BUTTERFLY McQUEEN KNEW THE TRUTH

One of the posters for GONE WITH THE WIND (Wikipedia)

One of the posters for GONE WITH THE WIND (Wikipedia)

 

 

 

Playing the part of Prissy, the talent Butterfly McQueen admits the truth. (Wikipedia picture)

Playing the part of Prissy, the talented Butterfly McQueen admits the truth. (Wikipedia picture)

My favorite story about my mom at a movie happened months before my older brother was born. Mom was five months pregnant with David, and miserably uncomfortable after eating a salad that included onions, radishes, cucumbers and beets (she said she’d been craving fresh vegetables).  Afterward, she went to an afternoon matinee of the reissued GONE WITH THE WIND.

Twice during the movie Mom offended the people sitting in front of her. The first time was during the powerful scene at the Civil War-ruined plantation, Tara, when a starving Scarlett O’Hara is on her knees in the garden, digging for something to eat. She holds up a turnip and swears: “…If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill—as God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!”

It’s a dramatic turning point in the movie, but as Mom told me many years later, the timing was horrible. Scarlett’s turnip wasn’t as gaseous as Mom’s lunch, and her stomach chose that moment to groan and produce a very loud, smelly belch. Mom said, “Oh, I’m so sorry,” and the couple waved their hands in front of their faces.

But then later, it was the actress Butterfly McQueen, playing the show-stealing part of the slave Prissy, who admitted the truth when Scarlett told her to help Miss Melanie with labor and delivery. In her emotionally distraught scene, Prissy cries out, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ babies!” At this point, my mother couldn’t help laughing, and she said out loud, “Amen to that!” The couple in front of her got up and moved.

And the truth of the matter, according to my mother, is that very few of us know about “birthin’ babies” ~ and we know even less about raising them. But love saves us, so we do the best we can and figure it out as we go along. But when she said that, she smiled and added with absolute certainty that it was also very much worth the effort, and she wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

This post is a Thank You to my mom, for her humor, her faith, her kindness, love and steadfast goodness, and her openness to making mistakes and sharing embarrassing stories. The dementia has made her forget the wonderful differences she’s made in the lives of so many people, especially children, but I remember.

Happy Mother’s Day, dear Mom, as well as Grandmother’s Day, Great-Grandmother’s Day, and all-round Great Woman’s day!

Helen Allingham's 1872 "Hanging the Washing, a Beautiful Spring Morning"

Helen Allingham’s 1872 “Hanging the Washing, a Beautiful Spring Morning”

 

Jan Zotelief Tromp's "In the Fields with Katia" (1892) shows a true working mother.

Jan Zotelief Tromp’s “In the Fields with Katia” (1892) shows a true working mother.

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57 Comments

Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, life questions, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for

57 responses to “BUTTERFLY McQUEEN KNEW THE TRUTH

  1. juliabarrett

    Happy Mother’s Day to your mother! I do love Gone With the Wind. And I do know something about birthin’ babies, but what a great scene! Both great! Your mother is hilarious! There’s a funny woman inside.

    • Funny, yes, and also gassy, too, obviously. At least when she was pregnant. 😉
      You know, when I wrote this, I just knew you would respond that you do know about birthin’ babies. What a team you and my mother would have made together, Julia! Happy Mother’s Day.

  2. A great movie and “one of my favorite lines” from Gone With the Wind. Here’s my posting about Margaret Mitchell, the author, and my visit to her resting place: :https://marygilmartin.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/margaret-mitchell-and-atlantas-oakland-cemetery/

  3. As always a story with a touch of humour about your mother but a wonderful tribute as well. Thank you Marylin.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  4. My mother told me that the happiest day in her life was the day I was born. She also complained about the long labor. Wat a sweet post Marylin, have a wonderful Mother’s Day.

  5. Such a lovely post, Marylin. I recall my parents telling me that it was easier bringing me up as they had made so many mistakes and learned from them bringing up my brother. It is easy to forget how intimidating (and wonderful) it is to bring home a child for the first time.

    • As the second child, I was told the same thing, Andrew. There are so many advice books out there, but they never seem to have specific advice for specific questions. I always envied the new mothers whose mothers and aunts and experienced mentors lived near by to help them out, but there was also something quite wonderful about figuring it out just the two of you together, mother and baby.

  6. Happy Mother’s Day Marylin! Thank you for a beautiful post. I haven’t seen Gone with the Wind for a long time but I know I will think of your mom the next time I see it. The movie also reminds me of one of my favorite comedy sketches ever- Carol Burnett when she comes down the stairway with the curtain rod and curtains for her dress. I am laughing just thinking about it. Blessings to you and your mom and all moms out there for a wonderful Mother’s Day.
    xo Joanne

    • I saw that sketch, too, Joanne. Carol Burnett had such an amazing capacity to take the serious and make it outrageously funny, and the curtain rod was a hoot. I think it was one of her best ever.
      Blessings to you, your mom and grandmother, and all moms everywhere this Mother’s Day. And remember, no turnips unless you’re prepared to act out the garden scene from Gone With The Wind! 😉

  7. Such a beautiful tribute to your mother, Marylin. The next time I watch Gone With the Wind, I’ll think of your mother and smile. Happy Mother’s Day! xo

    • And to you, too, Jill. My mom always celebrated Mother’s Day as a tribute to all women who made a difference in their siblings’ lives, the lives of their friends and neighbors, in classrooms and doctors’ offices, and wherever good women made a difference. This is a weekend we all should join hands and celebrate together. Scarlett wouldn’t agree–she was very much into survival and getting all the attention for herself–so we’ll give her a turnip with a ribbon tied to it.

  8. A great Mother´s Day post. I love the story. It´s great you are sharing these precious memories. Gone With The Wind is one of my favourite books and movies and I love the line by Butterfly McQueen. Your mom´s response is perfect!

    • Mom thought Prissy’s dramatics were wonderful, Darlene, and when she first told me the story of what happened during the movie that day, she imitated Prissy’s voice and had us both laughing. Mom said it confirmed her suspicions that there was more to birthin’ babies than most people realized. 😉

  9. Claudia

    Love the paitnings you used! Gone with the Wind, a great story and the story of the mother is hidden among the frills and tantrums of Scarlett. Ellen was a hard working, patient, and loving mother, a good example of womanhood. She loved her incorrigable brood including that fiesty, drinking, and probably roaming husband. I did not realize how much Ellen represented the plantation wife until I read a book on culture of Southern women. They were not always going to balls but kept the nuts and bolts of the operation going by managing and even working along side slaves including nursing them. They often fell ill just as Ellen did in GWTW. Happy Mother’s Day, to you and your mother, Marilyn.

    • Happy Mother’s Day to you, too, Claudia.
      My mom once commented that Ellen should have taken Scarlett aside and had some serious talks with her while she was growing up, and if she’d been alive with some of her daughter’s personal antics she would have told her husband to step aside, that Scarlett needed a strong hand. However, she probably would have applauded some of her daughter’s independence and strength as well. You’re right; Southern women were more than frills, lace, manners and dancing!

  10. calvin

    Putting aside birthin’ babies and all which that involves, considering the task and duties of motherhood, ONE day seems inadequate. A long weekend the minimum, a week more appropriate. Then again all that pales. For every week you wrap your thoughts and heart around your mother, here at ‘Things I Want To Tell My Mother’. You remind us that the bond between child and mother is a constant and not just something that accumulates one day a year.

    Happy Mother’s Day and shtufffs.

    • Thank you so much, Calvin. I appreciate your comment, and I do try each week to wrap my thoughts and heart around my mother so I can preserve memories for her great-grandchildren who would otherwise have no idea what a wonderful, exceptional woman she was before the dementia.

  11. Oh Marylin! Such a beautiful post and tribute to your mother. Your love for her and her spirit are such inspirations. Happy Mother’s Day to you, my friend. XO

  12. Cheryl

    What a beautiful tribute to a an amazing woman. Happy Mother’s Day and Grandmother’s Day!

    • Hi, Cheryl!
      When I think of our mothers, I imagine all the work they did together in the church, helping everyone while still cooking meals and guiding the children, and yet they also got together and started the trend of NOT wearing hats! We come from exceptional women, Cheryl.
      Happy Mother’s Day to you, dear friend.

  13. I am happy that you have such wonderful memories to celebrate. To know a mother like that must be a privilege and joy!

    • It is very special, Lea, and my privilege to write down these memories for her great-grandchildren who otherwise would not realize what wonderful DNA is part of them! 😉

  14. A great, funny anecdote Marylin, but also a heartfelt tribute to the difference your mother has made 🙂

    • My mom taught me so many things, Andrea–touching, sweet, sensitive and serious lessons–but the humorous ones that made me laugh out loud are my favorites. Her happy recollections make the most difference in my life.

  15. Helen Allingham lived in our village so many of the cottages she painted are still here!
    I love the story of your Mom at the cinema … a lady with attitude as well as love and kindness. Great mix!

    • Oh, Jenny, that is amazing. This print of a painting by Helen Allingham is the only one I have, and I love it. And here she lived in your village and some of the cottages are still there! How great is that!
      My mother did have attitude, but yes, it was always tinged with love and kindness. Happy Mother’s Day to you, Jenny!

      • Jenny, I Googled Helen Allingham and found several prints she painted of cottages. I imagined them being from your village and was so glad you connected the dots for me. 🙂

  16. Jim

    Marylin, both you and your mom share the trait of embracing the ups and downs of motherhood while rooted in love and caring. And we see the same traits in our Molly–terrific mother and teacher. Happy Mother’s Day to my Marylin and Molly!

    • Aw, sweetie, thank you. Having you in our lives has helped us both embrace the ups and downs of motherhood; you’ve always stayed calm and loving when Molly or I reached the ends of our ropes and had to hang on with both hands! My mom recognized this superlative quality in you very early on, and she was so right!

  17. Jane Thorne

    Happy Mother’s Day Marylin to you and your lovely Mum (you are lovely too)…such a lovely post. Humour, where would we be without it? Hugs and much ❤ flowing to you in Colorado. xX

    • Colorado certainly welcomes your warm hugs and love, Jane. Yesterday we had rain, wind, cold, hail and even snow…and this is Springtime in the Rockies! We can’t laugh about all the ruined plants and bedding flowers just yet, but sometime we will find the humor in it. You’re so right, where would we be without humor! 😉

  18. Molly

    I love this story about Grandma, and I don’t think I had ever heard it before. When I was pregnant with Grace, I often would catch a matinee movie. It was the heat of summer, and it felt so good to sit and relax in a nice cool theater. In our neighboring little town that had a theater that showed three movies, I remember there were several movies I went to that I wasn’t interested in at all.

    Although I don’t remember having any problems like Grandma during the movies, I do remember how good it felt to go to the movies.

    Thanks for sharing this story, I love it!

    • Oh, how Grandma would have loved sitting in an air-conditioned movie theater with her granddaughter–who was pregnant with her great-granddaughter–Grandma would have patted your tummy and smiled through the entire movie!
      Mother’s Day is a big deal in our family, sweetie, because becoming mothers and giving birth to much loved and prayed for babies means so very much to all of us. HappyHappyHappy Mother’s Day, dear Molly!

  19. So true old story really works Marylin i love the way of your mom she’s great ..

  20. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Very sweet, Marylin. And a belated happy Mother’s Day to you!

    • And to you, too, Nancy. Are you all down-sized and planning to move? I thought of you on Saturday, during the rain and hail and threats of snow, when I walked past a couple about our age, emptying their larger home into two PODs parked in the driveway.

  21. Oh you made me laugh, Marylin. I love this story about your mom. Just priceless. Happy Belated Mother’s Day to you as well. 🙂

    • And when she first told me this story, Tracy, I remember her catching herself and saying that of course she said she was sorry, because it was rude, and she didn’t want to distract them from the movie.
      Always finding a teachable moment–that was my mom! 😉

  22. Ken would love your mother — and love her best when she gave out a smelly burp in a movie theater. Some people just haven’t got a sense of humor!

    I hope you, your mother and your daughters all had a happy mother’s day, Marylin. ❤

  23. ‘Love saves us’. Your wonderful post (and I laughed out loud about your dear mom bursting with ‘Amen to that’, love it!!) brims with humour, joy and the love of and for mothers everywhere. Yet it is those three words that you so poignantly place within your beautiful Mother’s Day message to your mom that shout the loudest to me. We really don’t know what we’re doing do we, yet it is indeed love that wins the day 🙂 Dear Marylin, I am so sorry this is so late, I am barely catching up after spending 5 days in Jersey in The Channel Islands with my mother (we were there for Liberation Day, celebrating 70 years of freedom from 5 years of occupation by the Nazi’s during WWII) but I do want to wish you a very happy belated Mother’s Day and I hope you had a truly wonderful weekend 🙂

    • What a wonderful trip with your mother, Sherri! You two do such special things together.
      “Amen to that” does say it all about the things we really don’t know about motherhood, but still we plow ahead and love does save us. I know it resonates with you and your mother, too.
      A happy belated mother’s day to both of you!

  24. Marylin, thanks for leaving a comment on my blog about grieving the loss of a friend who died suddenly. My Mother’s Day was bittersweet and always will be because the visitation for Joel was held on Mother’s Day. Yet I could hug my own two adult children for the first time in five years — since my daughter’s wedding was also close to Mother’s Day. The bitter and the sweet flow mingled down. As they do for you and your mother now that you have these sweet memories and difficult days due to dementia. Blessings to you and to her.

  25. So many special days are bittersweet, that blend of happiness with sorrow. I’m so glad your daughter’s wedding was close to Mother’s Day, Shirley, and you combine the two and hug your adult children. Thank you for the comments about my mother.

  26. Somehow I missed this when it was first published – nose deep in memoir, draft 1. I’m glad I visited your FB page today, saw this link and read this powerful post – love all those sensory details and can even smell the belch!

  27. Marylin, I must have read but ran out of time to spend writing a comment. This was such a touching tribute to all mothers. It was a wonderful thank you to your mother, too. She knows you wish her this, I feel. She knows the love that you pour upon her every time you spend time with her. Somewhere in her mind, she smiles and shows it outwardly sometimes, too. I love how you told this with such honesty and details, including your 5 month pregnant Mom’s awkward ‘belching’ and exclaiming out loud, in the movie theater.This was such a precious story, made me smile.

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