Posts Tagged ‘summer time in the South’


Growing up in Tucker Georgia is where I learned to socialize and compromise. And take the consequences for my actions – realized at the tender age of 6.

“I’m wearing that skirt today!”

“Oh no you’re not! Mary Ann is,” said my older sister, Patricia.

“You and Mary Ann always wear it,” I argued.

“Diane is right, Pat,” argued Becky Leake in my defense.

And that’s the way it was in our playhouse behind Tom Story’s workshop. The playhouse walls were made of thick rows of pine-straw fetched from the Tucker Woods just a few feet away. Furniture consisted of bricks and boards discarded from the workshop. It was fun to play dress up and “manage” our own home, but more fun to wear the long skirt which designated “Mother.” Becky and I were always on the losing end. We were the “guests,” and no vintage clothes for visitors. One day, Becky had enough. She crossed Morgan Road in a huff, but returned moments later all smiles. She was carrying a mink coat.

“You’d better put that back, Rebecca!” Mary Ann Leake advised.

“Nannie won’t care. She won’t need it until Christmas. We can play with it today.”

With reluctance, Mary Ann conceded to her (slightly) older sister. All four of us were intrigued by the beauty of such a jacket. After we all tried on the mink coat, Pat and Mary Ann decided to continue wearing the brown and white checked long skirt. Wanted no part of the mink. We had no problem with that, since Becky and I had a turn at trying on the long skirt. It was a tad too small for Becky and too big for me. Becky had no problem wearing the gorgeous coat. She pretended to be an “important guest” from New York City. As she stood there in her mink coat, she described the Statue of Liberty, Radio City Music Hall and Broadway.

Then it was my turn. The jacket length coat was to my ankles. Even with open toed sandals and shorts – it was too hot to wear the mink for long. Georgia summers too hot and humid for such attire. Soon after my grand entrance, the mink coat was hung on a pine tree limb which doubled as the “hall-tree.” As I sat there enjoying my invisible cup of tea, I told stories of the North Pole and how I run into Santa. I played a guessing game so that they could guess what awaited them Christmas morning, all the while stroking my mink coat as it dangled from the limb. Mary Ann enjoyed guessing until it came to her turn. She did not want to know what she was getting for Christmas, even a pretend game. But summertime was more than playing house. Warm days gave way to soft ball games, swimming, and rainy day games of Parcheesi and Clue. Then came the fall. Seeing the Leake girls at school and walking to and from was the only time we saw them.

One weekend Becky and Mary Ann joined us playing in the red and gold leaves that covered our woodsy yard. An odd thing happened while playing in the leaves. Patricia’s kitty, Precious, ran wild in circles. It was apparent that something was seriously wrong. Mama called the animal control center. They could not catch Precious. The frightened cat climbed up on top of Daddy’s workshop out of reach. Afraid the cat would disappear into the woods asked for help.

“If anybody can, my daughter can get that cat for you. That cat will do anything for her,” Daddy said as he looked at Patricia.

Patricia hesitated. She did not want to turn her cat over to the animal control. Eight year old Patricia tried to control her sobs as she asked for a baby blanket.

Four year old little sister, Barbara, courageously gave up her long time baby blanket. Pat took the blanket and ascended the ladder while Daddy held it secure. When atop the roof, Patricia flattened the blanket and called out, “Here Precious, here Precious.”

Precious heeded her master. Pat wrapped her Precious then climbed down the ladder where she bravely handed the poor cat over to animal control. They put Precious in a cage. One man said the poor cat had a bad case of the wolf-worm (caused by green flies). As soon as they drove away with Precious, Daddy looked for the “fly infestation” while Mama consoled Patricia. Daddy did not have to look far. Just behind his workshop was Nannie Leake’s forgotten mink coat on the ground infested with flies. The tree limb “hall-tree” broke under the weight of the coat. Apparently the soft furry coat was a napping place for Precious.

The playhouse story came out as all four girls told how the mink coat got behind the workshop. With a long board, Daddy scooped up the coat, placed it on a big pile of red and gold leaves. He drenched the coat in gasoline and threw a lit match on it. With a matter of fact voice, he said, “Diane, go with Becky and Mary Ann and tell Nannie Leake what I just did to her mink coat.”

Whoa! Are you kidding me? Those were my thoughts, though I remained silent with my feet frozen to the ground. I think Daddy must have read my mind.

“Did you wear the coat, Donnie?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then go with them,” gently urged my father.

As I slowly walked away, Helen Story added,  “Diane, you made your bed, now you must lie in it. Now, get a move on.”

The three of us walked across Morgan Road to the Leake’s house. Becky was distraught. Mary Ann wept. I walked in silence wishing Tom Story believed in corporal punishment. I would gladly take a spanking rather than face Nannie Leake today. When face to face with her grandmother, all Becky could do was blurt out, “Nannie, I am so sorry.” She collapsed to the floor with grief. Mary Ann was the one who did the talking.

I whispered, “I’m sorry Nannie Leake.” My throat tightened making it unable to speak.

Nannie Leake was still and silent, finally she spoke in a strained voice.

“Girls, we will speak of this another day.” It was as though she did not see us as she made way out of the house and into the front yard. There she stopped and watched the dark smoke billowing from behind our house. And though she was distraught, this elderly lady stood there looking grand as though she was a queen watching her castle burn from a far. After all, the mink coat had been a Christmas gift from her late husband. She wore the coat during the Christmas season, whether it was cold in Georgia or not, and now it was gone.

After a while, she spoke urgently, “Mary Ann, go inside and cut a generous piece of your mother’s pineapple cake and wrap it pretty with pink ribbon. You’ll find the ribbon in my top dresser drawer. Bring it to me.”

Mary Ann returned and her grandmother examined the beautifully wrapped plate of cake. She nodded her head in approval and said, “Give it to Diane. Diane, please give this cake to Patricia, with my love.”

“Yes ma’am.”

I took the cake and when I was about to cross Morgan Road, Nannie Leake again called my name, “Diane, please tell Mr. Story, that I send my apologies.”

Nannie Leake was a gracious lady even when the world did not go her way. Often I do not meet the standards demonstrated so eloquently on that day of the mink coat burning. But with each and every failure, my memory bank offers up an image of a mink coat to correct me. These are just a few of the things that I learned while growing up on Morgan Road in Tucker, Georgia.