Wednesday, Saint Patrick’s Day, was also my brother Joe’s birthday. We always called him Joey. I was a late in life child and he was born after me. The two of us grew up together. My other five brothers and sisters were a lot older than we were so it left me and Joe to pretty much hang out together. My brother died on 7-7-17. He had many demons that he battled and just couldn’t seem to overcome, alcohol was the worst. His body just couldn’t take all he had put it through. Me and my siblings had to watch our baby brother succumb to this. It was horrible and now all I want to do it remember the good times that involved him. He had such a mischievous streak and he and I often clashed even when playing together. But oh how much fun we had playing Lost In Space and Batman. I wrote this story with him in mind even though he is not mentioned very much until the end. He made the day that we had the “rummage sale” the most memorable ever and one that I still laugh about to this day. It’s a little long but I hope you enjoy it.
Many years ago during the early seventies, when I was only about seven or eight years old, my mama and several women from our local church got together to help a family in our community. We had heard that the mother in this family had cancer and it was terminal. She was bedridden. Her and her husband had several small children. Her husband couldn’t work much because he had to stay at home and care for her and take care of the children.
The women from the church got together to try and help this family. They decided that they would go over and clean the house and do laundry and take good homemade food, and stock their cabinets with groceries. That’s what southern women do, just ask anyone.
The ladies went to the house. To say that this family had very little means to make ends meet would have been an understatement. They were poor. The house was a mess. The curtains were pulled and it was dark inside. Although it was summer, July or August the best I can remember. The house was cool inside although there certainly wasn’t air conditioning. It was almost like a cave. It took a minute for your eyes to adjust to the light. The laundry hadn’t been done in weeks maybe months, dirty dishes were everywhere. It just had a feel of despair. I picked up on this even at my very young age.
The ladies swooped in and did their magic. Because it was summer, and school was out, I usually got to go with my mama and I was just in heaven that my younger brother Joey didn’t get to come with us. I sort of became friends with one of the youngest girls in the family. For days the women showed up and cleaned and stocked the cabinets with food and put the baked food they had brought into the fridge. The house looked amazing!!! The family was overjoyed with all of the food and the clean house. There was just one thing. All of the laundry. It was a mountain of laundry or more like four of five mountains of laundry. Five people in one house can really go through a lot of laundry. There was literally piles and piles of clothes, towels, sheets etc. that needed to be washed. The family didn’t have a washer or dryer and they really didn’t have a way to wash the clothes.
The ladies decided that the best thing to do was take all of the clothes to the local laundry/ dry cleaners and let them clean all of the clothes at once and then they would take them back to the family. You have to remember this is a time when many of these women didn’t have automatic washing machines and having a dryer was almost unheard of. That’s what clothes lines were for. So the dry cleaners seemed to be the best bet.
Several of the ladies’ husbands came and collected the clothes in their pick-up trucks and delivered the clothes to the dry cleaners. A few days later the cleaners had the clothes ready and said they would deliver them to the house. There was only one problem. The bill for the dry cleaners was $169.73. What!!!! this was an astronomical amount to the women. To everyone!!! The cleaners wouldn’t deliver the clothes until the bill was paid. They had actually cut the bill in half to help do their part for the family. A special meeting was called by the ladies of the church to try and decide what to do and how to raise the money.
There were several suggestions on how to raise the money. The best and most practical solution was that a rummage sale and bake sale would be held. They picked the location, a small store with a decent sized gravel parking lot not far from our house. One of the church women had a house on the hill above the store. Her house would be used to store the items until the day of the sale.
The word was put out to everyone in the community that items were needed for the rummage sale. The people in our small community were very generous and were willing to donate lots of things. For the next couple of weeks my daddy drove my mama and another lady around to help collect some of the items. I went with them. While I was at one of the houses the woman who owned the house saw me staring at a beaded purse that she was going to donate. She said “here, I am giving this to you for being such a helpful girl”. I was overjoyed. I carried the purse to the car and climbed into the back seat. It was beaded with a small strap and pockets on the inside. I think it was the most beautiful purse I had ever seen and I felt so grown up with it sitting on my lap. I kept that purse for years. It’s probably what started my obsession with purses.
