s own for the oldest daughter who wanted to be the perfect daughter all her life…
So, back to the phone conversation…
“But, Momma, wait till you hear why! They have full serve gas here!”
She just chuckled and said, “I looove full serve gas!” As she put in one time, “I’m worth the few extra pennies.” Spoken like a true magnolia and GRITS! But, don’t let that fool you…that was in the days when the difference was a few pennies and not almost a dollar! My Momma knows a deal when she sees one.
I’ve always said Momma was born out of her time…she should have worn a hoop skirt and sat on a veranda with a mint julep in her hand. To be fair though, she would have given Scarlet, Rhett and the Yankees a run for their money, especially when it comes to her family.
Momma did her future daughters a really big favor when she picked out their Daddy…she picked out the best in the world and then set the example of how to honor him and love a guy with balance. They have been married for over 50 years. Daddy still calls her “my little sweet thing” and Momma worries over him when he’s sick like there’s no other in the world…and there’s not…they are a life long love story.
Mom taught us about loving sacrifice everyday in how she loved us. When her baby daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and doctors wanted her institutionalized, Momma said her days version of “No way, Jose!” and kept Yvonne at home…a decision light years ahead of its time.
Momma was housekeeper, chauffer, cook, accountant, nurse and all the other hats a stay at home mom wears. In the 1970’s she was the youth leader of the youth group at church and she gave us a place on Friday nights to hang out and have fun. Most of the time Momma and Daddy provided the money for the food out of their own pockets…but, they wanted to make sure the kids had a safe, fun, loving place to hang out. We all had a blast.
When Gomez the Unremarkable walked out six years ago, I was distraught. My little Momma (and Daddy of course) made sure I saw my worth and that my life would go on. It was not uncommon during that time and when I’d come home from work to have something in the mail from Momma…usually a word of encouragement or Scripture…handwritten.
I get impatient with Momma when she doesn’t realize how smart, talented, valuable, bright, savvy and great she is…so Momma, know this you are wonderful! I love you Momma. Enjoy your new home big time…you deserve it!
Back to Labor Day Weekend and that gas station…to be fair, I admit I looked over at the full serve island and saw a young guy…a big ol’ galoot…in a gi-normous SUV having his gas pumped and his tires kicked and checked by an attendant. I guess it takes all kinds…big ol’ galoots, the last widows of the Confederacy, and well deserving Mommas…not everyone is self serve in this day and age…
© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.