I last saw my beloved cousin on July 29, 2007 at her home in Amarillo. We were there for our grandson’s wedding so I was privileged to see her and say goodbye. Wistie died on Haloween. Her funeral at First Baptist Church in Amarillo was a time of great family love and connection. This is the letter I wrote in July before her death in October. Fortunately, she responded to it and we had a loving conversation by telephone. I still miss her and I treasure our time together.
HARVEST OF MEMORIES
To: Wistie from Margie
You were there when I was born in our grandfather’s little white farm house 9 miles south of Ralls, TX. Jimmie and Poppie took care of you in my baby bed, rolling it back and forth, while Josie, Odie, and Dr. Haynie delivered me in the middle bedroom. Mother remembers the squeak of the wheels as you were kept quiet. That was January 23, 1929 and you were five months old.
When we were toddlers, our mothers sewed those little pink dresses, just alike. Then, they would take us to town and Mr. Ralls, with his pince nez monicle eye glass, would greet us with a big laugh. After warm hugs, he gave each of us a nickel to buy an ice cream cone at Spencer’s drug store.
When Don was born, Ernie kept you and me in Ralls while your mother did her mid-wife service. We rolled up in quilts and Ernie would unroll us very fast. He also was dead set on controlling you, which seemed rather hard to do. Auntie often referred to you as her little monkey. You did keep us all laughing.
Do you remember lathering our faces with soap suds and asking the family to identify which one of us was Margie and which one was Wistie? Jimmie, Auntie, Uncle Jim, Odie, Billy, Poppie, and Joe were there, usually at a table with lots of delicious home cooking. The laughter made the food more delicious, I think.
Another time, we turned our dresses backward and walked in backward just for the laugh…..all these clever ideas were always yours, of course.
We got crooked maize stalks from the field, blew them like saxophones and got straight ones to take to the toilet so we could “pee like boys”……
We took the Chinese Checker marbles to the maize patch and just threw them up in the air (or maybe you just said we should do that and I stopped you for fear of Odie’s wrath???)
Another memory: Odie had fashioned a way to take a bath by punching holes in a gallon can and filling it with water. So, you and I were taking a great bath and giggling when Don sneaked up and peeked through the outdoor shower curtains at us. He was “talked to” by Odie. He begged him to “just whip me—don’t talk to me”. The shame ran deep that day.
Your family was always a bright shining star to me. Your mother loved me and warmly welcomed me; Uncle Jim was my ideal of a man; and you, Ernie (“Boy”) and Louise (“Sister”) were like jewels to me. When we saw you coming, happiness came over the whole family like a blessed curtain of love.
I still love Ruidoso because you, Auntie, and Uncle Jim took me on a wonderful weeklong vacation to a log cabin there. We caught fireflies and kept them in a fruit jar.
I remember that I was taken to visit you in Lubbock for a few days (unexpectedly) and it just happened that you were going on your very first date. Auntie said, “Margie Ruth will just go with you!” And you and the boy you were dating hustled up someone for me to be with. Oh, my goodness, can you ever forgive me?
There was the time in Waco, when I was president of the BSU in Kingsville and on the state BSU council. You were there from Hardin Simmons and you yelled my name when our bus arrived. You grabbed me up and whirled me around in the absolute best greeting I ever received. It made the trip for me. Didn’t hurt my reputation with the Kingsville group either!
You and Louise were so helpful in the James Robinson-Margie McNeely wedding on May 25, 1947 in Weslaco at the First Baptist Church. You were my maid of honor. I chose Sunday morning because I remembered that Louise and S.S. had married on a Sunday morning in Lubbock FBC. I was always looking to your family for the right path. I chose to be a business major because Uncle Jim was the building inspector in Lubbock and I thought I might be a secretary in an office like his. Notice, I was limited to the women roles. I could be a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse. But that is another story, isn’t it?
Then you and Bill married, but I was so pregnant with my firstborn child that I couldn’t go to your wedding. I couldn’t believe that you had married someone from Ralls. Bill’s sister Rosemary was so beautiful. My brother, Don, competed for her in first grade with his best friend, Bobby Anthony. And, there many years later was my favorite cousin marrying Rosemary’s brother Bill!! Such a joy that was for our family.
Even though I missed your lovely wedding, Bill ended up working—“Roost-a-bootin” he called it—in Premont, Texas just a few miles away from where James and I lived. You were there the day our pre-mature baby died, offering love and caring. Once again you led the way, suggesting that we could visit each other on Fridays, we had those wonderful Friday nights in Premont and Kingsville when we lived close enough to see each other more often. I will not ever forget seeing Vicki on the day of her birth there in that little tiny hospital. The nurses played with Kathy while I visited you and Vicki.
Images from your time in Premont: You had the cleanest house—Tide and Clorox kept the kitchen linoleum spotless—and great food. I remember a truly splendid white cake you had prepared when you were about 8 months pregnant before Vicki was born. You served it to James and Kathy and me on one of those nice Friday night visits.
So, we both became wives. Then you had all those children and I had all those children. What wonderful years and how blessed we have been. I will never forget the night I called to ask you to feed a crowd as we returned from Colorado…only to get to your door and be astonished that you were yet again pregnant! I apologize to you and Bill for eating all your bacon and eggs that night, but I will never ever forget the love and laughter that we enjoyed. Must have been around 1963???
You and your family have always meant light and love and joy and happiness. Your warm heart has blessed thousands of people and I am one of those grateful ones.
I suppose at this age, it is OK to look back, so I seem to be in a life review of some 78-79 years, a miraculous and wondrous time here on this planet. I am aware that I was most fortunate to have your soul enter this world just 5 months ahead of me on August 22, 1928. I want you to know that you have always been a guiding light to me. You are a genius, with unique talents, creative vision, and a heart of purest gold.
I love you, Willa Jeanne Reid–Wistie McKee