The Lighterside – A Mother’s Day Feature

By on May 10, 2014
little girl in pink dress walking down train tracks

By Barbara Franzen –

Whenever I think of Flory, a peculiar woman of eccentricities, my spirit soars.

My 50’s childhood was spent just outside a tiny Nebraska prairie town. Of the 350 some people, I knew everyone. But the one that I most remember was a lady who represented the lighter side of my darker life.   Her name was Flory Jones— an eccentric, who reached out to my troubled young soul. Unlike so many in our town, I readily accepted her peculiarities and the fact that she was likely, the poorest woman in town. As the playmate of her daughter, Heidi, also odd, I received immeasurable gifts. (Of interest, The Jones’s house sat atop a hill, directly across from our pasture and new ranch home.)

To be honest, I was blind to Flory’s “differentness.”  Instead, in my elementary years, I was desperate for acceptance. Although my family was one of wealth and privilege, it grew dark and scary behind those golden doors. While my mother was screaming at my father come nighttime, Flory was in bed talking to Erwin, her husband, about the chickens laying eggs and about the iron that he collected for a living. Kids made fun of two-eyed Heidi because of Dad’s career, but I didn’t. I knew that life wasn’t that easy for them, but they had resilient, optimistic Flory, with her black hairnet, black tie shoes, home sewn housedresses, and that perpetual smile.  It was the same smile that welcomed me for a piece of homemade cake or an overnight. My frozen heart needed her warmth. I had horrible days at school and to not be criticized by her…Thank you Flory.

Let me explain. While my mother was despondently unwrapping her packages of Camay, Flory was on her knees out on the porch, vigorously making lye soap. While my mother was fraught with migraines, Flory was out in her garden pickling cucumbers, watering pansies, singing “Amazing Grace,” and chopping the heads off the hens by herself. My mother woke in the morning, alone, far away from my father, not speaking or smiling. Flory, on the hand, woke up lying beside Erwin, planning their day. This was a huge puzzlement to me. Did married folks actually lie beside each other and sleep together? I wanted to ask Heidi but never did. I wanted to ask her if her folks ever fought and if Flory ever talked about wanting to die. I never did ask, not even after my mother died by her own hand.

“Yoo-hoo,” Flory would yell at me when I walked home or stopped to play with Heidi. Flory’s eyes were shiny. They sang of enthusiasm for life and of happiness on seeing me. On summer days, she made cool-aide for Heidi and me while we lounged in the hammock, each of us with Little Lulu comics. On winter nights we slept snug in her feather beds on homemade pillows, which allowed me some distance from my bagful of worries. I think Flory knew about these things. She was the lighter side of my heavy life. Of course, staying over meant walks out to the privy in the snow and Monkey Ward catalogue pages for Heidi and I, but the moonlight made a dark night, lighter.

Come Saturday, while my parents readied for an evening out, with drinking, Erwin and Flory were busy gathering up her coupons and getting the Ford ready for the trip up to North Platte. Once there, they went to Safeway, and Woolworths, and her cousin’s house— and guess what? I invited myself along. I liked Flory’s simplicity, her incessant chatter, the safeness I felt, the smell of their car, and the fact that Flory never tired of me. Not even later when life separated Heidi and me, and I went on to a different group.

The last time I saw Flory, she was selling carnations on Veteran’s Day. Enthused over her only club, the VFW, she sold her flowers with a vigor that I hadn’t seen before and haven’t seen since. “Yoo-hoo,” she yelled, waving. “Barb…Barb.”

A college girl by then, I grinned and waved; my life had been lighter because of my friend Flory.

Barb Franzen lives a prairie life in the Platte Valley of NB. A nature lover she is passionate about writing. Other interests include genealogy, mental health, reading and quilting-Her favorite thing is painting pictures with words and discovering out of the way haunts-A woman who lives outside of the box- You can find her at her blog at: http://gabbi-innerjoy.blogspot.com/.

About Barb Franzen

Barb Franzen lives a prairie life in the Platte Valley of NB. A nature lover she is passionate about writing. Other interests include genealogy, mental health, reading and quilting-Her favorite thing is painting pictures with words and discovering out of the way haunts-A woman who lives outside of the box- You can find her at her blog at: http://gabbi-innerjoy.blogspot.com/.

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The Lighterside – A Mother’s Day Feature