Ruth Ann was going to spend the night out at the farm with me. It was an hour and a half ride from school then a ½ mile hike uphill to our house. In the rock house the kitchen sink was filled with the supper dishes from the evening before and breakfast that morning. The round oak table with a square vinyl flannel back cloth was off center, its checks pocked with black rimmed holes where burning tobacco had fallen. A placemat near the edge had a bowl of unshelled pecans and shells and a sheller, more pecan shells sprinkled the placemat, salt, pepper in original containers from the store, little dirty red oil can for things that squeaked or wouldn’t come loose, pliers, wrinkled notes, several pens and pencils with Elmwood Gardens inscribed on the side, a green vase with something long deceased sticking out and a wadded up red and white Pall Mall cigarette pack. A large ashtray sits in the middle of the table filled to the brim and beyond with ashes and Pall Mall butts.
Three tall ornate mahogany ladder-back chairs are cocked at various angles in the vicinity of the table, each with an original worn cushion or folded rug or towel to cover the broken hanging strands of the straw roped seats. The bumpy rock floor has pockets of wax and dirt. Something hung on the back of each chair: dish towel, shirt and Mother’s girdle.
A summa cum laude from Baylor majoring in French, Mother had worked as a private secretary to Mr. Neiman of Neiman-Marcus in the late 30’s and one of her duties was to walk around the store checking to see if all the clerks had on their girdles.
Her own slender six foot frame had a poochy tummy in the years that I spent with her and she always had on a girdle until she walked in the house in the evening when she wiggled out of it and hung it on the dining room chair where it stayed until she went to work the next day or if she chose to wear another girdle then the one on the chair would hang there until…. A tidy housewife my mother was NOT. Growing up she had always had household help and after she married and had children she had help. When the family moved to Abilene to start up the nursery business we had help in the house. Mother preferred running a landscape and nursery business. When we moved out to the farm there was no help available for housework so no one moved the girdle, or did the wash and ironing, or swept or fixed a meal before 9pm.
Mother and Daddy would get home around 7pm very tired, that is if she didn’t have to go somewhere for a meeting or to give a talk as she was a much sought after speaker and an officer in several local organizations. She would sit down and have Lone Star draft beers from the keg in the old fridge on the porch with Daddy until they were full then they, well not they as Mother was asleep, would think of dinner.
If Ruth Ann hadn’t been over that evening I would have fallen asleep by 8 and been awakened to come eat. Ruth Ann and I did the dishes then went down to the barn to milk Honey, the Jersey cow. One of the 4H calves kicked Ruth Ann in the upper thigh leaving a clear hoof print.
Walked the ½ mile back through the pasture up the hill to the house to strain the milk and make a supper of chicken fried steak and home-fried potatoes for my younger brother and us. We did math homework and wrote the answer to some questions from the US History book and fell asleep.
On the way out the door to catch the bus next morning, Ruth Ann asked, ”How come your mother leaves her girdle on the chair?” I don’t know what I replied then but today I would say, “There are only so many minutes and we each choose what to do with those minutes.