“Some memories are unforgettable, remaining ever vivid and heartwarming.”—Joseph B. Wirthlin
Over the years I have just found it easier to say “Clarksdale” when people ask me where I am from, but longtime readers know that my actual hometown is this hamlet, located about 15 miles north of the better known city and also bearing the name of the county in which both are located.
And while there are often things that trigger memories of the place that I called home for just about the first third of my life, never is that more true than during what we’ve come to know as “the holidays,” last week Thanksgiving and then Christmas, because to me, both have always had a common denominator—“going to Miss Louise’s house. “That requires some explaining here and now, though certainly none would be necessary for the folks living then and there. Miss Louise’s house was an unpretentious, frame home, nestled away amid cotton fields but a pleasant bicycle ride north of here and all the time-defeating, personality-fashioning retrospections which furnished it.
Miss Louise, one of God’s better efforts, was my paternal grandmother, but since the late, great Scottie Lee Milton, technically my family’s maid, but more like a mother to me, referred to my grandmother as “Miss Louise,” so did I—for as long as she lived. That arrangement suited us both fine, so that was that.
In my childhood through young manhood, Thanksgiving was possible only by the completion of the never long journey from wherever I was to that house and was keyed into its annual motion only by the enunciation of, “Well, here’s my boy!” A remarkably straightforward little woman, Miss Louise made no bones about the fact that other grandchildren whom she loved notwithstanding, I was her first and I was her favorite and that was that, as well.
If pressed, I suppose Miss Louise would have grudgingly admitted that I was not perfect, but then again, that was not a subject one need bring up with too much regularity. Everybody needs to be somebody’s favorite, and the world would be a much better place if everyone were.
In those to the memory magical years, Thanksgiving was a sensory assault.
The marvelous aromas wafted their ways from the kitchen, the salted parched pecans upon which one’s appetite was subject to ruination before he ever made his way to the table, the sounds of greetings and laughter as one by one the “other” members of what was then a quite large family arrived at the destination of their annual pilgrimages.
There was the “grown-up” dining room table, filled with so much food as to barely leave any room, and then there was the “children’s table” at which we all feasted and then there was that oh, so marvelous year of my 12th or 13th birthday when I was promoted from one to the other, a Mosby rite of passage, signaling another mile marker on the road to “growing up.”
Thanksgiving was a montage of faces, most now no longer present, but all then essential to the essence of the holiday and all today still prominent within the recollections of it.
There was my uncle Charles, as different from my father as any two siblings could be, who was every year bound, in a voice that might as well have been a Billy Crystal impression, to pronounce in medias meal, “Oh, Mother, this is marvelous!”
There was my great aunt “T,” (don’t ask), who after consuming enough dressing to stuff a throw pillow, would like clockwork every year, turn to her sister and say, “Louise, I believe I am nauseated (pronounced naw-zated).” That, in turn, with equal certainty, would elicit an under-the-table tap on the leg and subsequent wink from my Dad.
And there was the man of particular good fortune in that he had spent the significant part of his life in the company of that marvelous woman, known to him not as “Miss Louise,” but as “Mother,” the etiology of which, like that of her calling him “Dink,” always struck me as far too personally sacred for any other to fathom.
The dimensions lent by that man, my grandfather and the original Ray Mosby, did not echo within, but rather seeped into the walls of that wondrous old house even after he had suffered a stroke.
This, he evidenced one holiday when as my uncle’s three children were being a bit rowdy and loud he broke what had been his morning long silence to say, “Charles, if you don’t do something with those kids, you aren’t going to see them but once a month on visiting day.”
Profound fellow, my grandfather.
Of such are memories made and from such can both smiles and melancholy flow. I wish everyone could experience as wonderful a Thanksgiving as were mine of yesteryear and I wish I could experience just one more.
Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.