BIRDIE,BIRDIE IN THE SKY, WILL YOU MARRY ME? ( A LEGACY STORY )
My Thirteenth Birthday Picture when their marriage was still a secret.
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 ♫!
That simple children’s song became both a philosophy and a proposal.
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, Oklahoma, Baptist surroundings. It also 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. I always believed what I was told by adults, (i.e. there is: a Santa; Easter Bunny; adults know best; if you need help, ask a policeman or a preacher). I thought if you were a 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 better.
At an early age I was to learn what it meant to come from “the wrong side of the tracks”. Literally. On Ninth street, you came to a railroad track situated on a gentle hill, and once over the hill, sat three houses on the left side. The road dead-ended there, bordered by an old, long abandoned park. Parts of that park had become a frequently used hobo jungle, and one learned to seek out the places marked by the transients. They used their secret signs (markings) to identify us as houses that would give out a sandwich if you were hungry.
Typically the “wrong side of the track” in the segregated south where I lived, was associated with the “negroes,” (acceptable designation in the 1940’s) living in these less than desirable areas. In our case, however, all three houses were inhabitated by three families on my biological father’s side. The property was, however, owned by a black dentist. Translated, that means we were so poor in the segregated south, we rented from a black family. In my time and in that place, that was really poor.
At any given time either my grandparents, a set of aunts and uncles and our family inhabitated these houses. When one particular aunt and uncle moved, we moved into their middle house. I do not even remember who moved into the third house where we started. Nevertheless, always there was the stigma of the tracks.
These are the actual tracks we crossed over to get to our houses; I used the picture on the suspense novel I wrote entitled: The Wrong/Strong Side of the Tracks.
Suffering the early years of my young life as an object of ridicule, it was not always about where we lived. Sometimes it was about being poor and having a totally dysfunctional group of family members. There is no hiding the fact that many members of our family were well known to the local police department; and frequent visitors to the “drunk tank.” However, 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.
A new house, a new neighborhood, a new beginning.
This picture was taken years after we had moved away.(No dish tv in our day)
By fifth grade, I had a new home on Fourth street. My aunt and uncle had bought one just behind us on third street, 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 parent’s 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.
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 splitting and how it was used. It is 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 meant 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.
A dilemma: how do we snag the rich guy and get rid of the young gun?
My mother began to “date” and meet eligible men. Probably not too many wanting a readymade family of two girls, but at least she was finding some outlets. There were two leading contenders for her affection, but we thought there was only one. He was a “dashing” good looking fella who dressed well, and owned his own brick home in Tulsa. He seemingly had money and a good professional position. He had taken 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. 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 Okmulgee Tech, and not understanding all of the ins and outs of his position, we thought he was a student at the college.
The Young Guy and my mom at his brother’s house.
Separating the “wheat from the chaff”
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 a project. She was working on the project for school and it involved using paraffin. She left it heating in a pan on our electric kitchen stove and it exploded while the three of us were gone. Our small, two bedroom home burned ; and there was no insurance
- · It was interesting to see what happened.
- My biological dad was in town visiting my aunt and uncle who lived behind us. Dad had a traveling job, thus when the opportunity allowed, he would stay there to visit with us.. He later told us he ‘high tailed it out of town’ for fear folks would think he had 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 a college that taught trades: Refrigeration, plumbing, upholstery and all kinds of things pertaining to household contracting. He organized volunteers from the college, from the church, and came to help. They took our appliances to the college and renewed them, cleaned, painted and papered our house with close out and donated materials. They salvaged the household furniture and there was a great deal of free labor to help rebuild the house and make it habitable.
Bamboo shoots forever and a “contender”.
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 to refurbish our kitchen pantry. The most astonishing gift in my “redneck” experience was 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 that house, to every new house from the 1950’s thru the1980’s. Mother would not “waste them”, and couldn’t seem to give them up until she saw the lid bulging and learned about botchulism.
The bamboo shoots weren’t the only thing she couldn’t give up; the young guy seemed to have won her heart, so we took a closer look. He had pretty much won the others in the family over; even her ex-in-laws who lived in back of us. We got the house back together with his help, then he took us all to church with him. The two of them became the really fun couple at church. They enjoyed being part of the college parties and all the church events. It was not 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 (we thought) and she was married, divorced and with two kids. Not a good match in our12 and 15 year old opinions.
It was then that we hatched a plan. We were going to show him what it would be like, to live with two girls who were adolescents. We had been well behaved up to then, but only because my mom would have done real damage to us if we weren’t. Mom could forgive us later, we rationalized, and it was for her own good.
Sabotage by showmanship.
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 in the living room, talk and visit about school, life and things I supposed many families did in ‘real’ homes It was almost as good as going to a show. That would be our plan of attack. We’d devise a “show” for him that would show him the reality of living and raising tweens and teens.
We told stories, acted silly and then for the finale’. We told him in dramatic terms that 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 from the two who made up the audience. We smiled, 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. 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, and it was going to be awkward at church where everyone already treated us like a family.
Not the “show review” we were expecting.
To our everlasting surprise, the next day mother said nothing about the “show” and its ramifications. She didn’t seem mad or sad. She just smiled and went to work. In the future, we were going to learn “the show” was a pivotal moment in their relationship. 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.
Since that proposal and marriage 56 years ago, my mother and sister have passed on and its just Dad and me left. He is now dubbed the little energizer bunny and continues to “rescue” people” with needs. We aren’t surprised to show up home after a trip and find him scrapping and painting our windows “because they needed it” or trimming trees and bushes; and even on top of a roof emptying the down spouts. His nephew says that he “shows his love in the work he does”, and as for him, he hopes to be working when he “drops” that final time.
So, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO THE LITTLE ENERGIZER BUNNY
DR. WILLARD MAURICE SMITH OF DIBBLE OKLAHOMA 86 YRS YOUNG.
Feel free to click on to see the tribute site I made for my Dad three years ago. Diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in the glands of his neck and chest and a short prognosis, he went out and boughr a new red car and has logged thousands of miles; is now caring for his 3rd garden and providing vegetables to his oncologists, and travels doing mission trips; oh, and did I mention he still maintains his chiropractic office in Rock Island, Il?
So one more time: Happy Father’s Day to Dr. Willard M. Smith.