Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Little Mary Phagan

Little Mary Phagan, she went to town one day
She went to the pencil factory, she went to get her pay
She left her home at eleven, she kissed her mother goodbye
Not one time did the poor child think that she was goin' to die...

Have you ever heard of this song? (complete lyrics here)
Well, my Mom and grandma used to sing that song to me when I was little. And each time they'd sing it, I'd always hope that this time, Mary would get away and make it home. I actually never knew the whole story until I was older. I guess maybe it's one of those southern things, but it's still interesting to read, to me anyway.

What brought that up is that it was mentioned last night at dinner. We went to O'Charley's for Mom's birthday. (Yes, I know, they had screwed me twice and I hadn't been there in nearly two years, but that's where she wanted to go. It actually turned out to be decent.) I decided to surprise Mom by inviting some of her siblings to dinner with us. So it ended up being Mom, my sister and her husband, two of Mom's sisters, one of Mom's brothers, his wife, their two kids, and me. So ten of us in all.

Almost anytime any of my Mom's family is together, talk will eventually turn to things from their past, from my past. Much of it is repetitive, but I still love to remember it, and to hear them tell it. And occasionally, someone will mention something that I hadn't heard before, and I learn something new, about my family, my heritage. I don't get to see my aunts and uncles and cousins as much as I did when I was a kid. I guess everyone gets busier, and life gets in the way sometimes. But I have learned to cherish those times more now. I was looking at my aunt last night. When I was little, I always thought she was one of the prettiest women in the world. She's 53 now. Still looks about 40. But everyone is getting older. Myself included.

Another story that got brought up is a game my grandma used to play. Living out in the country, with no stores nearby, and no toys around, we pretty much created our own fun. Fishing in the pond, or skating on it in our shoes when it froze over, exploring in the woods, throwing rocks, etc. Anyhow, sometimes she'd play this game which would pacify us for long periods of time. You'd sit in her lap and she'd pat you on the back, singing: "Jicama, Jicama, (pronouncing it Hick-uh-muh Jick-uh-muh) honey cups, how many fingers do I hold up?" And you'd guess a number between 1 and 5. And she'd say something like, "Four you said and two it was. Jicama, Jicama, honey cups, how many fingers do I hold up?" And it would go on. Until you remembered something fun you could be doing outside. Or until she got a phone call from some family member. Her phone kept her in contact with everyone. And I remember everytime I would think I had her guessed right, she'd pull out the ol' "One you said and NONE it was." Argh! Such a trickster was she. I miss her.

Mom had come by to pick me up last night because she was test driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee. On the way home, she told me, "I didn't know all them were gonna be there. That was a surprise. I never get to see them anymore. I liked that as much as anything."

Me too.

"Remember when the days were long, and rolled beneath a deep blue sky. Didn't have a care in the world, with Mommy and Daddy standing by..."


  1. That song is just wrong. Lil Bootay

  2. That song IS wrong! I've never heard it before. You 'Bama people are weird! ;)

    I like family get togethers like that, too.. remembering old times, games, songs... it's absolutely fabulous. Glad you got to have your family together like that.

  3. You know, that's kind of a morbid song they sang to you. It's a miracle you turned out to be such an obviously-well-balanced young man.

  4. i agree with LB and TB.

    Apparently Armadedes doesn't know you as well as LB and I.


  5. Good to hear from ya, Bootay!

    Hmm. I guess that song is a little morbid. It was just kind of a folk song that was sung to me.

  6. I think its all lovely... just lovely... (I mean think about the words to London Bridges or Ring Around the Rosy... they are ALL songs about death)... thats what they give us to play with as kids... kinda scary.

    Glad you had a great time with your family.

    Enjoyed it as much as anything.

    Love it!

  7. Wait! I thought that was a Don Henley song. What am I thinkin?

    Good story as always. It was nice of you to surprise your mom like that. You're a good son!

  8. hey i rememeber those games and yeah we use to have some fun times with our granparents didn,t we? i miss my grandparents but i know that they are in a better place you know?well i,m glad that your mother had a wonderful birthday.your a wonderful son to your mom and dad so stay sweet and you,ll go far in life and may god bless you.

  9. Folk songs! Wonderful things that tell stories from days gone by. Whether morbid or not, they are an important part of history. It's fantastic that you remember such wonderful things about your grandmother and your childhood. You're such a good boy to your mommy. I hope my son is that sweet one day.

  10. Java: Wow, we posted nine seconds apart. That's odd.

    OCG: Thanks. I guess I didn't know, or had forgotten about, the stories behind those songs.

    Carnealian: The Good Son... wasn't that a movie? ;-)

    Anonymous: Thank you. Glad someone remembers those games.

    Lass: Thanks. I'm sure he will be. I think that I always tend to remember the good from the past...

  11. Bone, wasn't that a "scary" Good Son??? What are you trying to say here? :)

  12. Yes, that was a scary movie, I think. That's just what I thought of when you said I'm a good son.

  13. hey my dad used to sing "sad sad and lonely, out of these prison walls I will fly..."

    neither my sister, I or any of our cousins thought that was weird until one day when I was grown up and found out that other fathers would sing "you are my sunshine," and other songs dealing with love not jail

    Great story Bone,made me all nostaligic

  14. Family is so important - and yes, time goes by fast and we all get so much busier. Enjoy each and every moment. I'm glad you had fun with your mom and family -also, kudos to you for planning the surprise of having her siblings there - good job.

  15. the West Texan7/04/2008 10:47:00 PM

    I guess Texas folksaare weird, too. My dad sang Little Mary Phagan to me when I was a child, only I could only remember the first verse. He also sang "The Fate of Floyd Collins" another morbid, true song. Also the "Wreck on Old 97". They didn't seem to harm me.. Although I sang the last two to my childre, I didn't sing the Mary Phagan song. Guess I thought it might give them nightmare..

  16. I love that song. I have an old 78 RPM record with Little Mary Phagan on one sode and the Death of Floyd Collins on the other. My mom told me that the wrong man was hanged for Mary's murder. Wow, memories....
    Harry n Texas

  17. Oh my goodness...my grandmother sang this song to me hundreds of times when I was a child. She left out some of the written lyrics, but it was always one of my favorites! I didn't realize until today (an adult in my 50's)that it was actually a folk song... thought she made it up just for me!! Yes, I'm a Southerner and the song didn't adversely affect me at all!!

  18. Look at the musical 'Parade', and research the story of Leo Frank.
    His name was cleared, but the angry antisemitic Texans of that time stole him out of prison and lynched him.

    According to most historians and research critics (and myself), he wasn't the killer, poor man.