[dropcap]G[/dropcap]rowing up in Brewton was marvelous,” said my mother-in-law, Mary. “We had wonderful childhoods before technology came along.”

Miss Mary talks like an Alabaman, drawing out her vowels. To me, Mary sounds like a Vivien Leigh recording.

Played at half-speed.

“Our town was very rural,” Miss Mary said. “And uppity at the same time. That’s how small Alabama towns are.”

I asked her to explain.

She was glad to.

“My family was an ordinary Brewton family,” she said. “Mother and Daddy weren’t poor, but they weren’t rich. They lived in the middle of town. You would’ve thought I’d be a prim and proper in-town girl, but I wasn’t. At least not all the way.”

“How do you mean?” I asked.

“Well,” Mary went on to say. “I had the strangest pets you ever heard of. I had a pet raccoon once. He washed his hands in his water bowl before supper every single night. Like this.” Miss Mary demonstrated. “I also had a pet squirrel, a black snake, three geckos, stray cats, and a teenage possum.”

I interrupted. “Teenage?”

“Yes, you know, a possum that’s going through puberty.”

How silly of me.

“I also had a pet alligator, named Robert E. Lee,” said Mary. “He slept in a shoebox. He was my favorite, God rest his soul.”

“What happened to Robert?”

“Robert E. Lee,” she corrected. “Well, one January day, Robert E. Lee quit moving. Daddy buried him in the backyard. We had a funeral service and everything. I even wore a black armband to school.”

Miss Mary shook her head. “I had no idea alligators hibernated in January.”

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