Happy Birthday, Veazey

seven-cousins (2)Today is my cousin Mary Veazey’s birthday. I will not say how old she is. I’ll say only that she is old enough that she’s always thought she had the right to boss me around.

We have had many good times together.

The most memorable, right now, aside from the times we almost broke up church because we couldn’t stop laughing, and the time she made me go on the Cruise from You-Know-Where, is the time we went to the drive-in movie to see The Great Gatsby, and her eleven- and twelve-year-old sons–I’ll call them Boy C and Boy G–sat in the back seat griping for the length of the dumb, boring show and yowling to go home.

When the second feature came on, however, the boys displayed immediate interest. It was The Sterile Cuckoo, a cute, sweet movie starring Liza Minnelli. We hadn’t planned to stay for it, but every time Mary Veazey said we had to leave, the boys protested. This was a real good movie, Mom, so we stayed.

We stayed so long that we ran into the scene in the little motel room in which Minneli’s college freshman girl, Pookie Adams, offers Wendell Burton’s sweet, shy freshman boy the opportunity to “Peel the Tomato.”
 And there we were, as they say, ketched.

The boys in the back seat were leaning head and shoulders into the front. They were very, very quiet. I don’t think they were breathing.

Their mother and I didn’t breathe either, because if we had, laughter would have bounced off the screen and echoed throughout the lot.

Suppressing that much laughter for an entire scene hurts.

Finally, the camera pulled waaaay back on the two young characters walking across a field of green, accompanied by the Sandpipers’ lovely rendition of “Come Saturday Morning.”

Mary Veazey saw an opportunity and grabbed it. “Okay, time to go.” She replaced the speaker on its stand, started the car, threw it into gear, and tore out of there.

Boys: “Aw, Mom, it’s not over yet.”

Mom: “Yes it is.”

Boys: “But the music isn’t over. Let’s stay till the music’s over.”

Mom: “No, I want to get out before everybody else does. Don’t want to have to wait in line.”

Boys: “Awwww, Mom. We want to stay.”

Mom: “No, it’s late. Gotta get home.”

Kathy: “Hahahahahaahahahaha.”

Mary Veazey couldn’t give me the evil eye because by that time she was laughing, too.

All the way home, we heard from the back seat, “Boy, that was a good movie.” “Yeah, that was good.” “I wish we could have stayed till the music was over.” “Yeah. That was good.” Periodically, one leaned forward and said, “What’re y’all laughing at?”

Then Boy G said, “What was the name of that movie?” They looked back at the still visible marquee.

Boy G read, “Shirley Cuckoo.”

From the front seat: “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…”

“Not ‘Shirley,'” said Boy C. “The Stirlee Cuckoo.”

Front seat, louder, “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…”

Laughing that hard hurts, too. And it can be dangerous. I’m surprised Mary Veazey didn’t run the car up onto the sidewalk and get us all hauled off to jail. It’s good she didn’t, because we’d have just laughed harder.

The next morning no one mentioned the movie. But that afternoon, while the boys and two neighbor girls played cards in the living room, and I sat in the kitchen waiting for cookies to bake (cookies the boys were making, hahahaha again), I caught part of the conversation.

Boy G (quietly): “We went to a movie last night.”

Girls: “What was it rated?”

Boy C (whispering): “X, I think.”

I was sorry Mary Veazey was at work and missed the punch line.

Several years later, The Sterile Cuckoo aired on television. About five minutes into the movie, the phone rang. It was Mary Veazey. “What are you doing?”

“You know what I’m doing. Watching The Stirlee Cuckoo.

“Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…”

Happy Birthday, Mary Veazey. We ought to take the boys to the movie again sometime.

 

*****

mamaw in hat
Mary Veazey Barrow

Note 1: Our grandmother’s maiden name was Mary Veazey. For people who say, Mary What?, it’s pronounced VEE-zee. Alternatives, for those in the family, are Veazey, Merveazey, and other such diminutives. She introduces herself as Mary. I got the Mary part of our grandmother’s name but was spared the Veazey confusion. My problem comes from the Katherine I got from my great-grandmother. I’m Kathy, but I have to introduce myself as Mary to anyone holding an official, or unofficial, record. On seeing Mary Katherine, many people say, “Are you a nun?” I’m not.

Note 2: All this happened in 1974. I don’t know whether Boys C and G have even seen the real ending of The Stirlee Cuckoo. I don’t know whether they ever learned the correct title. I don’t even know whether they remember any of this at all. But if I send this post to their wives on Facebook, they will.

Note 3: President Nixon resigned later that week, but the movie is my more vivid recollection.

Note 4: Both The Great Gatsby and The Sterile Cuckoo had been out for several years before this story took place. I’m always behind in my movie-going.

