Today my parents are in my thoughts, since it was 12 years ago today when my Dad lost his battle with cancer. He would have been 84, and my mother would have been 81. Since it just plain ol' hurts too much to write about my Pop today, I know he would be happy to read something about my Mom and his wife of 31 years before her death in 1988, Pearl Williston Thomas.
(I'm the baby in the photo, it's the only uploadable photo I have of my Mom ;-)
Wow. I would love to see Mom at 81, I bet she'd still be turning heads. She was beautiful, and she could never forget it because everyone -- men and women alike -- would always make comments about how gorgeous she was. My childhood friends would just stare at her and then tell me how lucky I was that my Mom looked like a movie star!
Yup. I'd love to see Pearl today, those blue eyes with her sparkling intellect were a remarkable combination. I also think Mother would be happy to know that I am devoted to making sure all of the Bluegrass and beyond are aware of the ever-growing popularity of the Holler Poets Series, especially since she was a girl from the holler herself; she would love my story about Leslie Beatty starring in the one-woman show at Actors Guild of Lexington called "Bad Dates;" and she'd be glad I'm still singing in my choir.
She'd also approve of the fact that I correct everyone's spelling and grammar whenever possible (and so does my kid). As a teacher of all 12 grades in one schoolhouse, Pearl knew the importance of education, and especially of educating children to speak proper English. Nothing would raise her ire any faster than hearing us say "me and Karen" versus "Karen and me." The word 'ain't' just wasn't an option, and neither was 'warsh.' When we answered the phone, we had to say, "Thomas residence, Kim speaking." We said prayers every night before we went to sleep, singing Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep first, then we'd proceed with asking God to bless Mom, Dad, Becky, Karen, Kim, Marshall, Addison, Kelli, Tom, using our order of birth (and then any in-laws and grandkids that came along were put on the prayer list as they joined the ever growing Thomas family).
I am forever grateful that God blessed me with parents who knew that saying please and thank-you were important life skills without which we would all look like goobers. (She would never say 'goobers' tho :) I would also 'give a pewter button' as she would say to sit down and enjoy a mess of Pearl's wilted lettuce with salt pork on top with a pone of cornbread. That's right, she was from the holler, she made everything with bacon or salt pork, which is the main ingredient in every mountain-made mess of anything. Her grandparents settled the Big Willard Holler in Perry County, named after Willard Williston, who was my great-grandfather (he somehow lived to be 106, despite all that pork fat and raising and smoking his own pipe tobacco, times are -- or were -- simpler in the mountains of Appalachia, perhaps that was the secret of his longevity). His son, my grandpa, Albert Lee Williston, died in his early 40s when the roof of a coal mine fell in on him. I remember Mom telling me about going outside and seeing how he'd left big footprints in the muddy garden that morning before he'd gone to work in the mines; he'd tilled the soil, making sure his family would have enough food to get by.
If Pearl were here today, even at 81, she'd still be following the Cats on the radio or whatever medium she could find to make sure they'd win the next game. I always thought EVERYONE everywhere hooped and hollered while Cawood Ledford would announce the details of the Wildcats' games. It wasn't until we moved briefly to Memphis that I discovered there were OTHER basketball teams with rabid fans like Mom! (She'd be GLAD Calipari agreed to leave Memphis to come here, that's for sure!) My friends from Memphis still laugh when they think about what a big UK fan she was, though, because she just knew that if she willed them to victory, it would happen. And truthfully, I believed over the years that many times, she WAS the sole reason they snatched victory from the jaws of certain defeat!
So, here's to you, Mom, I will always think of you when I sing My Old Kentucky Home, when I see any portrait of Adolph Rupp (she didn't like the one Dad had put up in our family room, she said he was always staring at her :), when I hear a Johnny Cash song, and of course, on January 23rd of every year, I will remember that I was lucky, so very very fortunate to be the middle child of a coal miner's daughter named Pearl.
Sweet Ferns for peace,