In these 54 years you have been my dad:not just a stepdad, but a dad. One bond we have is our love of the “Birdie, Birdie” story I wrote for you after mother passed. I’ll never forget sitting out by the garden on a sun shiny Father’s day and giving this to you. You often ask me if I’m going to put it in the legacy book, and of course the answer is yes. But, here and now, for anyone with a little time on their hands to read; and for those who might have wondered how we became family, is your story Dad. Just for you. We took this picture when I gave you your gifts, your story, and mom’s story.
BIRDIE,BIRDIE IN THE SKY, WILL YOU MARRY ME? ( A LEGACY STORY )
By the Author From the Grassroots: Joyce Godwin Grubbs
This simple children’s song became both a philosophy and a proposal.
Birdie, Birdie ♫♫♪
In the sky, ♫♪
Dropped some whitewash in my eye. ♫♫♪♪♫♫♫♪♪♪
I’m no baby, ♪♫♫
I won’t cry, ♪♪♪♪♫♫
I’m just glad that ♫♪♫
cows don’t fly ! ♪♫♫♫♪♪
I thought I had learned a simple song that was just a little “naughty” to sing as it was a little “ribald” in my conservative surroundings. It smacked of “white trash” and “poor upbringing”. Maybe that was the first evidence that I had some sense of rebellion in me. Certainly that was the exception to my normal submissive life style.
For reasons I’ll save for another time, I had been subjugated at an early age to the domination by adults. For example, I always believed what I was told by adults, (ie. there is a Santa; Easter Bunny; adults know best; if you need help ask a policeman or a preacher). I believed if you were the one child that would “mind” your parents, study hard, have a good work ethic, honor your mother and father, go to church and be good; life would turn out for the good.
Before grade school, I was to learn what it meant to come from “the wrong side of the tracks”. Literally. On my street, you came to a rail road track on a gentle hill and once over the hill sat three houses on the left side. It dead ended there, bordered by an old long abandoned park. Parts of that park had become a frequently used hobo jungle, and undoubtedly marked by the transients with their secret signs to identify us as houses that would give out a sandwich if you were hungry.
Pictured here are the actual railroad tracks in front of my childhood home. This is looking toward downtown Okmulgee, Ok.
Typically the “wrong side of the track” in the segregated south where I lived was associated with the “Negroes” living in these less than desirable areas. In our case, however, all three houses were inhabited by the three families on my father’s side. Ours, Uncle’s, and Grandparents. The property was, however, owned by a black dentist. Translated, that means we were so poor in the segregated south of the 1940’s, we rented from a black family. In my time and in that place, that was really poor.
At any given time either my grandparents, aunt and uncle and our family inhabited these houses. When the aunt and uncle moved, we moved into their middle house. I don’t even remember who moved into the third house where we started. A different aunt and uncle eventually moved into a house slightly north of the middle house. But always there was the stigma of the tracks.
Suffering all the years of my young life as an object of ridicule, being poor and having a totally dysfunctional group of family members who were well known to the local police department; we were also sprinkled with family members with goals and determination to get to the other side of the track. Eventually, some of us did.
AND THEN THERE WAS A BIG CHANGE
By fifth grade I had a new home. My aunt and uncle had bought one just behind us with our common back yards touching. It was exciting and definitely was a balance to all the other things in my life that had gone to hell in a hand basket. My parents stormy divorce was an ongoing nightmare. My mother was working full time to keep us going and my dad was mad about the divorce, so he refused to give her any support money. My sister and I were caught in the middle like pawns.
THIS WAS OUR HOUSE IN OKMULGEE ALTHOUGH THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN YEARS LATER AFTER THE NEW OWNERS CONVERTED THE GARAGE TO BE A PART OF THE HOUSE, AND WE NEVER HAD A SATELLITE DISH IN THE 1950’S. LOL
My sister had always been known to be “daddy’s girl” and I was known as “mother’s girl”. The divorce polarized us more . My sister learned early on the advantage of “splitting”. It would be thirty five years later when I would come to know that term and how it was used. It’s a mental health term and description of a person who splits two parties involved by going to one with one story and one with another to achieve an outcome in your favor. It is mean to divide so one can manipulate a desirable outcome for themselves. An example would be if my mother would punish my sister by taking away her allowance she would write our dad with a self serving story and to get back at mom, he’d give her money. It worked well for a long time.
