Posted tagged ‘family ties’

The Haggard Sisters

June 18, 2009

I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton, but I must agree with what she said about  “It takes a village to raise a child”.  I’ve come to realize the truth to this statement as I have reflected on all the people in my life who helped to raise me.  My parents, of course, but so many more people impacted my life, and helped to shape and develop my personality, spirituality, goals and dreams, and all other aspects of my life. 

Through this blog, I am chronicling my life story.  I have mentioned my parents, grandparents, siblings, a couple of my aunts, and a high school music teacher.  A few weeks ago, my sweet Aunt Mable passed away.  She was 92.  She was my mother’s sister.  My mother and my Aunt Margaret preceded her in death.  You might remember Aunt Mable and Aunt Margaret from a previous blog post.  They were pranksters!  They are  in the picture below.

Seated -A. Margaret, Standing, L to R A. Mable, A. Wanda, A. Nina

Seated -A. Margaret, Standing, L to R A. Mable, A. Wanda, A. Nina

My aunts lived full lives.  They were fun people!  I want to be a fun person. 

I spent a lot of time with my maternal aunts, and my cousins.  We lived within a few miles of each other, so we were at each others houses often. 

Like Mother, Aunt Mable was an extraordinary cook.  She was the supervisor and head cook for a technological college in Knoxville for many years.  You talk about some good eating!  A family get-together, starring the prize winning dishes, cooked by my mother and aunts, was enviable.  I say prize winning, because they competed at the Tennessee Valley A & I Fair, and took home many blue ribbons for their baking.

Aunt Margaret was quite the seamstress.  She could sew anything!  And, she could do it without a pattern to follow.  She taught me a number of short cuts when I was learning to sew; things like how to sew in sleeves.  This tip saved me many hours of time.  She encouraged me in my sewing, and complimented me on a job well done.

Aunt Mable let me hang out with her as a teenager.  Her son, Phil, was a close friend, and we double-dated.  Mother and Daddy allowed me, on occasion, to go to Sunday evening services with Phil and Aunt Mable.  There may have been an ulterior motive in my wanting to go, since my boyfriend also went to that church.  On the way home, we would sing those old hymns we had sung in church.

Anytime any of us got together there was music, or singing, involved.  I particularly remember one incident with Aunt Mable.  Her daughter, Betty Lou, my sister Nene, my Aunt Wanda, and me in the car.  I don’t remember where we were going, but we started singing.  I unashamedly say that we harmonized amazingly as we sang “Country Roads, Take Me Home”, and a gamut of other songs.  It’s funny how a seemingly insignificant moment can create a memory that lasts a lifetime.

My Aunt Nina is one of the most unique individuals I have ever known.  She took great care of herself, long before exercise was a household word.  She could roller skate.  I was awed that she could skate backwards.  She swam and walked, to add to her physical regimen.  I love her laugh!  It’s contagious.   She was an encourager to me, too.  I was 15 years old, when she came over to the house one day.  I was sitting at the sewing machine.  She came over to look at what I was making.  “Pamela, you’re going to save some man a lot of money one day.”   she admired.  Her words echoed in my mind as I sewed clothes for my three daughters, and as I made various items for gift shops.  That one sentence gave me confidence in my sewing, a skill I was able to use professionally.

Aunt Wanda is the youngest of the sisters.  A career woman, she had a lot of wisdom to impart to my young, impressionable mind.  I look more like her than any of my other aunts.  She calls us twins.  I have many memories with my Aunt Wanda, but one that really stuck was when my husband was in Vietnam.  I was only 19 years old at the time.  All my friends were still dating; going out on the weekends.  I was lonely.   I had moved back home with my parents while my husband was gone to war.  One night, they invited Aunt Wanda to spend the night.  She loved being at our house as much as we enjoyed having her.  She slept with me that night.  We talked and laughed into the night.  She told me that she felt sorry for me, because I was so young ,and I was going through missing my husband. (We had our first anniversary while he was away.)  The tears started to flow from my eyes.  She was a strong comfort for me that night, and I’ve never told her that. 

Why am I telling you all of this?  It’s because they were mentors to me.  It’s because they believed in me, enabling me to believe in myself.  It’s because we should be aware of the kind of impact we are having on the lives of those around us.   

Are we creating memories, or are we simply existing?  Is our impact positive or negative?  What will be remembered about us, after we are gone? 

From my aunts I learned that:

1. Extended family is an important part of that village that raises us.

2. Encouraging words give hope.

3. If you don’t want to laugh, don’t hang around with the Haggard sisters.



May 24, 2008

Curtis and CharlesToday marks the 10th anniversary of the passing of my brother, Curtis.  He was taken from us at the age of 57 from a heart attack.  (pictured on left with my husband, Charles)

Curtis was the family clown.  You couldn’t be around him for more than five minutes without laughing.  He was 6′ 5″ tall, a giant of a man, with an even bigger personality.  He loved to joke around and he teased me unmercifully as a child.   He was the athletic director at the Knoxville Boys Club.  I ran track for the Boys Club!  I guess you could say I had an inside track.  At age twelve, I won the State Championship in Track & Field for three events.  Curtis would say things like, “Why don’t you wear those medals on your chest?  At least you would have something there.”  Then, he would roar with laughter. 

