In praise of stoplights and memories

Published 6:09 pm Friday, June 20, 2014

The stoplight in Clio caught me.

As I sat there, a flood of memories washed over me.

Clio was not my old stompin’ grounds, but I’ve spent “min-ya” miserable days there.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Dr. Stroud Jackson was our family doctor. Mama believed he could cure anything a saltwater enema couldn’t.

At that point of ailment, we’d go over to Clio to be cured by Dr. Jackson.

Mama stood firm on the belief that just seeing Dr. Jackson’s face was all it took to be healed.

We would get to his office early in the morning and sometimes it would be late into the night before we could see his face and be made well.

Even if we got there at the crack of dawn, the waiting room would be packed like sardines.

A lot of women would have a spit can sitting right at their feet. Most of them would skeet snuff going and coming.

But some of them wouldn’t spit at all and the snuff would kind of drool out of the corners on their mouths.

Every now and then, they would dab it with the corner of their handkerchiefs.

Most of the men had a chew of tobacco in their mouths and they would go over to the door, open it and spit out on the sidewalk.

All the women were armed with pocketbooks the size of a suitcase. They hugged those pocketbooks in their laps like they were going to get up and run away. And, talk, lordy, they did talk. Everybody talked. Nobody listened.

I could always tell what kind of story folks were about to tell by the way they addressed the Good Lord when they got started.

If they started, “Lordy, me!” and slapped their knees, I knew it was going to be a funny story and my ears perked up.

If they started with “Lawrd, have mercy,” more than likely the story was going to be about trouble that had befallen some poor soul.

And, if they started off with “Loooooord, did you hear about pore ol’ [Essie Mae McDeedlehopper],” I knew Miss McDeedlehopper had either died or was knocking at death’s door.

Mostly, the women talked about death, dying and their ailments – burr-side-us, milk leg consumption and a variety of spells—dizzy spells, faintin’ spells, coughin’s spells and spells with their backs, their gall bladders and their kit-neys.

I wasn’t sure I even had all of those body parts and I hoped I didn’t because when they were mentioned with, “Loooooord, did you hear about …” I knew Fannie Pearl would not be long on this earth cause her “kit-neys had give out on her.”

The men folk would go outside and sit on the hoods of their trucks and talk about more interesting things – the weather, fishing and hunting.

Mama would let me walk down to the drug store on the corner and get a co-cola and a bag of salted peanuts. I’d stop and listen to the men talk until she came looking for me and make me come back in listen to the “Lordy, Lordies.”

Every now and then Ruth, in her white, starched stiff nurse’s uniform, would stick her head out the door and look around the waiting room – just to see who all was there because, to the best of my recollection, she hardly ever called anybody back to see the doctor and be healed.

If it’s true that time heals all things, a lot of folks got healed waiting to see Dr. Jackson or either they went home and died.

But, perhaps, they weren’t sick at all, they just came to sit and visit.

I don’t know how long I sat at the “red” light caught in a memory that would have escaped me if the light had been green.