Here’s a clip from The Sterile Cuckoo.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROW80 01.25.12 & Fentress Memories

I returned Sunday from four days in Higginsville, Missouri. I had accompanied my cousin Mary Veazey to see her brother, Wray, and his family. Wray has been in the hospital in Kansas City for the past couple of weeks. He’s doing much better now and will be released from captivity in another couple of weeks if he cooperates, says the physical therapist. He’s cooperating.

Before we left for the airport Sunday morning, Wray began reminiscing about the times he and Mary Veazey spent with my parents in Fentress, in the late 1940s, when the siblings were ten or eleven years old. Mary Veazey tossed in a few of her memories, too.

Note: Wray and Mary Veazey are my mother’s nephew and niece. They lived in Dallas. Fentress is my father’s hometown, and the aunts, uncles, and grandfather mentioned below are from his side of the family. Practically speaking, however, the two families sort of swamped together

Here’s an overview of the conversation:

Wray and Donnie mixed up some gunpowder and made firecrackers. There was a lot of gunpowder left over, so they poured it into a Coke bottle and made a fuse. It was a short fuse, and Wray almost didn’t make it to safety behind a tree when the bottle exploded. Donnie’s house was glass-studded ever after. (I suppose it still is.)

Mr. George Meadows wanted to show Wray what a possum looked like, so he caught a possum, hit it with a club, tied it up, and left it in the yard. Then Mr. George went into the house. Left alone, the possum stopped playing possum, chewed the string in two, and waddled back home, probably down in the pecan bottom on the river.

Wray was not allowed to go near the parrot that lived downstairs in Mrs. Bertie Smith’s house, where my parents had an apartment, because the parrot was mean. (Note: My mother went near the parrot and it caught the flesh between her thumb and index finger and clamped down and wouldn’t let go. Mother was pregnant at the time. She said she thought she would deliver before the bird finally released her.)

Mrs. Bertie’s house was right on the river. When my parents moved to a house down the street, Wray and Mary Veazey took a shortcut to the river by walking through the front door of Mr. George and Miss Minnie Meadows’ house and then out the back door. Mary Veazey said they were polite and always said Hello when they passed through. But they never bothered to knock.

They played among the cotton bales on the gin yard and, unbeknownst to anyone else, borrowed cotton from some of the bales to use in various other pursuits.

They found a mangy dog at the river bridge and coaxed it to come with them, then told my mother it had followed them home. The dog was foaming at the mouth. Moments later, it had some kind of fit. Mother hustled Wray and Mary Veazey into the house and called for my father, who ambled around from wherever he’d been and paused to size up the situation. The pause went on too long for Mother, who said, “Don’t just stand there with your teeth in your mouth. Do something.” (Note: Those encouraging words are still alive and well among certain members of the family.)

My grandfather took Wray trotline fishing once and they caught 149 pounds of catfish. A fish fry ensued. Wray described for his daughter how a catfish is prepared for the skillet. I won’t describe the process here, but I’ll add that I, too, used to help my grandfather skin catfish. (I was a cold-blooded little thing.) Wray could clean a fish in under a minute. I took a lot longer.

My Uncle Donald taught Wray to drive his 1947 Chevy pickup. When Donald was taking Aunt Ethel’s 1951 Buick roadster to Martindale, about seven miles north on Highway 80, for inspection, he told Wray to follow in the pickup. Because of a miscommunication, they were separated, and Wray had no one to follow. On the way, he discovered the pickup would go 80 miles per hour over the washboard road. By the time he arrived in Martindale, so many things had fallen off the pickup that it didn’t pass inspection. (Note: I later learned to drive in the same pickup, but if you think Donald let me out of his sight when I was behind the wheel, you have another think coming.)

One memory which wasn’t mentioned Sunday, but which I remember from before, took place several years later, after I had finally made an appearance: Mother looked out the kitchen window and saw Wray drag racing down the street with me in my stroller. She hollered at him to stop that before he killed me. He said I was having fun. I’m sure I was.

I always had fun when my cousins visited. They were considerably older than I and so were extremely interesting, and they were nice enough to pay attention to me and to behave as if they didn’t mind the fourteen-year age difference. They’re still nice to me. I appreciate that more than I can say.

I also appreciate their sharing memories of a time when Fentress was a child’s paradise. Not many remember those days, and it’s important we talk—and write—about them to keep them alive as long as possible.

***

Another note: Lest it be thought I have Fentress memories similar to those detailed above, I’ll clarify: I don’t. I never made gun powder, blew up Coke bottles, dismantled cotton bales, urged mad dogs to follow me home, invaded unsuspecting neighbors’ houses, or went roaring up Highway 80 in any make or model of pickup. And no one ever caught a possum for me. I was an obedient, unimaginative child, and I led a quiet, dull life of no adventure whatsoever.

And Veazey is my grandmother’s maiden name. In case anyone is wondering. Most people do.

***

ROW80 report: My reports for the past few weeks disappeared into a cloud of juniper pollen, but there wasn’t much to report anyway. While I was in MO, however, I began a story board, made notes, worked on organization. The next step: Take my list of scenes, pick one, and write it.