As I begin counting my blessings in 2020 my only surviving sibling takes top billing. Let me share with you why oldest sister Darcile (seen in the photo above) deserves this honor. My answer is simple. For almost 90 years she has been there for me!
Darcile had turned 10 on September 10th, 1930 when I, the youngest of our family’s eight children, joined the household on February 24, 1931.
My early childhood memories of the two of us were scant to me, but not to her. However, I do recall a few cameo moments. When I was five you were in high school, and for Christmas 1936, Mama, I’m told, had just $5.00 to buy presents for six children.
We were living in a rural area of South Georgia in a community known as Dixie Union and the nearest sidewalk was over 15 miles away. Nevertheless, Santa brought you, of all things, a pair of roller skates! A little on the hefty side you put on your new skates and in a few seconds scooted across the front porch. Alas! You landed in in the yard, smarting from a sore behind and with your new skates bent beyond repair.
I remember creating make-believe settings involving turning chairs sideways and draping them with quilts. In those days, I nearly always had a tattered gathering of paper dolls I dressed in fancy attire that removed us far from our sparse dwelling. With both of us now in our senior years, you’ve reminded me that I was notorious for making messes and never wanting to clean up! It seems I habitually left my paper dolls strewn hither and yon while you habitually pampered by bad habits.
Darcile, I also remember watching you pick up a cast flat iron from the fire ashes, run it across the octogen soap wrapper and begin ironing a mound of clothes. Hours later you were still ironing.
I really enjoy being around my family! Darcile, me, my niece Kathy (on the bench), and my brother Quentin’s kids Diane, Ward, and Carolyn Sweat (behind).
In our senior years, you have been my “fill-in-the-gaps” editor of those early days when daddy was alive. You shared with me how Mama would make homemade fudge, and my brother John, 13, while peddling the Waycross Journal Herald newspaper to the local townspeople, would tempt them with bags of fudge to help with family expenses. You also shared with me how much John enjoyed going to the movies and how Daddy always spanked him for going. It seems John had rather endure the spankings than deny himself a trip to the theater. He kept going, and the spankings kept coming.
Darcile, I love the story you tell of my brother Chandos being left behind at church, and that it wasn’t until the family was almost home they realized he wasn’t with them. They rushed back to the church and found him sound asleep on one of the wooden pews!
However, my fondest memories stem from when I was in high school. Time and again you rescued me! To say I was a troubled teen is to beg the question. When I was fifteen my stepfather wanted me to quit school and go to work to help out with household expenses, but in a fit of anger, I rebelled and went to live with my Aunt Nevada, daddy’s sister, near Alma, Georgia. I was there only a few months when my sister Kathryne came to my rescue and put me on a Greyhound bus headed for Jacksonville, Florida.
This occurred shortly after the Allied forces had defeated Germany. You and your husband E.J. were creating your own family roots. The two of you lived in a rented apartment on Longfellow Ave. in Jacksonville, not far from the Naval Air Station, where both of you worked.
I arrived on the scene, broke and unhappy. You gave me lodging, food, enrolled me in school, and I quickly became welcomed at your church, Ortega Baptist.
I stayed with you several months, constantly miserable, making a few friends while accumulating average school grades.
As head cashier at the Jax Naval Air Station PX, you were privy to purchasing many items at a reduced price. It didn’t take me long to discover box upon box of Hershey bars stashed away on one of your top closet shelves. I spent many hours gorging myself on Hershey bars while the two of you were at work!
After spending a few months in your home, you and I got on a Greyhound bus, and I returned to Savannah.
The second time I invited myself to live with the two of you was after I’d graduated from high school in Savannah. Once again I was emotionally at loose ends. My heart’s desire was to become an international missionary which required me to get four years of college and two years of graduate study.
You had just delivered your firstborn son Gary and were experiencing some personal post-birth adjustments. Nevertheless, you kept circling job opportunities for me in the local newspaper. Dutifully, I half-heartedly followed suit. Meanwhile, we mutually enjoyed fellowshipping with the members of Ortega Baptist Church.
In late August of 1953, a group of us teenage girls sat around the kitchen table of the pastor’s wife, Leona B. Althoff, for our weekly Sunday school session. I don’t recall why the conversation that morning focused on getting an education. However, I do vividly remember the occasion! Mrs. Althoff revealed that when she was our age she lived in Texas, and she worked her way through college on a six-hour-a-week scholarship. She looked me in the eye: “I’ll write and ask them to accept you as a student if you’re truly interested.”
I wasted no time saying, “I’m interested. Write to them for me.” Leona Althoff wrote to Mary Hardin-Baylor College and soon I was boarding a Greyhound bus, bound for Texas.
Darcile, I owe much of what I’ve accomplished in my life since 1949 to you!
Thank you for the basketful of good memories you’ve bequeathed to me! Because you took me when I couldn’t find my way forward you became a catalyst of my future. Because of you I became the only person in our family with a college degree and went on to earn a Ministry of Education degree from Southwestern Seminary. Because of you I enjoyed thirty years as a public-school teacher in Georgia. Because of you I married Claude Mason and gave birth to Claude Alan, both of whom continuously prodded me forward. Because of you I have been able to accept many losses, to count my blessings and hopefully to be a blessing to others.
Darcile, I’ll always be drawing inspiration from your beautiful spirit and love. I’ll never forget that when I needed direction in my life you were there for me. Thanks!