Meet the Lites – Mom III
Good morning, y’all. The hint of rain in the air was as false as Granny Waller’s teeth. Whatever clouds there were, died of loneliness, and we greeted this morning to the promise of another asphalt melting day here at TackyToo. I’m going to check my anklet’s waterproof qualities after while by jumping in the pool. That is, if I don’t hit the range finder first.
When we left off with Mom last, the family was living in town in a little rental house on the main drag. There were two of us kids, and Mom stayed at home to watch over us and perform the duties of house wife. Daddy had just started in the job that the universe designed him for, salesman, specifically insurance. With the ease of a round peg going into a round hole, Daddy excelled at insurance.
By the time I was four we had moved into a house that we were buying in a toney neighborhood. We had new cars, we took vacations, Mom had a maid, and when I started school, Mom located a private school for me to attend. Turns out, teaching myself to read at age five had resulted in me being sequestered from my neighborhood friends, who all attended public school. I was sent to a private school with heavy religious ties.
There were high expectations for the child that Mom would be able to mold herself. Mom felt that my sister Charlotte had been “spoiled” by her aunts, and with me, she had a second chance. So while Mom was taking care of the “baby” and occasionally dealing with the antics of my older sister, I filled the void by learning to read. This would be one of the personality traits psychologists call “middle child syndrome”.
During this time, there are vivid memories of the new Cadillac, of an extensive vacation in Florida carrying the grandparents Lite along, of Atlanta Crackers baseball games and the occasional UGA football game. My most positive memory of Mom of this time was when she came to school one time in her Sunday finest. I remember thinking at the time that she looked pretty, and my thoughts were confirmed by several of my buddys. Good times.
Well, Daddy was printing money like he had a press in the basement, and Mom was not going to let that cash lie idle. Maybe she suspected that with Daddy the money wouldn’t lie idle for long, but either way, Mom was ready to invest. A financial truism that has been hammered into my brain since I can remember was “they can print out more money but they can’t print out more land”. Mom used this truism to mount her empire. Her first investment was a boarding house two doors down from Grandma and Grandpa Lowe.
The boarders were people who were just going to be in the area for a short while, or folks who had a limited income and could get by on a bedroom and shared bath. Running a boarding house is hard work, and with the first meal at 6AM and the last at 6PM, you’re working 14-15 hour days everyday during the week. Mom had one phenomenal cook, Bootsie, that did most of the cooking. Bootsie was supplemented by two helpers. On the weekends the boarders were left to their own devices, but Mom always had some task that needed catching up on. It seems like we were at the boarding house as much as Mom was.
Mom was perturbed that Daddy had to be on the loan for her to buy the boarding house. When it came time to buy the house next door, using the cash generated from the boarding house, she was absolutely apoplectic when the loan office asked her to bring Daddy in to sign the papers with her. Same thing when she bought the house across the street from her other two pieces of property. Mom reasoned it was her business that had generated the income, she shouldn’t have to have a co-signor. It just didn’t work like that in the 50’s.
Coinciding with the purchase of the third house, Daddy got himself sideways with the insurance board. He was in deep and needed help to avoid prosecution. Mom was willing to help, for a price. For help in getting clear of the insurance problem, Daddy signed over all of the rights to any property that they jointly held, to Mom.
As you can imagine, there was a lot of whooping and hollering going on at our house every night. I was told that for the promise of no divorce Daddy agreed to put everything in Mom’s name. I think it was about 10 days after the signing that Daddy was served papers and forced to leave our house. I will never, ever, forget the night when Daddy told Jackson and I that he was going to have to leave. Our hearts were truly broken.
Well, the Dr.Pepper clock says 1:30AM, so I better head back over to Number Two before Mulva gets her knickers in a knot. Good Lord willing, and I don’t suffer a massive embolism from remembering all this stuff, I’ll be back tomorrow.