My mother began to meet eligible men at church and at work. Probably not too many wanting a ready made family of two girls; but at least she was finding some social outlets. There were two leading contenders for her affection, but we thought there was only one. He was a “dashing” good looking fella from Tulsa and a businessman who dressed well and owned his own brick home; and seemingly had money and a good professional position. He took us out to nice restaurants and we spent a Christmas with him and some of his family. We were quite impressed by their traditions and gift giving. Especially the gifts we got.
The other party was really not “in the running” because he was five years younger than our mom and looked even younger. We called him “the Young Guy”. He was single and without children. We were convinced he was just stringing our mother along for his own purposes. We knew they worked together at the college and figured he was just using her for his own gain at work and as a college student.
The Young Guy
AND THEN THERE WAS A BIGGER CHANGE
Time marched on and we were to learn many things about both men as a result of a freakish and terrible accident. It would be a telling event that defined the roles of the men in my mother’s life forever. It was a fire that resulted from my sister’s love of art and it’s projects. She was working on a project for school that involved using paraffin. She left it heating in a pan on our electric kitchen stove. It exploded while we were all gone and burned our house. Our very own and personal home our mom had worked so hard to provide for us. And worse, there was no insurance.
It was interesting to see what happened. My biological dad was in town from his traveling job and staying at my aunt’s who lived behind us. He later told us he ‘high tailed it out of town’ for fear folks would think he’d set the fire to punish my mother for the divorce. The good looking business man sympathized and wished mom well in her recovery from the tragedy. But the third one, “the Young Guy” ,he was galvanized into action.
He and mother worked at an extension of Oklahoma State that had a technical college that taught trades. Refrigeration, plumbing, and all sorts of things. He organized volunteers from there and from the church and came to help. They took the appliances to the college and renewed them, cleaned, painted and papered the house with close out and donated materials. They salvaged the household furniture and and there was a great deal of free labor to help rebuild the house and make it habitable.
I’ll never forget the open house when we were back in. My mother was given an old fashioned house warming with everyone bringing food items for refurbishing our kitchen. I will never forget the can of “bamboo shoots”. We had no conception of what they were or how to eat them as we lived on traditional Oklahoma food; but they were taken from the house to every new house from the fifties to the eighties. She wouldn’t waste them, and couldn’t seem to give them up.
And seemingly she couldn’t give “the Young Guy” up either; so, we took a closer look. He’d pretty much won the whole Marrs family over; even her ex-sister in law and her family who lived behind us. He got the house back together, took us all to church with him and he and mom became ‘the’ really fun couple at church. They enjoyed being part of the college parties and all the church events. It wasn’t long until my sister and I knew something had to give. He was just too young for our mom. He was a student in college and she was married, divorced and with two kids. Not a good match.
AND THEN THERE WAS A SURPRISING CHANGE
It was then that my sister and I hatched a plan. We were going to show him what it would be like to live with two kids that were adolescents. ( age 12 and 15) We had been well behaved up to then but only because my mom would have done real damage to us if we weren’t. We decided Mom could forgive us later and it was for her own good.
I don’t know if I had ever tasted steak before the Young Guy came into our lives, but he would bring meat and vegetables over when he was invited to dinner. The invitations were more frequent now that he helped save our house. After eating we would sit around the living room and talk and visit. That would be our plan of attack. We’d devise a “show” for him that would show him the reality of living and raising teens, especially girls.
We told stories, acted silly and then for the finale’. We told him in dramatic terms we had a special song just for him. With great flare and extensive drama we began to sing.
“Birdie, Birdie, in the sky “(we slowed it down to emphasize the next line)
“Dropped some whitewash in my eye”, (with hand actions to the eye, we looked at each other with secret delight at the look on my mom’s face).
“I’m no baby, I won’t cry “(lots of facial expression with hand motions to indicate crying.)
“I’m just glad” (stepping a little forward with hands out stretched)
“that cow’s don’t fly “,(down on one knee like Al Josen, it worked well for him in the Jazz Singer”).
And for good measure, we did the whole thing over then bowed.
Shock was probably the feeling of the moment. We smiled and strutted and felt we had convinced him that life with we girls would take all the fun out of his student life and we would be better off in the hands of our mother and an older man; if we had to have a man in our lives. Of course, my sister still believed my mom would come to her senses and go back with our dad. And as for me, I sure was going to miss those steaks and learning to drive on that old ford tractor.
When mom sent us to our room, we had a sense we had shown our worst side. And yet, there was still a little bit of sadness knowing we wouldn’t be going to all those fun places anymore.
