(Unless otherwise noted, the Kathryn Tucker Windham blog is written by her children, Ben Windham and Dilcy Windham Hilley.)
One sweltering July Sunday in Selma, Alabama, my mother wore mink to church.
As a rule, the three young Windham children were vigilant about remembering our mother’s June birthday. But one year, we forgot.
On other birthdays, we’d worked in secret, weaving potholders or making elaborate drawings of battle scenes. But this June 2, school was letting out, band camp was about to begin, and the city pool was open. And we forgot my mother’s birthday.
Sometime in the early part of July, in a miraculous moment when my sister Kitti’s mind turned from boys in bathing suits to her family, she said to brother Ben and me, “Oh good Lord. We forgot Mother’s birthday!”
Guilt-stricken, we gathered our savings together and set out on a Saturday morning to make things right. At Woolworth’s.
After close inspection of Evening in Paris cologne and other exotic possibilities, Kitti selected the most perfect present in the universe---a pair of mink earrings. I guess they were real mink. The cardboard they were clipped to said MINK EARRINGS. We had just enough savings to purchase these high-end fluffs of elegance.
We wrapped them and presented them to Mother that night, apologizing for the oversight a month earlier. Mother appeared delighted, saying she could hardly wait to wear them to church the next day. And she did. She wore her hair short, and those furry muffs must have grabbed the attention of more than one fashion-conscious woman in the congregation. I doubt Mother cared one whit.
After Mother died and we were sorting through her house, I opened her top dresser drawer where she kept all things special. There, wrapped in a cotton handkerchief, were a pair of tattered, shedding mink earrings…worn to church one sweltering Sunday in Selma, Alabama.
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"Some people are important to intellectuals, journalists, or politicians, but Kathryn Tucker Windham is probably the only person I know in Alabama who is important to everybody."
–Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University.
Dilcy Windham Hilley
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