It is time to catch up with Linda Bethea and her extended family…and this week her well-meaning Grandma and her sometimes unwelcome gifts.
Grandma and the Coat from Hell by Linda Bethea.
Since there were five kids in our family, Grandma did her best to help out when she could.
Sometimes I still hate her for it. Once she went to the Goodwill Store and bought me the ugliest coat in the world. I didn’t have a problem with Goodwill. It was ugly that bothered me. It was a knee-length brown hounds-tooth wool dress coat of the style not seen since movies from the 1940’s, trimmed with brown velvet cuffs and collar and huge brown buttons with big rhinestones in the middle. I had hoped for a parka with fake-fur collar like the high society girls in my class. I turned to Mother, hoping for salvation. Mother was ecstatic, probably…
My guest blogger this month is Linda Bethea of Nutstrok.
Linda is one of the first bloggers I followed when I started this blog in
2014 and over the years, we have become friends.
Linda’s Mother, who turns 90 today, May 5th, unofficially adopted me in
2015 and became my forever Mom, so in a sense, Linda and I are brother
Tell us about your place of birth and the cultural forces that shaped your childhood.
Being born in rural Northeast Louisiana in 1950 still has a huge influence on me. Being of a large nuclear family opened so many windows on life. With three grandparents, almost twenty aunts and uncles, by birth and marriage, and more than forty first cousins, our holidays and weekends were bedlam. Also, I grew up on a farm where every bit of help was needed, so I learned early to do my part. I learned to deal with all kinds of personalities, human and animal. Farm work did motivate me to get an education. I didn’t want to work that hard the rest of my life. Also, in the fifties, pressure to behave well was a huge force. We got it at home, school, and church. When I got in trouble, the news usually beat me home, even though we didn’t have a phone till 1958. I never did figure out how that worked. Our social life revolved around family, church, and school. It sounds idyllic described that way. We had good times and bad, but the older I get, the more I realize it was a good way to grow.
What event has had the most influence on your life and work?
When I was fourteen, I shot into a flock of blackbirds, just because. One fell to the ground mortally injured. I picked it up and it curled its tiny foot around my finger as the light went out of its eyes. I realized that little bird’s life was as precious as my own. I’ve never forgotten the devastation I felt at the bird’s cruel death at my hands. That changed the way I saw everything.
When did you start your blog and how has it evolved?
My first post was August 26, 2014. I was very nervous, thinking no one could be interested in my tales. Since then, I’ve learned someone is interested in almost anything a writer has to say. Here is a link to my first post.
How did you come up with the name, Nutstrok?
I love writing about family. I celebrate their eccentricities, but never lose touch with the fact that I love them dearly, hence the name, Nuts Are Okay, Nutsrok.
When did you start to write?
I started writing after I retired from thirty years as a registered Nurse. I cherished my stories and looked forward to having time to get them down for my children. Incidentally, I don’t think either of them reads my work. I guess I burned them out on the stories as they were growing up.
What have you learned about publishing since publishing ‘Everything Smells Just like Poke salad’?
I don’t how to answer the question about what I’ve learned since publishing. Writing is a lot more satisfying than promoting.
You published your second book, ‘Just Women Getting By’ in May of 2017, tell us a little about the book.
I was inspired to write Just Women because of the stories I learned and lived. When I was a child, I desperately wanted to be a boy. Girls lived with so restrictions, constantly reminded, “girls don’t do that.” “Don’t play so rough.” “Keep your dress tail down!” It didn’t take a genius to see women stayed home and were drudges while men went off and did interesting things. There were a lot more Betty Crockers than Annie Oakley’s.
Stories of the exploits of brave or evil men were common. Women were more likely to win acclaim for their beauty, not their abilities. Girls could look forward to marrying and having children. Men could do that and whatever else they aimed for. Despite the poor press women received, they were major factors in the success of home and community, rarely noticed, unless they failed. As adult, I was impressed at how much women quietly accomplish and their major contribution, showing strength in impossible situation.
Please share an excerpt from ‘Just Women Getting By’.
The excerpt is from the story “Hard Time Marrying.” Two young people find themselves married in a horrific situation with no way out.
Their union had a bleak start. Shivering miserably on the depot platform in the freezing rain, the woman folded and refolded his tattered letter. Angered, he thought of driving on when he saw her cradling a small child and holding the hand of a grimy toddler, a few tattered bundles at her feet. In her letter, she’d not mentioned the little ones, though with all fairness, the marriage was only one of need on both parts. He hadn’t promised her anything either, so after hesitating, he was mollified by the thought that the little fellows served as proof she wasn’t barren. Hurriedly, married minutes later at the preacher’s house, he apologized for the weather as they shivered the two hours home in his open wagon and was surprised to learn the woman didn’t speak or understand English. Maybe that wasn’t so bad for a man accustomed to his own company.
Burning with fever by the time they got to his homestead, his unknown wife was dead by the next sundown, leaving him with little ones he had no taste for. Barely reaching his knee, they toddled mutely in perpetual soggy diapers, uttering gibberish only they understood. As soon as he could, he buried his quilt-wrapped wife and headed back to dusty Talphus, Texas to rid himself of burden of her orphaned little ones. The church or the town would have to do for them. Loading them in a snug in a bed of hay, wrapped in a ragged quilt, hay heaped over them. he pitied and grieved for them on the long trip back to town, knowing the hard life they faced. Stopping several times to make sure they were warmly covered, he was relieved to find them pink and warm. He hardened his heart against them, knowing only too well the life they faced. He’d never known family, just been passed from hand to hand. He grieved knowing that was their lot, but deception had landed them with him and a lone-farmer could hardly be expected to shoulder the brats of a dead woman he’d never even shared a bed with.
Thank you Linda, and a Happy 90th Birthday to my Forever Mom, Kathleen.
Your gift to me still warms my heart.
This guest post is by Linda Bethea, who may be more familiar to you as Ibeth of Nutsrok blog and also the her new book Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad.
Linda had a long career as a nurse and worked with patients and their families who were undergoing dialysis. Working so closely with patients and their families provided Linda with the perfect opportunity to experience the impact family and friends made on a patients will to continue to fight the challenge of illness.
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