Do you want to make-believe? Do you want to pretend? Do you want to imagine?
I looked into a mirror which reflects an image that is identical to the original image staring right back at me. Look into a mirror, and see your past life, too. I was a newborn baby girl on March 4, 1942. Born in our first real hospital, which was an old two-story wooden home right behind the old Felix Long Memorial Hospital, which was built later as a replacement for the old home. Both hospitals were right behind Welch Funeral Home on Lampkin Street. Felix Long Memorial Hospital is still standing but not used as a hospital any longer. Oktibbeha County Hospital is our present hospital. I was delivered into the colorful, beautiful, wonderful world by Dr. Jim Eckford, M.D., and his son Dr. Feddy Eckford, M.D. Dr. Jim delivered my mama on July 9, 1911, in our family home at 501 Louisville Street. They were real family doctors delivering thousands of Starkville, Oktibbeha County, and Mississippi State University folks. We loved the Eckfords as if they were family. Why were there two doctors in the delivery room? Dr. Jim was there to make sure that Feddy, who was fresh out of Tulane Medical School, would do everything right. They say you are not a real Starkvillian if one of the Eckfords did not deliver you. I was one very lucky baby since both Eckfords brought me into my beloved hometown.
My daddy, John Andrew McReynolds, II, was one proud new daddy. He always told me that I had my eyes wide open as if I was going to conquer the whole world. Mama was 30 years old, and Daddy was 35 years old. Four years later, they again became the parents of a son, John Andrew McReynolds, III (Johnny), my only sibling. I loved and adored Johnny, and I am so proud of Johnny today. He is a fine and wonderful gentleman. He and his wife, Patsy, have a son and a daughter, three grandchildren, and are expecting a fourth grandchild in October. He was delivered in a nearby hospital in West Point because our hospital was being remodeled. Mama was taken by ambulance there since she went into labor at seven months.
As I looked into the mirror, I thought, “Why in the world would anybody ever grow up? We don’t have to grow up, do we? Peter Pan was the hero of M. Barrie’s play, “Peter Pan,” about the boy who wouldn’t grow up. Right now, let’s make-believe, pretend, and imagine that we are going back to 1942. We are on Morgan Street right off Magruder on the Mississippi State College campus. It was heaven on earth to live there. We lived in the best of two worlds, campus and city life. We lived and played every day on the campus and went into town to shop and to school, which seemed a long way from Morgan Street. I played with my baby brother and mostly boys on Morgan Street, but I longed to have a best girlfriend as a neighbor.
One early morning, I had followed Daddy down into his vegetable garden where he also had pigs and cows. Can you believe that we all had gardens and animals right there on the college campus? I was down by the fence when I spotted a professor coming up the pathway not far from the Green Ball Tree where we played. He got closer to me and said, “Hello, I am U. S. Jones, a new agronomy professor here, and I have a wife, Ann Gail Jones, and a little girl just about your age. She was born on March 23, 1942, and her name is Jodie Jones. Would you like to meet her?” I said, “I’m Carole, and my birthday is March 4, and I am her age.” I was about 3 or 4 years old, and I quickly said, “Yes.”
A few days later, I met my very best friend in the whole world, Jodie. She had light colored, honey-brown, long, thick pigtails, and I had chocolate-brown shorter, thinner pigtails. I finally had a real girlfriend who could play dress-up with me, and I was so happy. We both lived in two-story faculty homes across and down the street from each other. Our home had a huge attic filled with dresses, high-heeled shoes, purses, old mink stoles with real faces of the minks themselves, and their mouths opened and closed if you pinched their mouth in the right spot. The old clothes were discarded that once were bridesmaids’ dresses and ordinary old house dresses that suddenly left their lifeless existence to living once again in the hearts of two little girls. We learned the art of walking tall as our legs wobbled in those high heels. We found out a lady at the end of the street right beside Oak’s Grocery Store who wore a size 4 shoe. We got up enough nerve to phone her, and ask if we might have her old worn out old high heels. She graciously agreed, and we were so thrilled. We now had shoes to match the resurrected dresses. We had a blast from the past with our old — new to us — wardrobes. We played for hours up in our attic pretending and daydreaming. Our little tricycles and later bicycles became our pretend cars. We struggled up and down the hillsides from Jodie’s house to our house. We played like we were heading into downtown, Starkville. Gas for our trikes and bikes was cheap back then, not like our almost $4 now. Our gas was our foot pedals. We did not even pay one cent.
Some days I could not find Jodie, so I had to play dress-up all by myself. It was never as much fun playing without her. We both were girlie girls. We were both exaggeratedly effeminate little girls. Instead of simple tailored dresses, I loved frills, lace, and ruffles. Jodie seemed to prefer the more tailored look. I loved hats more than Jodie did, and she wore simple bows on her thick pigtails. I wore my hair down, and she always platted hers.
I still love hats. Do I need another hat? Heavens, no. If I knew where there was a hat waiting to find a home on the top of my head, I would go and find it right now. We do not need homeless hats. Hats used to be so stylish. America has become hat-less. We all keep saying, “Oh, hats will maybe reappear and be back in style someday.” I just cannot wait. To me, hats are in, and they live in style today. Hats are beautiful, elegant, lovely, pretty, silly and funny. Some are large, medium, small, simple, flashy, glittery, and tacky. Hats have a personality that makes the whole outfit sparkle. Jodie loved shoes, and I loved hats.