Sonny is the first of six of us.  As teenagers, Sonny and Curtis would go out knocking on doors to find lawns to mow.  Curtis was a salesperson.  He could talk anyone into anything!  He would get the jobs for them to do, then he would sit under a tree and read a book while Sonny did the work.

When he was a young boy, he had a pet duck.  He was playing with it and stepped on it accidentally.  It was then a dead duck and his goose was cooked!  Mother told him to bury the duck in the field.  A few days later, she was walking through the field and saw something sticking up out of the ground.  Curtis had buried the duck with it’s bill sticking out of the ground.  The bill had a daisy in it.  No one could ever say he wasn’t creative.

Curtis and Sonny were only eighteen months apart in age, so they were together most of the time.   They shared a room.  Daddy was a pretty strict father, particularly when it came to dating.  He had set a curfew of 10:00 PM.  “If you aren’t in this house by ten o’clock, I’m locking the doors and calling the police.” he warned.

Curtis was out late and Daddy had locked the doors.  Sonny was fast asleep.  “Sonny, Sonny, let me in.”, Curtis was tapping on the window and attempting to wake his brother.  Sonny stumbled to the window to open it for Curtis to climb through.  Curtis creeped in through the window, or so he thought.  His foot caught on the curtains and pulled them down, along with the window shade.  The racket woke up all of us.  Daddy went flying through the house, and you might imagine the ending to the story.  I can assure you it included an end!

Most of the family called Curtis, Brother.  I called him Bruth.   I miss him so much, but his memory lives on in my heart.  When I think about him, it brings a smile to my face.  He brought lots of smiles to lots of faces, and now he is doing the smiling…down on us.


My Big Fat Singing Family

April 11, 2008

I was sitting in church Sunday night when suddenly I was covered with a wave of nostalgia. 

It all started with the old hymn “Are You Washed In The Blood”.  Instantly, I was in a time machine, traveling back to Lea Springs Baptist Church, in Grainger County, Tennessee.  I pictured Daddy singing in his deep, bass voice, “Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?  Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb…Are your garments spotless, are they white as snow?  Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”

Daddy loved that song.  He belted it out with passion and conviction.  He would get all fired up during his sermon, because some segment of the Southern Baptist population was trying to take all of the “blood music” out of the hymnal.  “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin.”  he would preach, as he pounded his fist on the pulpit.  Daddy was an old time preacher man.  He verged on being an ah-ha preacher.  You know what I mean?  “And I tell you brother, ah-ha, there is nothing on this earth, ah-ha, as wonderful as heaven, ah-ha.”  Grady Nutt used to say that his daddy could sling sweat three rows just making announcements.  My daddy was right in there with him.

I’ve heard it said that what we think is an opinion.  What we are willing to die for is a conviction.  My daddy had plenty of conviction and he was more than willing to share his point of view, too.  “Bill, you come across as harsh sometimes.” Mother would scold him.  “Well, it’s what I’m supposed to do.  I’m not going to tickle anybody’s ears or beat around the bush.  I’m going to preach the truth from God’s Word.”  He never waivered in his philosophy or his message.

I was jolted back to reality when our Minister of Music led us in the toe-tapping (Baptists don’t dance, LOL) song, “I’ll Fly Away”.  Another wave of memories flooded my mind.  We were at home.  Donna was playing the piano.  My brothers and sisters-in-law, Mother, Daddy, me, Nene, and Suzanne were standing around singing.  “I’ll fly away oh glory, I’ll fly away.”  Daddy, Curtis, and Sonny would echo “In the mornin'”  “When I die, hallelujah bye and bye.  I’ll fly away.”  we would all join in, raising our voices in one accord.  How precious the memory.

Then, from some random place, lodged deep in my brain, came a flashback of my Grandpa Payne.  I don’t recall that he was a devout Christian.  I never gave it much thought when I was a child.  I just know that his last day on earth was spent moseying around the house singing, “Whispering Hope”.  He vocalized those beautiful lyrics, “Whispering hope, oh how welcome thy voice. Making my heart, in it’s silence rejoice.”  A few hours later, he sat down in his recliner and went to sleep, to wake up in heaven.  What a way to go, no suffering, no pain.

Contemplatively, I left the evening worship service.  All the way home, I pondered the unusual chain of memories.  It was different from times when thoughts of the past would pass through my mind.  These events marched through my soul, like a breath straight from heaven.  I had received a visit from family members who have gone before me.  I had experienced something very rare and special.  No, it wasn’t something of the occult or other-wordly.  It was a gentle reminder of how much God loved me, and that I have received His free gift of eternal life, through my faith in Christ.  It was a thankfulness that I had been taught to “cherish that old rugged cross”.

One might interpret this post as being sad, but I don’t write it as such.  I feel overwhelmingly blessed.  Blessed to be so rich in heritage.  Overcome with emotion that God would allow me to be born to parents who loved the Lord with their whole hearts, and taught me to do the same.  My life has been enriched to have siblings with such warmth, character, charm, personality, and charisma. 

In a world where the family unit is becoming a thing of the past, I hold tight to the values taught to me by God-fearing parents.  I live with the knowledge that the separation from them is temporary.

I feel abundantly blessed, indeed.