As a young woman, she was the consummate pleaser. Her mother had become very ill after the birth of her son, Melvin, when she was about 10. Her aunts were very mad at their brother for marrying this school teacher – not sure of the nature of their objection to her. Tradition has it that they worked “roots” on her mother and she was affected by what some call a slow poison for quite a few years. Aside from not being able to function, she apparently regurgitated horrible looking things. Or so the story goes.
I’m sure that meant her daughter had to step up and care for her little brother and her sister, Bettie who was around 6. That’s the way it was in Clarksville, Virginia in 1940 when Uncle Melvin was born.
By 1948 her mother, Bessie, had died and her father, William Henry Scott, had taken another wife, Myrtle Jane Greenhill. She experienced the historical woes of having a stepmother. She was mistreated. She was made to work beyond the norm. And when her pregnancy became known, her life became a living hell. She had to work the fields. She had to lift the barge and tote the bale. She was never given as much to eat as she would have liked. She told stories of wrapping cold gravy in brown paper and storing it in her pocket so she could eat it while she worked.
Just an aside. She was one of the great all time story tellers. Her expression-less face would tear you up as she said the most hilarious things in the most hilarious ways.
And maybe it was that humor that propelled her in life to just make her own self happy. I know it’s redundant but it makes the point.
She hadn’t had much luck pleasing the people she tried to please.
Her mother died when she was too young.
Her father loved her dearly, but, in his own words, “Couldn’t be without the love of a good woman.”
Her stepmother, in an attempt to continue the scorn heaped on her because of her teen pregnancy, urged the siblings to dislike her as well. She seemingly favored the little sister and drove a wedge between the two.
And when the same stepmother who’d abused her became sick, she visited the hospital daily and brought whatever she thought would comfort her until her death.
She and her sister found a way to each other in spite of the road blocks interjected into their relationship by their stepmother. They became great friends and supported each other into their elder years, the younger going first after a stalwart battle against cancer.
Her brother who loved her every day until he found her many years later, having dropped her robe of flesh but leaving an indelible smile for all who would see. Her way of letting us know the Holy Spirit had danced her into her new place of abode.
But he wasn’t around much. He went into the army as soon as he could and stayed for a while. And even upon his return as he worked at Sparrows Point, he tended to keep a distance from the family for whatever his personal reasons were.
Her church turned her out when she got pregnant. That’s the way it was back in the day. If a girl got pregnant she had to go before the deacons and spill all the gory details. After they forgave her she could be reinstated in good membership standing. I’m not sure if she ever did that. If she did, she didn’t stay around long enough to become active again in that church. By the way, the person who impregnated her was the 39-year-old minister of music at that church, and she and his wife gave birth in the same hospital at the same time.
Her oldest child, the one who gained for her a scarlet reputation, was given to a friend to raise, which was also just another point of contention. Under the manifesto that she wasn’t fit to raise this child, she received contempt at every attempt to visit and provide. And this went on until the child married at 18 and left home.
So she made herself happy. She laughed a lot. She worked a lot. She took care of the two girls she was raising. She dated a lot. Some very handsome men, by the way. And she made herself happy with the person she was as she learned to let go of the past that would have haunted her forever had she allowed it.
Miss Kitty she called herself. Her mother named her Dorothy Magruder Scott or some variation. For many years no birth certificate could be located and by the time it was she had been Magruder Dorothy Scott so she appealed to have that become the legal moniker. And so it was until she died June 5, 2014.
Miss Kitty. Her friend’s name was Cherry. Another’s name was Savannah. Sounds like the cast of Valley of the Dolls or Waiting to Exhale. Oh and let’s not forget Vera. Vera was her girlfriend who became her “daughter” when she married Vera’s father. Miss Kitty worked at various lunch rooms on Pennsylvania Avenue, but the longest running one belonged to Mike. And they were always fighting, including Mike’s wife….I can’t remember her name.
She loved to cook and no one to this day has fixed liver like she did. Peach cobbler. Sweet potato pie. Pork shoulder. She loved to fix food and watch people enjoy it.
She loved to read those “dirty” papers they sell at the checkout counters in stores. That was one purchase I always refused to make for her. Junk, I’d tell her. She’d just laugh and get my sister to buy them.
She loved the grandchildren, especially the boys since she’d only had girls. She spoiled them all and they all benefited from the Virginia tradition, I call it.
You could never leave my mother’s house empty handed. Seriously. Young. Old. Just stop in to drop something off. It never changed. She had to give you something if you came to visit. I thought it was her personal habit until I helped a church member home after running an errand. And as I placed the last bag on the table, she began to rummage through her dining room drawer. I asked what she was looking for and she told me to just wait a minute. Well, she handed me a brand new dish towel. This is what I’m talking about. The gift was never large. It didn’t even have to be new. It was just a token of love and friendship and a thank you for having visited.
So I asked her if she was from Virginia and she replied that she was.
My mother didn’t drink, so that wasn’t her source of happiness. She didn’t smoke. She never did drugs. She didn’t hang out in clubs.
She made herself happy with her girls, her grandchildren and her relationships with her friends. Cherry died first. Then her sister, Bettie died. They’d become great friends before her death. Savannah died next and Vera is still around.
She loved to tell stories. She was so good at it. Her expressions were matchless and she’d finish by looking at you as if she was surprised you’re laughing. She wouldn’t be. She lived hard. She gave hard. She took care of everyone who would receive it.
And she made her own self happy.