September 23, 2021

AUNT MAY: A BIRD IN A GILDED CAGE

The serious looking pair in these two photos are May Ensminger and T.C. Parrott. May was the youngest child of the large family of my maternal great-grandparents. And T. C. Parrott was the man she married.

Harriett always said her Aunt May was the prettiest one of the Ensminger girls  and as the baby, she was the apple of her mother’s eye. To me she looks strong and lovely, feminine without makeup or fancy clothes.  I like her peasant blouse with the tiny rosebuds around the edges, and her simple cross necklace.

On the back of his photo, T.C. Parrott wrote his name, the date it was taken (December 20, 1924) and the place was Darlan, Kansas. I don’t know anything about him, whether he was originally from Tennessee, or what he did for a living.  With a fountain pen in his suit pocket, I think he was probably a businessman. Apparently, there isn’t a Kansas town called Darlan now. Perhaps it’s one of the more than 6,000 ghost towns in the state. It was likely a desolate place even in 1924.

So Mr. Parrott (who reportedly was a bit older than May) came to Tennessee and asked May to marry him. Her mother was heartbroken that her new husband was going to take her far away to Kansas.  A popular song dating to 1899, the year May was born, was “A Bird in a Gilded Cage.”  As her mother grieved over May moving away, she would sing the chorus: “She’s only a bird in a gilded cage, A beautiful sight to see. You may think she’s happy and free from care. She’s not, though she seems to be. ‘Tis sad when you think of her wasted life, For youth cannot mate with age, And her beauty was sold, for an old man’s gold. She’s a bird in a gilded cage.”

The stories I heard were that her husband adored his wife May and that he made sure she got to come back home for long visits. I never heard that they had children, and her family always thought she was very homesick off in Kansas. I hope she was happier than the family who missed her assumed she was. Especially I hope she didn’t feel like a bird in a gilded cage—even if she did marry a Parrott!  

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