In The South When Jonquils Grow, Motives Multiply!


Title’s seem to carry a lot of weight “Down Here”. Almost as much as where and who you were born into. From the CEO to the janitor, there is a place for everyone. Some people excel at keeping others in their rightful place.

The first day of spring has been nothing short of pleasant in the hills of North Mississippi.


The smell of the dandelions takes me back to the spring of 1991. The air had comfortably settled between 70-75 degrees, by the time the reception was in full swing. The humidity never swam above 48%. Instantly calling for a hallelujah hair day. The sunshine was as big and as bright as Mary Gail Livingston’s engagement ring.

I had the honor of dawning a lavender junior bridesmaid dress. Thus, making Mary Gail’s 16th wedding attendant.

From what I gather, our mothers shared a dorm room at Ole Miss their freshman year. It was an incredibly distant relationship theme, but I balanced the platform I suppose.

Mary Gail and I actually met at one of her many wedding showers. The Methodist Church Ladies happened to be putting this one on. Her grandmother had always gone to that church, and she desperately needed a linen shower. That’s what Mary Gail’s mother kept repeating-I do remember that-with the most obnoxious voice that kept echoing through the fellowship hall.

Mary Gail’s mother insisted I attend at least one shower. With that, she agreed to take me home when it was over, due to my own mother’s obligations.

It was dark thirty. I remember watching the last car pull out of the church parking lot at least an hour prior to making the decision to start walking. However, I did not exactly feel stranded on our little Church Street. I was a hometown girl, and it was a quiet town. (Most quaint little southern towns are quiet until all the ladies get together.)

I spotted a few seventh grade boys playing basketball down the street. I joined right in. My dress and dress shoes were not afraid of a little asphalt. My hind end was only thing afraid. Daddy found out I played basketball in the dark with the group of boys in a dress! I blame Mary Gail’s mother to this day for that whippin’.
Back to that ring! Mary Gail Livingston new all along she would never let that massive thing slip off her hand. The size, the clarity, and the setting all remain etched in my ever so impressionable preteen mind.

As did Mr Livingston’s secretary!

“She’s an implant,” Momma said. Mother gathered as much due to her lack of etiquette.
Daddy said it was because it looked like the circus did her make up. He also said that her red lipstick never was able to hide those big boobs.

I personally think it was because if she didn’t like you, she didn’t try to act like she did. She always played with her face cards up. It would take an implant to pull that off in this town.

The flamboyant paralegal from Pennsylvania had no idea the initiation in etiquette she was about to receive-brought to her sincerely by a little ‘ol spring wedding, only the pride of Pearl Petal Mississippi could teach her.

You see, Mary Gail’s wedding was the day before Easter. (Every Southern reader knows the etiquette dress code sabotage that is bout to take place).

The wedding date was planned around the lavender bridesmaids dresses, the Spencers’ yellow antebellum home, and the full bloom of their jonquil garden. It made for an absolutely gorgeous setting, playing host to the reception of the year.

I may have been young, but I recognized the power of silence early in life. I will never forget the hush that fell across that First Baptist Church at 5:58PM on that Saturday, Easter Eve.

She might could click a mean typewriter, but she failed to get the memo about weddings being the bride’s special day. Not to mention the general rule of the bride being the only one to wear white.

It was a yellow brocade and extremely fitted. That is, if you got beyond the eye crossing, instantly inebriated by the checkered pattern across her chest. Well, somewhat across her chest.

Y’all, I could see them from the choir loft. (That was my 16th position on the platform.) One couldn’t help but see it. I mean, they walked in before she did. They must have been size 10s with a good 6″ stiletto heel on them! It was the most outrageous pair of solid white patent, leather shoes I had ever laid eyes on.

Half of the congregation was still seated as Mary Gail made her entrance. I guess they did not hear the bridal procession for being blinded by this mammoth of a jonquil!
No two colors could have made an ivory wedding dress look anymore like Grandmother’s dishwater.  Mary Gail’s mother, being the town’s most of obnoxious debutante, made an audible gasp. Bouncing off the hardwood floors and stained glass windows, it was so loud it made her husband blush-his hearing aides already at a high freaquency roar.

