Thursday, September 14, 2006

They had the best of times...at the worst of times

I'm exhausted tonight, too tired to write, really, but still feeling inclined to "feed the blog." Afraid of falling asleep while trying to think of something to write, I jump-started the process by clicking on "My Pictures" to see if anything there moved me to tell a story. The first thing that caught my eye was this off-center photo of the generation that preceded my own.


The girl second from the right is my mother. Her baby brother is at the center of the photo and her older brother is on the right. The boy and girl at left are their first cousins. It's the girls I want to talk about tonight. They were 14 and 15 when this photo was taken in 1937.

Mother grew up in Springfield, Missouri, and Nadine, the daughter of my grandmother's sister, grew up in the Kansas City area. The two girls didn't see each other often because of all the geography between them, but their personalities were a match and they were the best of friends. All the way up until their grandchildren were almost grown, they laughed themselves silly whenever they got together.

In 1933, four years before this photo was taken, their grandfather died, and they traveled with their families from their respective homes to Galena, Kansas, for his funeral. On the one hand, they'd loved their grandfather, although they didn't really know him all that well. On the other hand, they were glad to see each other, and they had a lot of catching up to do.

Mother and Nadine sat together on the front pew during the funeral service, possibly the first one either had attended, and they recognized that it was a solemn occasion. Something about it, though, maybe just nerves, made one of them giggle. That made the other one giggle, too. Before they could get a grip on it, the laughter bubbled up in their throats until they couldn't contain it any longer and it burst out -- loudly.

Mother said they caught their breath long enough to give each other a sidewise glance, both of them recognizing instantly that they were going to be in serious trouble with their parents. Nadine, who always had a flair for the dramatic, put her face down into her hands and pretended she was crying. Mother followed suit. For the rest of the funeral service, the two of them muffled their laughter with fake sobs, their shoulders shaking in pseudo grief.

My mother was in her 70s when she told me the story of my Great-Grandpa Joe's funeral, and when I think about the day she told me, I can see her clearly in my mind, first giggling, then chuckling, then laughing so hard it was difficult for her to get the whole story out. That funeral was obviously one of her favorite memories.

It was kind of fitting, I think, that Mother told this story as an example of why she'd always loved Nadine so much. Nadine had died just a few weeks earlier. "We always had so much fun," Mother sighed, "I'm really gonna miss her." Her eyes glistened with unshed tears as she spoke, but there was a smile on her face.

6 comments:

  1. i love your stories. Blossom and I were talking today about some of the good memories we have. I'll have to write about them sometime.

    thanks for this story.
    Austin

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  2. That's a great story about friendship! I can understand the giggling at the funeral-I've laughed inappropriately myself-but not at a funeral.

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  3. I'm glad you persevered Velvet, it is a lovely story. As your title ~ the best...at the worst, says it all. Friendship!

    Sandy

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  4. Thanks everybody.

    Austin, I look forward to reading about some of your good memories.

    Janet, I've had the giggles at inappropriate times, too, most recently at the movies last year. I'd gone with my daughters to see "Walk the Line." Onscreen, the Johnny Cash character was behaving badly, and a meek-looking old man sitting in front of us said to his wife, "Thet's when ah'd lack to jest reach back 'n' pop 'im one." I thought I was gonna die from trying to hold the laughter inside.

    Sandy, I guess the worst of times is when we need our friends the most.

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  5. I bet Grandfather enjoyed this chuckle most of all!

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  6. Sweet-Sister, I bet you're right.

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