She arrived early. They named her Pearl and put her in a shoe box in the wood stove oven. It was Christmas Eve, 1899 and she was my mother. Growing up, she was a towhead with very dark blue eyes, and she was loved and made much of.
The fact that she didn’t grow very far out of the shoe box was a lifelong disappointment to her. She never quite made five feet, but her lack of stature was offset by energy and drive and she was tireless in her care and protection of the five of us. It was a hard life, and she didn’t have a lot to laugh about. Oddly though, one thing she found funny was to see someone fall down. What emanated then was not a ladylike titter, or even a quiet chuckle. It was a shriek!
And she didn’t discriminate. We’re told that she and a friend were talking one day about their weight, so – in the days before there was a scale in every bathroom – they did the next best thing. Hanging from the rafters in the barn was a scale used for weighing cotton and they figured it ought to work. Mom climbed onto the contraption. It promptly let go, swinging her over onto a pile of canning jars, some of which didn’t outlast her weight. To the horror of her friend, she lay there and shrieked with laughter. The doctor did his best when he finally got to her, but she went to her grave carrying some serious scars on her back.
Many years later: At my insistence, three of my girls – all strong swimmers – attempted to teach me to water-ski. Again and again they fitted me into the skis; again and again I pitched forward into the water. My mother was on shore, ensconced in a deck chair under a very large hat. Shrieks of laughter rolled off the beach at my every fall. None of us believed her later when she said she hadn’t realized it was me she was watching. But it didn’t matter who; if someone fell down Mom was out of control.
Last month we visited with family across country. I looked into the dark blue eyes of two little girls who are her great-great-granddaughters. Pearl remains.
……….and thinking back, I smile when I hear that shriek of laughter
– somebody must have fallen!