The bride’s humble mother felt it her duty to ever-so-indiscreetly ask the lady if she might feel more comfortable in a pair of her shoes. That is if the 5’10” woman wore a size 6. It was more like a Chihuahua convincing a Great Dane her collar would be a perfect fit. I’m certain the choking factor entered her mind.

On that particular day and to this day, Mary Gail has been the kindest person in town to BUTTERCUP. Encouraging her to get some southern roots and stick around. Praising her work and going on and on about how much Mr. Livingston adored her. She doted over what an asset BUTTERCUP was to their family. Reminding everyone they nick-named her after a perrineal for a reason.

Mary Gail grew up in the shadow of her mother’s social sorority sisterhood. She adopted the mindset-those ladies had the depth of a postage stamp at an early age.

Mary Gail rebelled! Refusing any form of civitan or social duties, despite her mother’s efforts.

Mary Gail once spent the weekend in Starkville with a friend and attended a Mississippi State football game while there. Her mother didn’t show up at her baptism the next Sunday. Exclaiming, “Lord knows it would take Holy Water to wash the smell of that
godforsaken place off of you, Mary Gail!”

To which Mary Gail, for the first time ever, rebottled! “Mama you were a Methodist that daddy (not JESUS) converted to a Baptist! What do you know about Holy Water?! Let me help you out, you’re going to need less rouge and more hemline before you set your pretty little sails off in waters you know nothing about. The only time I have known you to grit your teeth more than the thought of getting your hair wet after baptism and  before a Sunday social, was when daddy wrote the tithe check on Sunday Mornings. Had you truly cared about you family, particularly your marriage maybe you would have spent more times praying to be a good wife instead of chasing a husband who showed his love to everyone in town but you! You had me to keep face in this town, the same reason daddy had you!   ”

Out of respect for her late father, Mary Gail allowed the mother-daughter relationship to exist. Strictly for show, because Daddy didn’t believe in letting others see blemishes on the canvas of personal life.

Though decades have passed, the hurt of an absent mother is as raw as a white onion. To this day, it makes her not only cry but like a baby. Mary Gail reflects on the joy she has when she looks at her own children. The way her heart literally skips a beat when she watches her own children as they sleep. What was so wrong with her that her own mother looked at her in disgust.  Mary Gail vowed before puberty despite her future husbands actions. She would show him love by nurturing and delighting in what he loved most and couldn’t live  without, his children.

Feeble, frail and in and out of the hospital with pneumonia, Mary Gail’s Mother now spends her days. When she is not in the hospital, she goes to the nicest assisted living areas known to these hills. The decision to move her there came on the heels of the resignation of two home health aides and one nurse. Mary Gail didn’t feel obligated to visit with her still in the old home place.

It is a mystery to all, but the only thing she mentions looking forward to was Saturdays at two. Without fail, every Saturday at 2PM, Buttercup’s afternoon visit. Always on time, always the same time, and always with fresh flowers and a painted red smile.

Everyone in town thought Mary Gail was naive. Including myself, until recently I ran into Mary Gail at the bakery. With profoundness she said, “Amanda, whatever you do, remember this. The closest way to a man’s heart is through his right-hand woman.”
I guess that was Mary Gail’s way of keeping another womanizing Livingston boy from messing around. She kept him simply messing.

Mary Gail had the seven karat family heirloom. Meanwhile, her husband’s secretary did all the work. Thirty years and the lipstick on his collar never changed. Bright red, just like my daddy said.

Mary Gail revealed the mystery to a good friend, who in turn told me, because it was too good to keep. “The best medicine for a mother who once thought herself above rearing a child? The mother who did not darken my childhood bed room a hand full of times? Leaving my dear sweet Nanny Velma Kate to all the motherly duties……..Send In A Clown Every Saturday At Two!”


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