Sunday, January 8, 2012

And the Water Danced

He was a dynamic man, opinionated, stubborn, but he loved my mother.  He was born in 1905. He came to Montana in a wagon with his parents to homestead.  He hated being a farmer.  He was shaped by the land, his experiences, and the prejudices of his time.  By today’s standards he would be labeled a racist and a bigot.  And he was.

After 28 years of marriage my mother found herself raising a 6 year old and a 12 year old as a divorced single mother with little money.  During my teenage years Mom went to college in Lewiston, Idaho.  And we lived in cheap rentals.

One of those rentals was in an old house.  The apartment house had been a mansion.  It had been home to the Lieutenant Governor before the capital was moved to Boise, Idaho.  When I lived there the building had gone through life’s vicissitudes.  The structure was still sound, but its change of fortune permeated the thin walls of the seven dingy apartments within.

Next to this old building was a small house and another brick apartment house.  The brick apartment house was two stories, designed by an uninspired architect.  It closely resembled a shoebox with dividers. The center of Lewiston was just a stones throw away. The man who owned these rentals would become my step-dad for a short time.

Many of the renters would drop off their rent money with my Mom.  She would then give it to Floyd.  But I digress.  Let me return to telling the events that led up to this specific memory.

Mom and Floyd had taken a short trip out of town.  Floyd had left the management of the rentals in his son’s hands.  Warren rented several of the apartments during Floyd’s absence.  One apartment was rented to two construction workers.  Floyd hit the roof when he discovered that the construction workers were “Black”.  I remember the explosion well.

Floyd’s tirade began, “I’ll just kick them out!”

“That’s not right!  They have paid thier money and haven’t done anything wrong.” Was my mother’s answering salvo.

“I don’t want them there.  It’s not against the law.  I should be able to rent to whoever I want.”

“If they pay their rent, what do you care what color of skin they have.”

Floyd was an intelligent man, with a modicum of common sense and a healthy sense of self preservation.  The renters stayed.

The years have erased their names in my memory, but I can still see them in my mind’s eye.  One was short and lean, close cropped hair and suave.  I remember hearing he was a “ladies man”.  A man who liked his “lady birds”.  

The other was a big quiet man - tall and muscular.  I remember him being soft spoken.  His voice made me think of warm molasses.  His behavior was always the epitome of courtesy and genteel manners.  In my teenage eyes I always thought of him as a gentle giant.

I remember the day it happened,we were just sitting down to dinner.    Mom had invited Floyd to join us. I can still remember the layered scents coming from the kitchen. It must have been near the first of the month.  There was a knock at the door and I went to answer it.  

The gentle giant stood in the doorway.  I remember him handing me an envelope, “Would you please give your mother our rent money?”

As my mother heard his voice, she called out, “We are just sitting down to dinner.  Why don’t you join us?”

I remember his measured response, “Thank you ma’am.  I don’t want to intrude.”

“It’s fine.  I made catfish, greens, grits, and there’s hot biscuits and honey.  And there’s watermelon for dessert.”

The look of rapture that crossed his face was juxtaposed by the thunderous visage on Floyd’s face.  I was convinced from the grimace that followed he was literally biting his tongue.  I am sure the underlying meaning was not lost on any of the adults present.

“Ma’am I haven’t had a meal like that for many years.  Not since the last time I sat down to my own mama’s cooking.  Ma’am I would be right honored to join you for supper.”

With that comment I was sent to fetch another chair.  Looking back I am sure it was no accident that Floyd and the gentle giant were seated across from each other.  What I remember about that dinner was the stories and laughter.  When he left I remember him thanking my mom for such a memorable dinner.

As we were clearing the table and washing the dishes I remember Floyd telling Mom, “I kind of like him. He’s not a bad boy.”

Time went by.  Whenever the gentle giant went fishing he always brought fish back for Mom.  Eventually their job was completed and they moved on.  A couple of years later another construction job brought them back to town.  Floyd rented them their old apartment.

This morning I was watching Montana This Morning.  Ed was interviewing Dr Simon Atkins, he is a Global Climate Change Expert.  He was talking about the influence of energy on our world and on ourselves. How the solar flares from the sun are impacting weather here on earth.  He explained that as energy flows through us it shifts and can change us.  He demonstrated this principal by playing an ancient Tibetan Singing Bowl.  Then he poured water into the bowl and as he played the bowl the water started to dance.

As I watched him play the singing bowls I made a “connection to self”.  I realized that I was grateful for this memory because my mother taught by example.  

I had witnessed the water dance.

Rita, Ruth, and Floyd

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  1. This is a fabulous story--your mother was a special woman.....thank you for sharing it

  2. Thank you she was an amazing woman.

  3. You had me reading fast to see what would happen. It's a beautiful story and lovely to see that connection/metaphor at the end. Your mother has true grit as they say. I'm so proud that there were those strong women in my family too. It isn't always so. Thanks for capturing such a wonderful memory.

  4. Wow! Amazing! Your Mom left an unforgettable example of a kind soft spoken woman. You're lucky to have her as your Mom through her kind words and actions. I know that you, too, become your Mom's "Mini me"... by her example of good deeds and kind heart.

  5. Thank you for watching me on Face The State! I am happy to hear that you were able to make a wonderful connection with Self. Bravo! May all be well, vibrant best regards, Dr. Simon Atkins.


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