Holidays are just not my happiest time as I have lost almost all my old friends and all my relatives.....the first week of January is also when my mother died.
Mom died in Madison County even though she lived her life 95 years in Syracuse in Onondaga County. I had to move her here to a nursing home after taking care of her and dad for a number of years. When my friend Chris inched closer to death and I had to take the job of Madison County Historian to pay for drugs and bills.... mom became a Madison County person. After her death I didn't know what to write for her obit and suddenly an old song I associated with her came into my head...I laughed and wrote this!
Mom always had a sharp wit, a wit that she had up to the week she died. She was outspoken and always told you what she thought, whether it was good or bad. She always had stories of all varieties to tell us kids, stories of picking peas in the summer with her family to make money for school, of her aunt who carried a gun, and others of being chased by mobsters in a wedding party she was part of.
Her stories eventually went on to meeting my father and marrying him, which gave her endless stories of his enlistment in the Army and her travels to see him. Mom worked at a clothing factory in Syracuse during the war, and never missed an opportunity to tell these tales of travel horror to her co-workers upon her return from the many trips she took to see my father whenever he was stationed stateside or was sent back to the United States to go to school. She regaled them with stories of days of traveling on trains sitting on her suitcase, of freezing in unheated trains at 30 below zero, of walking miles because she could not get a bus to a camp, and tales of sitting next to convicts in chains. Once dad had gotten her a room in a hotel and she was bumped from it so dad’s roommate’s wife could stay in it…his roommate’s wife was Deana Durbin, the Hollywood star! For all of her traveling and tales, she gained the nickname “Pistol Packin’ Mama”.
Once Dad put her up in the Sheriff of Brownville, Texas’ house for a while, there she met prisoners that the Sheriff brought home to watch while he was eating, and there she learned first hand of rattlesnakes, banditos and revenuers. She told tales of riding on the El Capitan Train (then the fastest train crossing the country) to go to California to visit dad, only to see him for one hour as his unit was called out to go to the Pacific. (Dad served on every front of the War but Burma, so he was gone a lot.)
She also told of coming home to a cold apartment at 10 below and her hot water bottle had leaked into her bed. She didn’t sleep at all that night as it took her forever to flip the mattress over by herself, ma was only 90 pounds then and 4’ 10”.
Mom always dressed well and was a lady, never really having to work after the War and when she died she had her teeth, dark hair and a great complexion which made her look like she was in her late 60’s or 70’s. Dad always claimed the secret to her youthful look was olive oil on the inside, and Oil of Olay on the outside.
The one thing that is for sure is that mom hated me being known as Back Street Mary. When she saw a newspaper story on my becoming the new Madison County Historian she frowned at me and shook her head and said, “Why do you have that nickname?” I replied, “What would you expect from a girl whose mother was called “Pistol Packin’ Mama?”
For once she had no reply......
Here is Willie Nelson to sing it for you..Enjoy..Happy New Year!