By Gelene Simpson
Corsicana Daily Sun
I met Edwina White when she came to the Newcomers Club. My daddy was a twin, and Edwina and her twin Glenna really struck a chord in my heart. Over the years I have enjoyed reading and rereading all the antics of the twins in Edwina’s hilarious book “Twin Tracks.” In fact I have just about memorized some parts of it because many of her experiences growing up were much like mine.
Our family, like many others in Corsicana, delighted in hearing that familiar voice calling “HOT Tamales!” Of course, it referred to Carpenters tamales. Although Edwina’s family ate hot tamales from Phinis, who delivered his wares in a two-wheeled cart in her hometown of Clarksville, the experience was probably much the same. The aroma was delicious even before we got the tamales into our mouths.
My daddy grew up in Oklahoma, and farmers there grew watermelons. Edwina’s book tells about their friends Papa and Mama Tum and how Papa Tum would “bust out a watermelon.” If I didn’t know it was Edwina’s experience, I could almost believe she was describing how our daddy cut the watermelons on our kitchen table. She said that first Papa Tum would locate “just the right spot to make his cut. He’d stab it hard in the middle with the blade pointing toward his stomach and give it a hefty tug. He’d pick the melon up between his big hands and bounce it gently on that table and it would bust open into two big, red, almost-perfect halves.”
The most intriguing part about eating watermelon is what to do with the seeds. Of course, the polite thing to do is to scrape the seeds out before eating the watermelon slice. But the fun part for children was the quick game of spitting the seeds at one another.
On the particular day in question, Edwina’s father had invited the grammar school principal Miss Ella and her sister, Miz Mason, the Avon lady, to join the party which was held outside in the yard.
Now, if the truth were told, Edwina admitted that she and Glenna were sort of afraid of Miss Ella or maybe they were just “in awe of her.” She made everyone kind of nervous “like she sort of put a spell on all the grown-ups and made them even more watchful.” She seemed to be able to read their minds. Edwina’s mother became more anxious than usual for the girls not to get messy in front of these ladies. She kept reminding them to avoid getting “drippings on their jumpers” and sticky spots “under their chins.” But the girls still managed to get away with spitting some seeds when no one was looking, even though Miss Ella’s presence really “put a kink in things.”
It all hinged on the fact that “Miss Ella was one of the most important people in Clarksville.” And Edwina thought at the time that Miss Ella had never done anything wrong in her life. She had beautiful white hair which she “piled high on her head in a wavy mound like shampoo lather.” She wore long skirts, and her dresses all had “long sleeves, ruffles at the neck or on the front.” She had a “big cameo pin” at her neck and a “round silver spool” with a chain holding “slender little eye-glasses.” Her lace handkerchief was “in her pocket or tucked under the cuffs of her sleeves.” Straight and very slender, she never had to raise her voice because “everyone paid attention.”
I can remember the temptation to spit watermelon seeds at someone just for fun, but never when someone important was present. Edwina and Glenna probably “inspired one another in this activity.” So even though Edwina admitted it wasn’t a good idea to start a seed-spitting contest, with this formidable lady present, she couldn’t resist the temptation to uphold her title of champion seed spitter. Soon several boys and girls were “sending seed bullets in her directions in earnest.”
Edwina admitted to “getting most of the pounding.” You can see how she simply had to defend herself, can’t you? So she lined up a bunch of seeds in her mouth and “let them go, 90 miles an hour.” It became apparent that nobody was firing back.
A hush fell over the gathering, and Edwina looked around to see what was the matter. Her father had a look of “accusing anger.” She looked at her mother and finally to Miss Ella. When she met Miss Ella’s gaze, she “saw on her forehead a big black seed.” Of course she was “shocked and humiliated and tried to think of what to say or do.” But, wonder of wonders, Miss Ella had a “trace of a smile around the corners of her mouth as she brushed the seed away and nodded to Edwina.” Evidently, “Miss Ella had forgiven Edwina’s foolish behavior.”
As a future teacher, Edwina saw that Miss Ella could teach a lesson even outside of school. Who knows but what this childhood experience had much to do with the spirit of fun which Edwina herself carried with her everywhere she went and inspired others to do the same.
Gelene Simpson is a Daily Sun columnist. Her column appears on Tuesdays.