To our everlasting surprise, the next day mother said nothing about the “show” and it’s ramifications. She didn’t seem mad or sad. She just smiled and went to work. In the future we were going to learn it was a pivotal moment in their relationship; as what we thought would be enough to run him off, turned out to be the very thing that made him decide that mother needed help raising us. We discovered he really did care about us, so we proposed to him. We asked him to marry all of us. They eloped in December and so began a new life style and a new position in life.
We learned he wasn’t a student at the college, but was on the faculty working at the college in Animal Husbandry and was a Captain in the Army Reserves. He was five years younger,( age 28) but determined to marry mom (34) knowing for physical reasons, she could never give him children. He was in for the long haul and soon our lives knew a whole new status.
We were no longer the kids from the wrong side of the tracks, but we were the kids of the fun ‘church couple’ that worked at the college. My sister was invited to become part of the swanky “Swankers” : an elite girls organization in our community.
In this picture, Trula is wearing her “Swanker’s” initiation ribbon, and for the occasion, Mother’s very special watch. This was a defining moment for my sister.
We actually got to attend some community events as special guests, We were included with the families of bankers, teachers, and successful business people. With my sister’s singing lessons and my dance and piano lessons, we were part of the “real” community participating in recitals and programs at school.
AND THEN A REALLY BIG CHANGE HAPPENED
WE MOVED TO LUBBOCK TEXAS AND LIVED ON CAMPUS IN A SMALL STUCCO HOUSE SET BACK BY THE STABLES FOR THE BEAUTIFUL BLACK STALLIONS FOR THE TEXAS RED RAIDERS; AND THE SHEEP AND PIG BARNS. THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN JUST BEFORE TRULA MET BUDDY HOLLY AND FOUND OUT HOW MUCH SHE LOVED BEING A “TEXAS GIRL”.SHE SMILED AFTER THAT.
IN THIS PICTURE I AM HOLDING “OKIE”, OUR TALKING PARAKEET AND OLD JOE IS AT OUR FEET.WE ARE IN LUBBOCK, TEXAS AND I AM IN NINTH GRADE AND IT IS TRULA’S JUNIOR YEAR. SHE WENT FROM BEING THE SHORTEST GIRL IN HER SOPHOMORE YEAR IN OKLAHOMA, TO BEING 5′ 8″ AT THE END OF HER JUNIOR YEAR. WE GAVE TEXAS THE CREDIT.LOL.
When we moved out of state soon after the marriage, it was a dramatic change for us as we moved to living on a university campus. First we spent a year in Lubbock Texas where my sister met and became friends with Buddy Holley . It was one of the highlights of her life and a source of pride .
Years after Buddy’s death she would run into his band, the Crickets, at concerts. She had become a female police officer and was assigned to their security, as well as being able to attend concerts and be with them socially.They would discuss the “Lubbock Days” when she and her friend Peggy Sue would go to hear the band. (NO ,the song was not about that Peggy Sue). Buddy and the Crickets would have the two girls sit up front near them so they could be sure the girls wouldn’t be bothered by guys “hitting on them. They were treated as”little sisters”.
Trula was in church with her friend Peggy Sue and Buddy Holley. They became friends (though Buddy got thrown out of the church for rowdiness) . It was a bitter day when she learned of the plane crash, and so ironic it would take place in Iowa where she would eventually move after marriage.
Throughout her life she would love telling the story of the night Buddy was at the drive in movie in Lubbock and Buddy Knox (Party Girl hit) showed up from Amarillo and the two had a spontaneous “jam”.
For me it was a’ funny’ time entering eighth grade and living in a completely new environment. I moved from a segregated area where the blacks were the minority and oppressed, to a place where there were Hispanics who were the minority and oppressed. This was the place where my life got yet another boost toward my lifelong passion of championing the oppressed and underdogs.
I was exposed to many things that would make me sensitive to the needs and oppression of others. I saw the prejudiced behavior between the Mexican and white students (they weren’t called Hispanic in those days). I was shown a movie in school called “A Desk for Billie” about the plight of the migrant workers and it’s affect on their children who were in and out of multiple schools seasonally. I was moved to tears.
I was chosen as “Duchess” to represent my Jr. High in the Clovis, NM Fiesta (On Right)
AND THEN A HUGE CATASTROPHIC CHANGE HAPPENED
When our new dad decided to move us north to “Yankee Land” to go to school and learn chiropractic, it was too radical for my sister. She had come to Texas in her junior year, and could not face her senior year in yet another new set of circumstances and culture. Finally she was allowed to go back “home” to Oklahoma and finish high school in our hometown of Okmulgee. She lived with our paternal aunt and uncle, the Kisers, in the house behind our old one.
