Today is my mother’s birthday-you’re not supposed to tell a lady’s age but she was born in 1929, the year of the Great Depression. Her name is Betty Gene– after Dora Eugenia Holmes, my great-grandmother that suffered from melancholia and my grandmother, Betty Jo, who was one of the funniest women I’ve ever known, not to mention a formidable cook and housekeeper. Mother was a darling child- green eyes, one a shade darker than the other with light brown curly hair. She’s had a dramatic flair ever since she was entered into a ‘Shirley Temple Lookalike Contest’ and actually won 5 Shirley Temple Dresses! Mother is funny- she inherited the funny bone from both of her parents, yet I would say her humor is very much like my granddaddy’s. The truth is, we all like to laugh. This is Mother with one of her granddaughters and my beautiful and funny sister. Aren’t they darling?
A few years ago, for a Christmas party- we got up the program, as we like to say…That year, my husband agreed to play select tunes on his guitar and as a surprise for the guests, we planned to dress up in some sort of costumes. We knew the leader of a local drama club who would loan us some costumes. Turns out all she had were the nun’s outfits or habits from a play she directed- ‘Sister Act’– which was widely acclaimed here in town then resulted in a special performance at the Ritz Theatre. Our long tall brunette friend Vandella, who can sing like an angel with a blue dress on- wanted to sing back up for my husband. She recruited me to join her. Vandella said we would be his backup singers called- the ‘Two Bad Habits’. We had a big laugh over that one, since his personality is like Andy Griffith-he just doesn’t look like him.
Unbeknownst to us, two other Bad Habits would be joining us, live and in costume. While the guests were milling around the buffet table and swinging around the punch bowl, one of the hostesses was gathering everyone up for the entertainment. They had been told to be prepared for some Chet Atkins style Christmas carols with a reading of the Christmas story at the end if someone would volunteer. Softly the guitar music began to play- ooh’s and aah’s all around…Vandella and I were hovering in the wings waiting for our dramatic entrance. Vandella was saying- ‘You go first Camellia and I said ‘no’. When our musical cue, ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’, started up- we walked out- to quite a good reception, I have to say. We announced ourselves as the Two Bad Habits, then rocked around the room in our nun’s habits… Vandella can carry off almost any style because of her height- I looked like one of the Von Trapp nuns…not the cute ones either. Vandella could put Patsy Cline in the shade. We did another number and right in the middle of the tune, a third Bad Habit eased out- this time it was funny ol’ Will aka Mother Superior Willa Deen– who continued rocking on with us- to bursts of laughter.
The guitarist was in full mode- barely paying attention to anything except his music; though when he heard a commotion behind him- he turned, didn’t miss a note, just raised an expressive eyebrow and nodded at the New Bad Habit, Mother Superior Willa Deen in horn rimmed glasses, singing and shaking the mistletoe in the rafters, off key. Howard, an ex of Vandella’s had been circling the eggnog bowl one time too many, though we now think he had arrived slightly imbibed, but hey it was Christmas! Howard joined the music- just about the time another Bad Habit came out dressed as a novice in all white- I looked around and it was my. Mother. !!! Looking as innocent as a jaybird.
She had her hands stuffed in the middle section of the novice outfit. Mother Willa Deen cleared his throat and said ‘Now, before we sing ‘Away in a Manger’- I’d like to introduce a new member of the Abbey, Sister Magdelena…she came to us in a time of great need.’ He turned to my elderly Mother. She bowed her head and said- ‘I’m so thankful they’ve let me in…I’m pregnant.’; she pulled her hands out of her habit and made like she was rocking an invisible baby.
Vandella and I missed more than a beat…we missed whole chords! The crowd was laughing and my Mother was beaming like one of the angels on high. Right up there with Howard, high as a kite by now, from that weak eggnog I guess. Mother stole the show! Unforgettable…
On into the summer- we planned another, more sedate gathering… loads of people were there. We were all going to be on our best behavior. Even Vandella’s ex-Howard, arrived in a starched suit and tie. Over by the peach and apple fried pies, Alabama home grown figs and cheeses, tea sandwiches fit for a king-Howard sidled up to Mother. She greeted him in her own gracious manner- so sweetly, so lightly, saying ‘Now, do I know you?‘ Howard had a bad habit of falling in love with the wrong women, and he had fallen in love with my mother at the Christmas party….he said ‘You don’t recognize me do you?’ looking crest fallen. Someone said ‘Now, Betty, you remember Howard- from the Christmas party don’t you?’ I was unaware this was transpiring- all the way in another room. I heard an outburst of laughter…Vandella came around and said ‘Your mother is a hoot! She just said, Howard, I guess I didn’t recognize you, sober!’ Oh lordie… what would she think of next?? Mother went on to do a bit part in a commercial, she marched across a field of hay with her pocketbook.
We’re all thrilled she’s doing very well after hip surgery in the winter, a short bout with anemia recently, but has bounced back and says she can’t believe how good she feels! She has a habit of being cheerful and getting into some ridiculous situations too! So- to honor my beautiful and very humorous Southern Mother’s Birthday- please- share a link to a funny post you have written or a photograph you think she’d love– for Make Me Laugh Monday! I promise I’ll share them with the birthday girl!
Love y’all, Camellia
*post your links in the comment section! thanks!