Keep Smiling with Rosie Preston – Snake chasers and rear-end paddlers

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By Rosie Preston

I once read a book called Why am I afraid to tell you who I am? I still own the book, which is tattered and torn and wrapped with a rubber band. I’ve not found the time to relegate it to the book cemetery.

I’ve never forgotten the book’s first few words, which was something to this effect: “If you see me now, and you saw me last week, do not expect me to be the same person. For I have lived and seen new things and places and experienced different emotions. Therefore, I am not the same person.”

We go through different stages, and with the aging process slowly creeping up on me, I can for sure understand the meaning of that passage. It reminds me of a lady who loved to read a column in a newspaper and thought she knew the author personally, since they were from the same small town. It turned out that when she met the author, it was a different lady with the same name. So that lady never really knew the author of the column at all.

That story inspired me to share a few tidbits of my own life. I was the first child born to my parents, Truman and Shirley Preston, who later had three more girls. My daddy was a brick mason, and my mother was a homemaker. I don’t remember much about my own birth, but while my younger sister was being born when I was age 3, I stayed with my aunt at my house, and we watched a huge tree blowing in the wind. I could barely wait to meet my little sister Luann.

When I was a young girl, we lived in a three-room house with a kitchen, a living area and a bedroom. Now don’t faint when I tell you this, but our potty was an outhouse! It scared me so much to have to use it. It was a dark and gloomy place, and I had a great fear of falling in or something dragging me down. I’ll never forget the house we moved into later on, because we had a bathroom complete with a bathtub, sink and a real toilet. I must have been fascinated because my Mawmaw told me I used to flush the toilet over and over until I wore myself out and fell asleep in the bathroom floor.

My mother and my Mawmaw took me and my sister to Bellevue Baptist Church, which at that time was located on Noccalula Drive and very small. Years down the road, a different piece of land was purchased and the new church was large two-story building. It was nice but plain compared to the way it looks today, with all the additions and making it what I call “fancy.”

My friend Sheila Hamlin and I would sing in front of the congregation. I had hoped that would lead to stardom, but because I can’t sing now, I’m sure I couldn’t then. During those days, ladies never wore pants to church, and it would be years before that was considered acceptable. I always loved getting dressed up for church, especially for Christmas and Easter. Between my grandparents and my aunts’ purchases, we were really decked out for the holidays!

We moved to Lay Springs Road when it was time for me to start first grade. I had to go to the edge of our driveway and walk across the street to ride a huge yellow bus. I was terrorized by the neighborhood boys, who chased me with snakes and whatever kind of bugs they could find. I don’t remember if my mother knew about that or not.

In my first two grades of school, I attended Highland Elementary School on Tabor Road. I had three best girlfriends – Brenda Ware, Sheila Hamlin and Amy Graves. I can tell you for sure that we were four little rascals, and I was put in the corner all the time for talking. My teacher once put blue tape on my mouth! The most unbelievable thing we did, and I don’t remember exactly who came up with the idea, was to think would be funny to hide in the woods. It wasn’t funny at all when our teacher called us in from recess and could not find us. She soon came out of the school swinging a wooden paddle. I was shaking in my shoes. Sure enough, we each received a paddling. Oh, the embarrassment and the shame! I never had a paddling after that.

The rags to riches part of this story comes in the way I dressed. In first and second grade, I was fortunate and wore very nice clothes and shoes. At least I thought as much until we moved to Harts Avenue and I had to start third grade at Mitchell Elementary School. There was not a school bus, so my mom had to take us to school. Within the first 10 minutes, I realized that the third graders were dressed to the hilt, with everyone seeming to have a pair of shoes to match their name brand clothes. I wanted to hang my head, but I eventually found some little girls just like myself who dressed in average style. That kind of social status continued through Disque Junior High and Gadsden High.

Luckily, Home Ec Classes were offered at Gadsden High, and my friends and I were enrolled for three years. Mind you, we could sew anything we wished, and no one could tell it wasn’t the expensive clothing. We all owned our own sewing machine and often went shopping for material and patterns.

One of the first things people asked me was how could I afford my clothes. Not only had I conquered sewing, I had become a consignment shop junkie and a thrift store shopper who always knew how to find great buys. My friends often say that I will go to a sales rack in a thrift store. Which is fine, because it is true!

In 1998, I started working at TV News Shopper, a guide for television channels. Writing led me to that job, as TV News started publishing articles I would send in. They eventually hired me, and I loved being the butterfly as I went from store to store selling advertising. I was often complimented on my choice of clothing.

When my daughter Rachel was a teenager, I was driving a VW bus to bring children to and from school to my day care center. One day after picking Rachel up from school, I told her we were going to stop at a thrift store. She hit the floor and left me talking to myself at a red light. At least, it looked that way. Obviously, she refused to go in with me.

We later went to the Gadsden Mall where she found a shirt for $40. I told her I would buy it for her if she would go to a consignment shop with me. She did, where she found four shirts all for a total price of $40. I still find time to find nice clothes for me and my grandchildren and now great-grandchildren, who love to go ‘thrifting’ with me.

Now, if I had only kept all of the pennies I saved, I may indeed be rich!

Keep smiling, Rosie

Contact Rosie Preston at rosie.preston@yahoo.com.

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