One of my first memories of a hat was the one I wore on my first date with Daddy to the State/Ole Miss football game. My hat was a dark green felt/velvet hat with a brim with two ear flaps on the side to cover my cold ears that afternoon. Our feet were frozen and our lips turned blue. We were shaking and so cold. Daddy and I both wore hats, and they kept our ears cozy.
Years passed by, and Jodie and her parents moved away. She was an only child. She married, and her husband was Brig. General John Allen in the United States Air Force. Jodie and John are the parents of two married daughters and are grandparents of five grandsons. They are retired and live in Clemson, S.C. I stayed in Starkville, and I married my husband, Dr. Frank Marvin Davis, Sr., who worked for the United States Department Of Agriculture for over 35 years and is an Emeritus Professor at MSU in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology, and Plant Pathology. Frank will conduct his 14th International Insect Rearing Workshop in October 2011. I love Frank very much, and I am so proud of him. We are the parents of two married sons and one married daughter. We are the grandparents of four granddaughters and two grandsons.
I wanted to share with you a special painting that I did in 1970. This painting is taking us back to the early 1940s when Daddy snapped a photo of me with his large Kodak camera when I was about 4 years old. I used his old photo to paint this portrait of myself. This painting is on a large piece of stretched 100 percent cotton canvas. It’s a back view and portrait of my head turned towards the left side of the canvas. There is a mystery about my expression wondering, “What is this thing called life anyway? What shall I be one day? Look closely and see that there is definitely a mysterious manner about my green eyes, turned-up nose, and open mouth. Will I make-believe my whole life? Will I pretend just as Jodie and I played ladies all day long? Will life be a mirror? Will my own life reflect an image of the identical original little girl that I today remain to be?
Look at my light and dark chocolate-brown braided thin pigtails falling on my bare shoulders. See my favorite red pinafore and rows of frilly ruffles as my skirt. My knee caps are touching, and the white turned-down socks are on top of the high-topped, polished leather shoes and neatly tied shoe laces.
The mirror that I am looking almost away from reflects the dark green foilage as it outlines my almost still stature of pose. The mirror is framed with frilly white ruffles, and see the two sides of the free standing mirror are of silver.
Could I be way up high in the top of our attic in our home on the campus? Shadows fall across the hardwood attic floor, and the sun filters through the tall attic windows. My two hands and arms are resting on my hips, and the very brightest sun rays fall gently across my nose, cheeks, and the back of my hips and legs. I can almost feel and see Jodie right behind me getting her high heel shoes on her tiny feet. We are two little girlfriends.
A few years ago on my birthday I went to the mailbox to find a small package wrapped in brown paper. I quickly and with excitement opened it, snipped the red bow and tore into the paper. Inside was a tiny oval, white and trimmed in dark blue China dish. On the back of the dish was written, “Williamsburg Motahedeh. Made In Portugal.” I turned the dish over, and read these words, “As time flies, let friendships stay.” Inside the birthday card was a photo of the two of us standing as best friends together. My hand was over Jodie’s shoulder, and we had on those long bridesmaids dresses and high-heeled shoes. There we were in our yard on Morgan Street at the Mississippi State College campus. Her honey-brown hair was in thick pigtails, and my darker chocolate-brown hair was down on my shoulders. There is a white wooden house in the background, and maybe we were down near the garden the day I met Jodie’s daddy. Her mama, Ann Gail wrote on the back in her pretty writing, “Jodie and Carole 1947.” Jodie, I well remember that your Mama wrote beautiful poetry too. I remember the huge doll house that you had that lit up with real light bulbs and tiny furniture inside.Your sweet wonderful Virginia grandparents, Daddy Lev and Barba would come to visit and see y’all every year. I loved their Virginia accents.They treated me like an extra granddaughter and loved my little brother, too. When Barba came each year, she and Ann Gail would treat all the ladies on Morgan Street to a luncheon over in a big hotel in Columbus, and they loved this thoughtful treat each visit. They all looked forward to driving over to the next city to dine and be together as neighbors and friends. Jodie, you had sweet and classy parents and grandparents. I enjoyed very much going with you many times to your Starkville Episcopal Church of The Resurrection on many Sundays. It was such a quaint and sweet church, and reading from the prayer book was different from my Presbyterian faith. Oh, Jodie the memories we cherish and hold so very dear within our hearts last for our lifetimes, don’t they?
Time has flown by too quickly. Jodie, it is hot way down here in good ‘ole Mississippi this summer, and it is a long time till the windy cold days of March 2012. This year we celebrate another big “0” year. Where has the time gone? As I think back to 1942, the year of our birth, I can almost imagine and actually see the white cloth diapers blowing in the wind on the old clothesline on Morgan Street when we were merely babies growing up on the MSU campus together. Do we all start out in diapers and end in diapers too? Are we old yet?
We must live only today. This only one second, minute, and hour, but our precious memories of our past take us back to our happy growing up days. Jodie, do you remember the pledge that we made to each other as we squeezed our hands together as very best friends, a promise for life? Remember what it was? I do. Let’s play, ladies, and never grow up. Well, Jodie, I never did grow up. Did you grow up? I hope not.
Carole McReynolds Davis is a local artist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .