Good Women

Last week, I played music and spoke to a room of white-haired women. It was a dim-lit bar, with decent onion rings, heavy burgers, and waitresses who call you “sweetie.” Not exactly the place you’d expect to see the White-Haired Beauties of America.

But they were here. Ladies from all walks of life held glasses of beer and wine. A few had canes and walkers. A few got too loud. I was entertainment.

Eighty-two-year-old, Jo, approached me first. She wore a white blouse with houndstooth scarf. She asked if she could buy me a beer. I yes-ma’ammed her.

“Don’t yes-ma’am me, boy,” she said. “I’m trying to hit on you. Ruins the excitement.”

We sat at the bar together. She fired up her vaporizer cigarette.

“Doctor says I shouldn’t smoke,” said Jo. “But still I smoke two a day. One in the morning, one at night, and I vape until my throat’s raw.”

Jo is an M-80 firecracker. She is from rural Alabama and she sounds like it. She is a writer, a poet, an artist, and a shameless flirt.

She told stories, of course.

Her words were a trip backward on the timeline. Suppers on church grounds, childhoods with calloused feet. Chicken pens, hog roasts, cotton-pickers, fish fries, front porches.

By the time she had worn out her butterscotch vaporizer, she was talking about her husband.

“I miss him so much,” she said. “He was a precious man, the best thing in my life. You look a little like he did.”

There was another woman. Ella.

She was eighty-nine. She asked if the band would play “Tennessee Waltz.” We played it at an easy tempo.

She slow-danced with her son. He was careful with her. When he dipped her, she was nineteen again. That’s when he blew out his back.

Ella’s husband died when she was forty. She never remarried.

“Always had me a few boyfriends,” she said. “Seems like I went dancing almost every weekend. My sister would watch my kids, us girls would go out jukin’.”

Juking.

Ninety-nine-year-old Mary sat at a table with her eldest daughter. She could only move her feet to the music. Occasionally her head bobbed, but she was all heart.

“I growed up in THEE Great Depression,” Mary said. “You ever hear of THEE Depression?”

Once or twice.

“They was bad times,” she went on. “They was times when my daddy saved chicken bones for his fish traps, then he saved fish bones for the chickens to eat.”

Her mother died when she was fourteen. Mary became maternal head of her family. She could slaughter poultry, rock babies to sleep, and re-screen doors by age sixteen.

“I used’a mix ketchup and water for supper,” she said. “Called it tomato soup. If I had butter, I made corn bread. Sometimes I made biscuits if we had enough flour. I kept my family alive’s what I done.

“My brother stole chickens from a farm up the road. If we ever had extra money, I’d tell him, ‘Jeremiah, leave this here dollar on their porch, we ain’t thieves.’ We didn’t WANNA steal, you know. But we had to.”

She asked if my band would play “Little Brown Church in the Dale.”

We did.

At the end of the night my new friend, Jo, bid me goodbye. She asked if she could show me something.

She dug in her pocketbook.

She handed me crinkled black-and-white photo of a young woman holding a baby. A tall man, standing beside her. She kissed the photo.

“That’s me and Tom,” said Jo. “Before he died. I miss him every day, we went through a lot together. Oh, wasn’t I so pretty back then?”

You were, ma’am. And so was every woman who endured times of drought, world wars, hunger, poverty, the Munsters, and shag carpet. You were women who raised families on nothing but Corningware, white flour, and folded hands. Certainly, you were all fine-looking girls back in your time.

But today, you take my breath away.

45 comments

  1. Dolore - July 11, 2019 7:16 am

    Thank you, Sean, for a ride down memory lane. I did not have it as bad as some of those ladies you had the pleasure to be with, but my mother did. She raised 5 boys because my father had to leave early in the morning for work and got home after the boys were in bed. They were hard times. The young of today have no idea what it was like, I’m afraid things have been too easy for them.

    Reply
  2. Martha Black - July 11, 2019 7:27 am

    Bless you

    Reply
  3. Phyllis Stallings - July 11, 2019 7:42 am

    What a lovely story! I can remember the Corning ware and shag carpet. If my mother was still alive she would be 99. She grew up in poverty. She married my father and raised 5 children almost alone. She provided for us on my fathers low end naval salary. He would be shipped out for a year at the time. Now, I look back at my beautiful mother and wonder how she did it. She would purchase lar gfe e amounts of milk and day old bread and freeze it. She was beautiful inside and out.

    Reply
  4. Steve - July 11, 2019 8:47 am

    This is the best I’ve read so far. My father introduced me to Sean of the South just a couple weeks ago – so I’m a 52 year old newbie! But I’m hooked! I’d gladly throw out my back for that lady. I wish I was with you that night.

    Reply
  5. Steve Bailey - July 11, 2019 9:43 am

    Beautiful.

    Reply
  6. Tina Harman - July 11, 2019 10:37 am

    What a beautiful piece — a tribute to hard working women. God bless you, Sean.

    Reply
  7. Ailene - July 11, 2019 11:34 am

    Love this!

    Reply
  8. Terri - July 11, 2019 11:40 am

    ❤️😘

    Reply
  9. Dianne - July 11, 2019 11:48 am

    Ah, that last line grabs me.

    Reply
  10. turtlekid - July 11, 2019 11:50 am

    Wonder if any young woman today would work as hard as they did? God bless those white haired Ladies!

    Reply
  11. Carolyn - July 11, 2019 11:56 am

    Your last sentence surprised me. What a
    sweet way to end.

    Reply
  12. Connie Havard Ryland - July 11, 2019 12:31 pm

    Lovely.

    Reply
  13. Holley Calmes - July 11, 2019 12:36 pm

    Once again, Sean, you had me in tears at the end. You are such a gifted communicator. I just discovered you…my cousin in Fairhope loves you. I was there visiting and picked up your first couple of books from the wonderful bookstore there. I haven’t missed a day since without some Sean in my life! Bless you and keep going. You just get better and better.

    Reply
  14. Jess - July 11, 2019 12:40 pm

    Excellent read, Sean. I’m sure you made all those ladies feel very special that night. Good on you, you’re a kind and compassionate soul, Sean. I admire you.

    Reply
  15. Deb McLaughlin - July 11, 2019 12:41 pm

    Oh, that last line…….it made me sob.

    Reply
  16. Joe Patterson - July 11, 2019 12:47 pm

    Strong women make strong families thanks again

    Reply
  17. Bobbie - July 11, 2019 12:52 pm

    God bless you Sean for making these white haired ladies day. What a blessing you were to them. You’re all heart Sean….your Daddy would be proud.

    Reply
  18. Linda Vaughan - July 11, 2019 1:12 pm

    Shame on you! You’ve made me cry first thing this morning! I love this piece perhaps because at age seventy-four, I hope someone views me the way you did these grand old dames!

    Reply
  19. Tim Fisher - July 11, 2019 1:27 pm

    Sean, thank you for using God’s gifts to you to encourage us to love our neighbor as our-self. You are a great writer. You touch hearts. I look forward to seeing what you have in my inbox each morning. Keep your eyes on Jesus!

    Reply
  20. charliestsimons - July 11, 2019 1:27 pm

    I went to a memorial service yesterday with these women. The good man we were remembering was about as good as they come. His wife of 64 years sat up front with their sons and their families and their families’ families. Four full pews worth.

    The rest of the pews were full of these women that you speak of Sean. There were a few old men but mostly older women. They last longer than men if they survive childbirth. They have to or none of us would make it. They carry us and hold us and if we’re lucky they even flirt with us a little. You’re right. They’re beautiful! Every one of them.

    Reply
    • Sandy - August 11, 2019 1:00 pm

      ❤️

      Reply
  21. Mariah - July 11, 2019 2:26 pm

    Strong women…

    Reply
  22. Jim Rose - July 11, 2019 3:03 pm

    That is a beautiful post, Sean. A moving tribute to the ladies who did so much and received so little credit.

    Reply
  23. Debbie Britt - July 11, 2019 3:07 pm

    Well, you made me cry AGAIN! I LOVE your Colombo’s!! And your heart!❤️

    Reply
  24. Kathrynn Welch - July 11, 2019 3:26 pm

    This writing took my breath away. These women came from a special generation. I am blessed to know some of them. Thank you for honoring them.

    Reply
  25. Sandra - July 11, 2019 3:38 pm

    They surly don’t make them like they used to. Enjoy you every day.

    Reply
  26. Tim House - July 11, 2019 4:11 pm

    Great tribute to tough women from tough times. 🙂

    Reply
  27. Jon Dragonfly - July 11, 2019 4:19 pm

    You were the entertainment?? MY FOOT! Those ladies were the best entertainment in the world. You could write a shelf full of books from their tales. (Which, of course, you are doing.) Thanks.

    Reply
  28. Linda Moon - July 11, 2019 4:37 pm

    Good women of age might not fit in with the White Haired Beauties of America just yet. If we make it there, we’ll be proud to join them. Surviving with endurance and thriving on The Munsters (I loved them!) were, and are, life-affirming. Keep breathlessly loving them, Sean. And, save some for the rest of us good women!

    Reply
  29. Brenda McLaine - July 11, 2019 4:44 pm

    Thank you for taking time for the elderly. It’s a precious gift you have and I’m so glad I got to know you through your writings.

    Reply
  30. Bernadette Wyckoff - July 11, 2019 4:51 pm

    This one brought back memories of older sisters….beautiful big brown eyes that could flirt without ever saying a word. My big brown eyes can do the same but not right now….they are full of happy tears. Thanks for the memories, Sean

    Reply
  31. angie5804 - July 11, 2019 5:03 pm

    When I was a teen in the late 60s/early seventies, The Church in the Wildwood was one of the songs our youth choir would sing. One summer we traveled a bit in the Appalachians and actually sang in a church in the wildwood….

    Reply
  32. Ginger - July 11, 2019 5:06 pm

    There are lots of storytellers, but sometimes they get a line that makes a story rise above the others. There are several of those lines in this one. Enjoyed it.

    Reply
  33. Edna B. - July 11, 2019 6:12 pm

    I love this story. You have a beautiful heart Sean. Have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  34. Carolyn - July 11, 2019 6:15 pm

    I absolutely loved this one!! It brought me to tears, like so many of your stories do. You always talk about your wife – and she’s obviously an amazing person – and you are a very fortunate guy. But… for a man to look at a group of older women and see beyond their years and appreciate who they are and the lives they have lived and to write words that beautiful…, well Sean, I would guarantee that your wife is the lucky one. Bless you both.

    Reply
  35. Pat - July 11, 2019 6:37 pm

    Oh my goodness what a sweet ending, immediately brought tears to my eyes! Thanks!

    Reply
  36. Janet Mary Lee - July 11, 2019 8:39 pm

    Love your rose unfolding…That’s what some older white haired women are like!! Bless you for noticing!! (hugs!!).

    Reply
  37. Cay Z Weaver - July 11, 2019 9:32 pm

    I think I’ll save this one, Sean. We lost Harry’s mom and his favorite aunt, Ida Lee, this spring and at their funerals, we talked about what exquisite women they were. Their stories would sometimes curl your hair, make you laugh, make you cry and sometimes make you cringe with their rawness. They were women who were take your breath away as well. Sweet story!

    Reply
  38. throughmyeyesusa - July 12, 2019 12:32 am

    And with that last line, Sean, you took my breath away. Who says anything that remarkably sweet?
    Thank you!

    Reply
  39. Ann - July 12, 2019 12:51 am

    Beautifully sweet

    Reply
  40. Jack Darnell - July 12, 2019 2:33 pm

    Sweet. hey dude you done good. Them old wimmin are the best. I got me one and she is only 81 or 2. Yep they are the best.
    Thanks, Sherry & jack

    Reply
  41. Robin Freyburger - August 10, 2019 6:59 am

    This took my breath away..thank you and I’m not 80 yet. Much admiration to these women !!

    Reply
  42. Mary Ann Massey - August 10, 2019 1:19 pm

    When I think of my grandparents, I remember my Mothers’ parents lived in a “dog trot” house when I was little…
    My Dads’ parents had 80 acres and grew cotton for many years…..as a little child, I had no concept of being “poor”… even as a tiny little girl, i had my chores to do….picking cotton, feeding chickens, and anything else that they thought I could do… even to this day, I’m not afraid of hard work….we need to take some of these “young people” back to the late 50’s and see how well they hold up! 😘😊

    Reply
  43. Karin - August 10, 2019 4:16 pm

    What a beautiful story!
    I hope I’ll be that spunky when I’m there!

    Reply
  44. Steve W. - August 11, 2019 5:12 pm

    Damn.

    Reply

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