NOW I WAS “ALONE” AND UNPROTECTED
Life was always a challenge and once again my childhood song played a role in my life as a philosophical view point of what was happening in my life. Thinking of the words, and applying them to my life, gave them new meaning.
“Birdie, birdie in the sky” (I was always looking up, seeking things and wanting beauty and beautiful things in my life).
“Dropped some whitewash in my eye” (Often the things and people I thought would be beautiful in my life “dropped whitewash” on me and my ideas and dreams).
“I’m no baby, I won’t cry”, (I continued to be optimistic and hopeful and learned to mask my sadness and hurts as I had been taught by my coping skills).
“I’m just glad that cows don’t fly”. (I did learn to be thankful that whatever the problem, I believed it could have been worse).
A few years into my marriage that concept was reinforced by a doctor who told me “Behind every big black cloud is a bigger, blacker one, so enjoy the one you are walking through”.
In the re -telling of these incidents, it is my purpose to remind my dad that I have watched life un-fold and been amazed by the events and the amount of “whitewash” in it. But through it all, I have remembered:
I remember my first college tuition was paid from your retirement savings from that college you and mom met . I eventually chose your Alma Mater and met my husband there.
n the re -telling of these incidents, it is my purpose to remind my dad that I have watched life un-fold and been amazed by the events and the amount of “whitewash” in it. But through it all, I have remembered:
I remember my first college tuition was paid from you retirement savings from the college where you and mom met . I eventually chose your Alma Mater and met my husband there. This is my freshman picture from Oklahoma State University.
I remember going to a graduation dinner dance at the chiropractic college you were teaching at and dancing with you. I was pregnant with the first grandchild. Students were coming up congratulating you thinking I was your wife. See, you still looked too young.
Remember “gravy head” ? Your nickname as a toddler? Grandma Rachel told me that story.
How about all the reels of tape we girls used to record songs and programs for you.
And oh my, when I would come home from dates and old boyfriends would be there to greet me because they still came by to see you?
I remember your chiropractic students trying to bribe me to give them copies of your tests and you saying go ahead because you never gave the same test twice.
How about Old Joe. Our Collie, shepherd, collie mix dog you got when we “all got married”.
And there was that awful purple and chartreuse, cabbage rose wall paper that was “free” and you put in the house when it was redone after the fire. You and mom had to endure it after you married.
WHEN WE MOVED TO IOWA FOR YOU TO GO TO PALMER, TRULA WAS IN OKLAHOMA SO WE LIVED IN A ONE BEDROOM APARTMENT OVER A VERY BUSY TAVERN. MY BED WAS IN THE DINING ROOM. WE WERE LOCATED BETWEEN PALMER AND MY JR. HIGH SO WE COULD WALK TO CLASS AND MOM COULD DRIVE TO WORK. IN THIS PICTURE I WAS IN NINTH GRADE AND TRYING TO LEARN TO BE A TEEN.
Of course there was “Reddy”, the white lamb who turned red after rubbing against the fencing you put up so we could keep him in our back yard in Okmulgee.
Who could forget you driving down to my wedding on glare ice for twelve hours?
You brought Darrell and Trula as well.
There were the suits you wore for years, and still had so many years later. The most memorable being the glen plaid you wore for years, and years and years.
And remember sister following you up and down the yard as you mowed trying to get off grounding because the best looking guy in the high school wanted to take her on a convertible drive on Sunday afternoon, and you wouldn’t relent. You’ had warned her if she chose to leave after Sunday School and didn’t stay for church she was not going anywhere that day. Of course, that’s when he decided to call. And she didn’t get to go.
Don’t think I don’t remember the things you’ve done, the fun you were as a young dad, when life wasn’t so serious.
Remember our Oklahoma neighbor named “Happy” who made “white lightening” moon shine and still liked you even though you were a “tee-totaler”?
What about the time you went to kick me in the rear to protect me from the almost 800 pound charging sow and broke my thumb. My teachers really did want to believe I was abused because it happened with a “step dad ” .
And your 80th birthday party where you reigned as the Patriarch of the family.
I haven’t forgotten, and I hope you won’t either. We had some good years early on and from that humble beginning came the large family that now struggles in life just like we do. But they are your family and your legacy, so Happy Father’s Day to you.
TAKEN ON THE OCCASION OF YOUR 40TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY, AND WE ARRIVED THERE IN TACT.
DAD, IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS JUST THE FOUR OF US.NOW TWO ARE LEFT.YOU AND ME. ONE THING THAT WILL NEVER CHANGE, IS: THE YOU AND ME.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY 2010