It’s October 5th  as I begin writing this – my mother’s birthday. Though she’s been gone for over 20 years I still think of her often and especially on this day.

My mother was a plainspoken, simple lady. Not simple as in not smart, but simple as in she wasn’t complicated. No pretense. No frills. No nonsense. She was very real and down-to-earth. She was frugal, too. Having grown up in the Great Depression in a single-parent home, she learned to make do with and be thankful for what she had.

She was an orphan at 16 when her mother died in an accident. She lived “pillar-to-post” she said after that and finally went to live and train at the local hospital in a nursing program they offered to high school graduates. She became an LPN and worked “hall duty” – which meant she worked at the hospital long hours mostly emptying bedpans and changing sheets. She knew how to make hospital corners, for real, but I don’t remember her ever teaching me how.

She met my dad at some point during her nurse years. They got married but foreign wars interrupted their child-bearing years and so their first child, my sister, was born after ten years of marriage. I came four years later.

Mama could sew and she made most of everything I wore – including my prom dress. She could cook but they were simple foods…and they were mostly fried. Anything that took more than two ingredients wasn’t usually served at our table. That would require a recipe, which I never saw her use.

She had thick, auburn hair, which she hated but I loved. She was tall (5’ 6”) and I wasn’t. I got to 5’ 1” and stopped growing. She had big feet – size 9 ½ and I wore a size 6. She called me “shoog” which is Southern for “sugar”, and she would lavish “sugar” (Southern for kisses) on me often. She liked to pinch my nose and make kissy noises (I hated it) when she couldn’t score an actual kiss.

A switch was her preferred form of discipline. “Switch” is Southern for a whip-like limb from a nearby tree that was applied to bare legs whenever a child was out of line. Once when my sister and I were fighting and yelling at each other, Mama got two switches from the plum tree and gave us each one. She told us to work it out! After a few swats each, we started giggling and called a truce, but I ran away really fast just in case my sister changed her mind.

Her name was Eloise. No middle name and she never gave me one. (A southern girl doesn’t need one since she will get married, drop her middle name, and use her maiden name in the middle.) Most of the relatives called her Weez or Weezie, which, of course, she hated. Her last name was Smith and when she went into nurses’ training the other trainees started calling her Smitty. It stuck. Most people who met her after that never knew my mother by any other name.

She was a little superstitious. Don’t let anyone sweep the floor under your feet ‘cause you’ll never get married. If your nose itches, it means somebody’s coming to visit with a hole in her stocking. Chickens flying over your head will cure the chicken pox. (I’m not sure how that one got started with chickens being flightless and all.)

And there were Smitty-isms. Somebody who was upset was pitchin’ a hissy fit or a conniption. Someone crying loudly was bawlin’ and squawlin’. To leave a mess behind means that you’re stringin’ and strewin’. Something that didn’t taste good was not fit to eat and to be tired at the end of a busy day meant you were plum give out.

Home decorating was not her strength although she was a determined do-it-yourself-er. Bad combination. One year “antique painting” was the rage. Every wooden surface in our house was “antiqued.” The upright piano, the kitchen cabinets, every end table in the house, and even some wooden candlesticks I had made in Vacation Bible School. Christmas, too, fell victim to her decorating tastes. Several years in a row she decorated our tree with those little Styrofoam packing noodles. She said they looked like snow. The rest of us just shrugged and went for the gifts underneath the tree. Then one year she bought an all-white artificial tree and found the black light that I was tired of using in my room. Yep. White tree with a black light in the huge picture window…GLOWED like a beacon! My sister and I laughed and said it looked like a UFO landing strip. Mama got her feelings hurt, she cried and threw the tree (and probably the black light) away. Boy, I wish I had that one back. I wish I had a lot of things back. Wish I had known her better and respected her more.

She loved me.

I loved her.

I still miss you, Mama.

Happy birthday, Smitty.




14 thoughts on “Smitty

  1. Susan Soles Newton

    OH Nan,
    I could have been reading about my own mother, Hilda Soles, as I read about Smitty. I remember Smitty and your daddy very well when we had ‘birthday dinners’ at my grandmother’s house. I’m sure we were together many other times but those I remember most of all. So many things we wish we could have back but also, I wish I could make my children understand that now, before they are wishing the same thing!
    Thank you for your writings. I enjoy them so very much. Not to mention the beautiful music that you and your husband produce. Love it too.!
    Your cousin, Susan

  2. Sondra Rice

    Your Mom and I share the same birthday!! Really enjoyed this blog. She was a very special lady, I can tell. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  3. Kathy Dykema Sasser

    Nan, please let me add that she always had open arms to welcome you into her home. I spend a lot of nights there and went to many ballgames with you and your parents. I always would have a blast. She loved both of you girls and I can remember the kisses so much. Wouldn’t it be great to hear those little kisses today? When our parents are gone there is so much that we would like to tell them and ask forgiveness for. I know one thing that she loved you and was so proud of you. Happy Birthday Ms.Corbitt!!

    I can also remember your dad. He was so funny and sweet. He would take us anywhere we wanted to go. I have a son that is named after your dad. John Bradford Bynum ( better known as Brad). Steve worked for your dad for many years at the American Bank and he thought so much of your dad. As I also thought so much of him we decided that would be our son’s middle name. He has also been such a joy in our lives. Our memories go on and on.

    1. nanallen Post author

      Hi Kathy,

      Great to hear from you. Thanks for chiming in. I knew that your Brad was named for Daddy. Hope all’s well with you and yours. Don’t get to Geneva often but I’d love to see you and reminisce. Lots of sleep-overs and I remember eating chili for the first time at your grandmother’s house.

      Love, Nan

  4. Bonnie Keen

    Nan, what a beautiful homage to your momma. I feel like I know “Smitty” now. She sounds quite a lot like my momma, “Gwennie Gal”. What a fantastic daughter those switches and smooches produced. You are making her proud.

  5. Judy Gemmill

    Enjoyed the southernism (if that’s a word). I remember well the “quips” of your mom, they were used in my household, too! Being from Nashville and my mom from Alabama. Thanks for sharing and for the memories. 🙂



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *