BY NANCY WILLIAMS ELLIS
My memories of growing up are very pleasant ones. My most vivid recollections of home were the years that we spent on Bedford Road. We moved there when I was entering the sixth grade. (Shirley was entering the eighth grade, and Don was about two years old.)
How surprised I was when mother took me to be enrolled at West Edgecombe School. My teacher was Mrs. Adelyn Barkley, mother's cousin. I was teased all year for being the teacher's pet. The students thought that Mrs. Barkley gave me good grades because we were kin. She told them then, and still says to this date, that I earned them. I do remember working very hard that year to prove myself to her and my classmates. In fact, I've always felt that Mrs. Barkley's influence had a great deal to do with my choosing a teaching career.
One of my favorite pastimes in elementary school was to walk to Joe Barett's soda shop in the afternoon after school with my best friend, Wanda Sue Inscoe. (Shirley would sometimes go with us, if she wasn't down at Mary Anne Harrell's.) If we really wanted to stretch our money, we would buy one drink for five cents and divide it. Then, for eleven more cents we could buy a bag of three Ann's Donuts. What a treat!
Shirley and I shared a small bedroom when we were growing up. We loved lying in bed at night telling secrets. Mother claimed that we carried on conversations in our sleep! I know she must have grown tired of telling us to get quiet.
Don, being the baby in the family, got his share of attention. He spent a lot of time at Margaret's, when he got old enough to ride his bike two streets over to Rosewood Avenue, where she and Edd had bought a house a short time prior to our moving to Bedford Road. Don and Phil played to their hearts' content every opportunity they got. When Don entered school at Fairview (now D. S. Johnson, where I have taught most of my career) the students were really puzzled when he and Phil met in the hall. Phil would always greet Don by saying, "Hey, Uncle Don". Since Phil was only in the third grade, it was amusing to everybody, except Don. Mother finally had to call Margaret and ask her to tell Phil to stop referring to Don as "Uncle Don" at school.
During my junior and senior years, Daddy was still running his painting and floor sanding business. During the latter part of his working years, Mother sold Avon. Even though they were busy with work and raising children, I can still picture Daddy sitting in his favorite lounge chair with mother sitting on his knee. I will cherish that memory forever, because it represents to me the love that permeated our family life.
I spent seven short, memorable years on Bedford Road before enrolling at East Carolina College in 1964. (It became East Carolina University in 1967, the year that I received my undergraduate degree.) I will never forget the day that I left home. Shirley had graduated two years earlier, and had been working at Davis and Company, which was across the street from Sutton's Grocery (which Daddy ran for a few months after he retired from his business). Shirley quit her job, sold her car, and enrolled at East Carolina that same year. C.T., at that time, was working at Friar Volkswagen. He got a Volkswagen van and loaded all of our things into it. Mother, Shirley, C.T. and I set out on what I thought was a long journey into the future. Mother laughed and sang all the way. C. T. said she cried all the way home. I know now, after having two daughters of my own, how she must have felt.
Even though Don was there after we left, he was in school during the day. It was then that Mother and Daddy began keeping children in their home. With Daddy retired, he still needed some extra income. Something also tells me that they had become so accustomed to being surrounded by children, that they needed the company. My friend, Wanda, can attest to what an excellent job they did, since they kept her son, Scott. Of course, they had a knack for taking care of children, because they had so much experience.
When I was a freshman at East Carolina, I was studying for Fall exams one Saturday when I received a phone call from Edd. He said that Eddie Wade was on his way to pick me up. I tried to convince him that I could not go home, but he insisted. I learned when Eddie Wade arrived that Daddy had died. As I rode with him back down that same road that carried me, it didn't seem so long as it did going. I was not so anxious to get there. I did have time to reflect, however, on how fortunate I was to have had such a kind, loving Daddy.
When I walked into
the living room that night, I remember Mother saying, "Daddy died--I
couldn't help it." And I know that, if she could have, she would
have kept him with her as long as she could. In fact, I think that she
was never quite the same after he died. I do remember her saying that
Don was the one who kept her going after Daddy's death. You see, her
children were at the heart of her being. What a wonderful feeling it
gives me as I record this on Mother's Day, May 11, 1991.