Monday, September 14, 2009

Susie Proctor

Above is a shot of Aaron's Beach and below is a story written by Chesapeake Bay Mother about a couple who lived near her growing up. Miss Susie was always known to me as Susie Proctor, one of my grandmother's friends. She lived across the road from what is now Ware Academy, which was my mother's home and my grandmother's country store.

by Chesapeake Bay Mother

"Miss Susie and Mr. Randolph were neighbors across the road when I was in high school. I loved them both; if anything in this recollection demeans them, it is the unintended consequence of recounting things as I perceived them.

Mr. Randolph had an economy of words and existed on another dimensional plane when in the company of my mother and Miss Susie, his wife; I surmise he did this for his own serenity. He smoked. You knew he smoked though he was never seen smoking in the house or elsewhere. He was a small, slight man, who I remember wearing a large straw hat for sun protection when outdoors. He had the trepidation of one who knew his every word would be augmented or corrected; that he was a man interrupted was too achingly obvious. A look of pure despair occupied the territory that was his face in those times he was released from obligatory politeness. He fixed an inert, hopeless stare off into another realm as the tornadoes of conversation spun wildly across their neatly decorated living room, where my mother and Miss Susie talked in unison with the voraciousness of starving animals. As another non-participant, I would occasionally try to engage his attention with a sympathetic look into his eyes, which he briefly acknowledged, then moved his focus back into his personal thoughts.

To call Miss Susie talkative was to call the Mississippi wet. She filled the air with rural witticisms and the smells of slow cooking. One look at her small perfect kitchen with its antique wood-burning cook stove and the past came rushing back with a side order of baking powder biscuits, fried chicken, collard greens and candied sweet potatoes. To pass through that charmed room was to drool helplessly.

With her perfect fair complexion and white hair rolled into a neat tuck, she was a slightly plump and perfectly ordinary-looking epitome of southern hospitality and good manners. Ever self-effacing, she had many references to her plainness--one of which may have been "ugly as Hall's dog." You sensed that her huge cat and small dog, personifying the sexual inequity of the home, lived an enviable existence. I often wondered what exchanging places with them would profit me, knowing full well this couldn't happen.

They had no children, lived on minimal incomes provided from Mr. Randolph's job on the state highway department road crew, Miss Susie's once a week cleaning job at the church next door, and the benefits from an elderly boarder, Mr. Bryant, who had his separate quarters. Even so, they gave me money which they could ill afford for my graduation. They drove a pristine vintage car, which was garaged and driven sparingly. Their marriage, for all its seeming inequities, balanced and endured until he died of lung disease. She went on to celebrate birthdays of three digits.

They were genuine and dear people. I still remember their generous spirits, surviving in my recall of her happy, laughing voice and his vacant, wistful gaze.

Perfect is that which works. "


Grandma J said...

What wonderful memories...simpler times, and people were so settled and content. Thank you CBMother....miss you!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Grandma J. - I'll tell her. YOu two need to talk about a trip or a cruise.

Also, I meant to say in the opening paragraph that this all took place in neighboring Gloucester County, which was where my mother grew up.

Off to work. It's dark. Something is inherently wrong about leaving the house at 6:30 a.m. and something should be illegal about having to leave at that hour in the dark.

Daryl said...

Your mama has a way with words ... I could hear her gentle drawl as I read .. and of course she's right ...

Mental P Mama said...

Wonderful. Kiss your mama for me!

Caution Flag said...

The talent in your family is heavy and thick. In this case, heavy and thick are good things.

Angel Mama said...

What a wonderful story! They didn't live in that big, haunted house did they? I wonder if our mothers know each other? I grew up in Ware Neck, and now live not far from where your mother grew up, apparently. Just a 1/2 mile down Indian Road. My mother is probably older than yours, though. She's 73. But truly could pass for 60!!

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

I love the sweet memories of days gone by.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Thanks to all of you - I'll pass your words along to her since she STILL doesn't have internet. (Of course I STILL have dial-up internet so I'm not sure where I have room to talk.)

Angel Mama - My grandmother knew just about everyone up and down Indian Road, so there's a good chance my mother or someone in our family knows your mother. If you shoot me the name in an e-mail I'll ask. IF you have the aol account send it to that one since I don't check the g-mail account more than once a week or so.

Happy Monday night.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Oh, and speaking of Ware Neck, my grandfather the blacksmith worked out of the series of outbuildings on your right just as you turn from Route 14 onto Ware Neck Road.(I think one is now an art studio and another is a natural healing place or something.) The first building on the right was his shop; the middle building was a store; and that brown house on the corner that you bear a hard right on to continue to Ware Neck was his home. He lived to be in his 90's and I visited him there often.

Country Girl said...

Perfect is that which works.

Perfect is your mother's recollection of a dear friend and neighbor. Beautifully written.