Saturday, July 7, 2012

Her Monument

Statue of children reading in the Bowling Green town square.

Mama was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and although she didn't spend much of her life there we had a running joke about the monument to her that surely must be there.   Until just over a week ago, the closest I had ever been to Bowling Green was passing its exit sign on the interstate in a bus loaded with teenagers, when I was a chaperone on a youth choir trip.

My husband and I took a road trip to Columbus, Ohio late in June, to see our son who's been there for nearly a year working with Habitat for Humanity. He'll be coming home in a few weeks, but we were eager to see this place he'd called home for so long before he left. It was a great trip: we toured all the pertinent places in Columbus, met the co-workers and friends he's enjoyed, and took in a whole lot of local color in general.

On our return trip, with a little time to spare and legs in need of some good stretching, we stopped in Bowling Green. I had been unable to find any documentation before we left that might have provided an address to the home her parents lived in when she was born, so we just decided to follow the signs leading to "historic downtown."

It was a charming town square, reminiscent of so many with a common park around which were built the primary businesses. The park featured a fountain of Hebe, which was a surprise. The Court Square Fountain here in Montgomery is also of Hebe. (Turns out, a little research when I got home revealed she was pretty popular in the late 19th and early 20th century for fountain sculptures.)

I decided that since I had no idea where she and her parents had lived when they were there, I could at least be reasonably sure that they had passed through this square a time or two, so I focused my attentions there.

Fountain featuring the goddess Hebe in the Bowling Green town square.

Fountain lilies

 I like to think that maybe my Nannaw and Grandpappy
might have seen a show or two here. 
So, that was it. All the years of joking with her about a monument that we both knew didn't exist - done. As we pulled out of our parking place I let the tears come - I don't try to hold them back when they come since each one is a gift -- and after I'd regained my composure and imagined the conversation Mama and I might have had when I got home and showed her these pictures I began to chuckle to myself.  See? Mama never talked about living in Bowling Green, only about that being where her folks lived when she was born. I'm not sure she would have any memory of any of the buildings I photographed, or any stories to tell about anything or anyone there. If I'd brought these back to show her, I could see her in my mind's eye saying, "Huh. I don't remember any of this."

After we got home, and I began to dig through the family records again for any information about her time there, I stumbled across story after story she had recorded in the database my father compiled (to which she added notes). I recalled stories of Oogie Pringle and Luigi Capone (the greatest dog who ever lived), and chinaberry trees, and Jeanie Beanie Bad Egg and her prissy cousin who was famous for saying, "I don't caaarrre for any," and the particular way Mama always told us about that prissy cousin. Stories about rabbit tobacco and getting tossed out of a movie theatre when she was in college for crying so loudly it disturbed the other patrons.

A few days later I was babysitting my granddaughter, and I sang "My Sweetheart's a Mule in the Mine" to her, and she and I played "Great Big Buzzard" which always gets the giggles going, exactly the way I remember Mama doing those things with me when I was little, and with each of her grandchildren in their day.

I will tell her stories. I will sing her songs. One day, maybe Rosemary will share them with her children and grandchildren.

That will be the monument to Mama.


  1. Such a beautiful tribute to your mother. I am certain she is watching from afar, happy with what you have shared.
    Happy Thursday.