“Some children threaten to run away from home. This is the only thing that keeps some parents going.”—Phyllis Diller
Just to clarify, I know it’s Father’s Day weekend. But, this week was also special because June 12th was my mother’s birthday. Indianola (“Inky”) Johnson Aldridge was born June 12, 1923. She’s been gone since December 8, 2010, but there has never been a June 12 that I don’t think about her, or any day for that matter.
If I knew where she got the nickname “Inky,” I’ve since forgotten it. Some assume she acquired it working for the Mount Pleasant Tribune for 17 years, but she was known as Inky a long before she ever saw the inside of a newspaper office.
I was blessed with wonderful parents. If you’ve followed the missives in this space for very long, you already know about my father and that was my hero for many reasons. Mom also blessed me with excellent traits for which I am thankful. Things like a love for books and reading, a “mostly” even-keeled temperament, an appreciation for music, the joy of friends, and a deeply-seated faith. I had no Saturday night curfew, but there was also no question where I would be Sunday morning—in church with her. It was mandatory, not an option.
Looking back, I tried to demonstrate my appreciation for the things my parents did for me the best way I knew how although I think at times, surely I was misunderstood.
Like the time when I decided to help out with family haircuts. Snip, snip and my little sister, Leslie, had a new haircut. Done playing barbershop, we took off down the hall past the closet mom was cleaning out. She looked up, then turned back to what she was doing. An instant later, her head snapped back toward us and her scream shattered any silence that may have prevailed. It scared me, I thought something was wrong with her. Well, something was wrong with her, but little did I realize it was my hair styling skills.
How was I to know that mom had done everything she could to make Leslie’s hair grow? I thought all little sisters required taped-on bows for church.
She picked up Leslie, looked at her head, and started sobbing. Sensing something was awry with our beauty shop game, I continued on toward the kitchen. Mom set Leslie on the floor and without taking a step, reached out, grabbed the waistband on my pants and began reeling me in.
Mom used her hairbrush to dispense corporal punishment in those days. Guess she figured that particular day if she didn’t need it for Leslie’s hair, she might as well apply it other ways.
Things settled down by Sunday when off to church we went, everyone with their hair nicely combed and Leslie sporting a bonnet. When mom tried to explain to friends what happened, the crying started all over again.
Another effort to show mom how much I appreciated her was a couple of years after the haircut when I thought she might be proud of my decision-making skills when I decided to go for ice cream with the neighbors. Ice cream is always good and we had good neighbors, there was nothing wrong with there either. And it wasn’t like I didn’t ask for permission— I did. The problems all started when she told me, “no.”
The neighbors were Catholic, had enough kids to field their own baseball team, and drove a big black Buick to haul them in. They were loading up to go and I could taste the ice cream. So, despite the fact that mom told me I couldn’t go, I went anyway.
Upon our return, mom was glad to see me—so glad that she was crying and babbling something about how she had been looking all over for me. When I told her where I had been, we reviewed the terms of our conversation after which she applied another dose of hairbrush helper. The fact that she was now able to use it for brushing Leslie’s hair didn’t deter her from using it once again for punishment purposes.
Another of mom’s good qualities was that she was understanding. As time went along, we both laughed about these episodes and others that followed through the years.
Best I can recall, she started laughing about them somewhere around the time I had children of my own.
Photo at top of the page—Undated snapshot of my parents, Leon (Buddy) Aldridge and Indianola (Inky) Aldridge published for memories of Father’s Day and my mom’s birthday. I suspect the photo was taken about the time of the episodes chronicled above or maybe slightly before. Certainly not the same day because they were both smiling.
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