A lot of work went into the preparation for the sale. The day of the rummage sale was anxiously awaited. No one would even whisper the word rain. The night before the big day, tables were brought in to display the items. Clothes racks were put in place to hang clothes. All of the church ladies had been busy baking for days to have cakes, pies and candies to sell.
On Saturday morning, the day of the sale, the sun shone bright with not a hint of rain in the air. You just couldn’t ask for a more perfect day. My mama got up early and got everything ready that she was taking with her. Daddy drove us the short distance to the store where the rummage sale was being held. There was a spark of excitement in the air. The only problem was my little brother Joe was brought along. He was going to spend the whole day with me and Mama. He was about five years old and totally annoying, as most little brothers are. For the most part I was well behaved and always a little afraid of getting into trouble. But whenever Joe and I got together he brought out the worst in me and we tended to act like heathens. This annoyed my mama to no end. This day would be no exception.
The day wore on long and hot Many many items were sold. The baked goods had to be taken into the store to keep cool because the icing on the cakes was starting to melt. Joe and I quickly became bored. Now I have to tell you that my mama was a lady. She was cool as a cucumber. No matter what, she always looked put together. Her hair was immaculate. She always wore dresses or skirts. On this particular day I remember that she had on a yellow dress with a wide white belt. She wore chunky sandals. She looked so pretty. Her hair was pushed back with two tortoise shell combs and she always wore red lipstick. Even in the unbelievably hot weather my mama still looked perfect. She didn’t go out of the house looking any other way.
It all started when Joe wanted a canned coke. Remember every canned soda in the south is “coke” Someone had brought in a cooler full of cokes on ice. Joe handed the can to my mama so she could open it for him. When she opened it, it blew up in her face and coke went all over her and soaked her hair and dress. My mama always swore that Joe must have shook it up before she opened it. He probably did too because that is just the sort of thing he would do, he was five after all and quite a mischievous little boy.
The women gathered around my mama trying to dry her off. The heat caused her hair to get really sticky and stiff. I’m sure they were somewhat amazed at seeing her in this state of disarray. The hot weather and humidity mixed with the carbon of the Coke made my mama’s hair stick straight up in spikes. The lady that lived near the store offered to let mama go to her house to get cleaned up. Her house was at the top of a grassy bank above the store. Joe and I went with her. While she was cleaning up, Joe and I started rolling down the steep grassy bank in front of the house. Again and again we rolled. Joe got sick from all the rolling around and started to gag. All of a sudden as I was rolling I felt something pierce my leg. It was a piece of glass!!! It cut my leg and started bleeding. It wasn’t bad but I was tired and hot and sweaty and maybe a tad bit dramatic and I screamed like a wild banshee. I have never seen my mama so mad when she came out and saw what Joe and I had been up to. There Joe was all red faced and puking and I had beads of dirt under my arm and blood running down my leg. I was screaming like I had been stabbed. Mama knew I wasn’t hurt that bad and she had had enough.
With her hair sticking straight up and stiff as a board and coke stains all over her yellow dress She marched us to the car where my daddy was waiting for us. Daddy did a double take when he saw us walking to the car. My mama still had her dignity though and even though she was talking quietly through clenched teeth to me and my brother she kept her cool.
I think most of those good southern women were over the Rummage Sale by that time. They were doing a wonderful Godly service but It was hot and humid and they were over it!!!!!
All in all it was quite a memorable day as you can well tell since I still remember every detail after all these years. The women raised the money for the clothes and even had a little left over to give to the family. The rummage sale was a great success. It was talked about for years and years. Of course our family had our own reasons for talking about it, you know the day the coke blew up in mama’s face.
The family was overjoyed with all of the fresh clean clothes and bedding. And me and my brother Joe, well we still acted like heathens whenever we got the chance. That is the fun of being a kid after all.
Love your day your way!!!!