January 22, 2021

Tootsie Rowden and Katie Hurst (standing)
Harriett Eaves and Sally Connelly (seated)

THE FABULOUS FOUR

We celebrated my 30th birthday in Athens at my mother’s home—and joy and harmony prevailed.  Our beautiful baby girl Heather was just 9 months old and we couldn’t keep from smiling as she worked her way firmly into everyone’s heart. During our Christmas visit to Tennessee a few weeks earlier, she had contracted the “Hong Kong flu” with high fever—and we’d been terrified.  I also got that same flu and had a taste of the pain and misery she must have been feeling.  But now we were well and ready to celebrate my January 8thbirthday with family. It was a good day indeed.

In this photo we are in Mother’s living room—and I love the objects surrounding us.  In the corner behind me is the weirdly beautiful oak antique three-cornered table that was in Mother’s family.  Rescued from the smokehouse and refinished by my brother Glenn, it was a favorite item in his home.  After his death, Mother reclaimed it—and I now have this unique table.  On the table is an antique kerosene lamp that was in the Eaves family.  It was brass but originally coated with nickel.  My brother Pat removed the nickel and restored the shiny brass, refitted it as an electric lamp and replaced the broken plain white glass shade with a floral designed one. The story was that the original lamp lit the bedroom on Eaves Street the night Farrell was born.  Years later Mother gave the lamp to Farrell as a memento. On the wall is a framed tinted Olan Mills photograph of me at 18 months.  It’s still in that frame and now hangs in my Nashville bedroom.  Under it is a tiny reproduction of one of Mother’s favorite paintings—The Angelus (1857-59) by French artist Jean-Francois Millet.  She had a larger print of the same painting hanging on another wall. In front of me is an antique oak candlestand that Tom gave me for this birthday—from our favorite Athens dealer Mrs. Hughes. I passed it along to Heather for her home.

Happy faces—Tootsie, my father’s daughter and my half-sister, my sister-in-law Katie who was married to my mother’s son Glenn Hurst, and Mother.  Three widows with strong connections and very different in style and personality.  Tootsie was in her late 40s and teaching at City Park Elementary School.  Katie was in her early 50’s, working in the office at the Athens Plow Company and dealing with a rebellious teenage daughter Emily. 

There was a festive meal at Mother’s table, set with colorful linens, her Independence white ironstone dishes and Fostoria Americana crystal. And favorite menu items topped off by the traditional three-layered coconut birthday cake and Mayfield’s ice cream. 

My 20s were remarkable years—college graduation, graduate school at Vanderbilt, marriage, life and work in Texas, South Carolina and Mississippi, and most happily becoming a mother.  

Freeze frame. Cherish the memories of the people, the place, this day, the tangibles and the intangibles of a moment.

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