Little Miss Priss

July 19, 2010 | My Jottings

My mom was thirty-five years old when she had me. I was a surprise to our family, and the news of my mom’s pregnancy was apparently not especially welcome, as she and my dad did not have a very solid marriage.

When I was in my twenties I was blessed to have a short visit with the older woman who had been my parents’ next door neighbor when I was born. Her name was Ruby Greener, and she was also the first Sunday School teacher I ever had at the First Baptist Church of Covina. I vividly remember Mrs. Greener teaching a roomful of three and four year-olds how to sing “This Little Light of Mine” and how demonstrative she was when she whisked her cupped hand (bushel) away from her pointed index finger (her little light) and sang, “Hide it under a bushel? NO! I’m gonna let it shine!…”

Anyway, decades later an elderly Mrs. Greener told me that my mother had confided in her over the fence that separated their houses, and cried when she shared that she was pregnant. Mrs. Greener remembered my mother hanging laundry out to dry, and visiting with her on a sunny southern California winter day, and Mom weeping at the sorrows in her life. My brothers were fifteen and ten years old when I was born, and I think Mom thought she was done having children. Mrs. Greener told me that my mother looked at her desperately and cried, “If I only knew I was having a little girl I think I could bear this better!”

It made me sad to know that things were bad with my parents so early on. From my lofty perch now (the ripe old age of fifty-two) I can say without hesitation that I know what was at the bottom of my parents’ woes: selfishness. I am not trying to disparage them — they loved me and showed me over and over that they did. And I love and miss my mom and dad. But even though their troubles might have had other names to them (maybe workaholism, depression, anger, poor communication, mishandling of finances, pride, whatever) there had to be one bedrock problem contributing to all of it – selfishness. On both sides.

If ever there is tension in my own marriage I can trace it to selfishness in some way. If I love my husband unselfishly and he loves me unselfishly, things go well. When I start thinking it’s time for me to have my say or get my way, things deteriorate. I’m a very selfish person and being unselfish does not come easy for me, yet it makes me happier when I am. But I digress.

When I was little and asked my mom how I came to be, she smiled and said, “I prayed and asked God to give us a little girl.” I don’t doubt the truth of her answer. She may not have prayed for a third pregnancy, but I’m certain that once she realized a third child was coming, she did pray and ask God to give her a girl. And anyone who knew my mom would remember that she doted on me, dressed me fine, encouraged me, sacrificed for me and showed me in a zillion ways that she was glad I was her little girl.

I had Easter hats and ruffled socks and new patent leather shoes every year. I had ribbons in my hair (but no bangs, if she had anything to say about it, which she did) and ruffles on my blouses. I had pleated skirts and fur collars on my coats. My mother starched and ironed my dresses and put curlers in my hair for special occasions. I was tomboyish too, but my scrapbooks are filled with photos of me mostly all dressed up and smiling for the camera.

This photo was taken when I was nearly five years old, and it sat with two others in a trio of frames on my parents’ dresser in their bedroom. My mom took me to her hairdresser, Mabel, to have my hair done specifically for the photography session. The dress I wore was white and was topped with a lavender colored little cape with a fake carnation on it. The photographer tossed a ball at me and I caught it, and the twinkle in my eye from that shot made my mom choose that photo for one of the three that was in their room. Another photo was of me looking pensive, reading a Little Golden Book.

And this one is of me looking like Little Miss Priss.

My hair truly never looked like this again. I came home, threw off my dress and flowered cape, put on some shorts and a tee-shirt, and went off riding my two-wheeler with training wheels down our quiet neighborhood street. I had people to see, dogs to pet, books to read, and dirt to play in.

Now, every time I look at old photos (and I’m going through them slowly these days) I remember my mama, and how she prayed so earnestly that she would have a girl. And how once she saw that prayer was answered, she did everything in her power to make sure I was dressed and treated like one.

Did your mom ever take you to the beauty parlor or make you wear a purple cape?


  1. Ember says:

    There is a photo of me at aged seven. I look completely inscrutable and slightly scary.

    Re couples – communication seems to be the key thing: the ability to see things from the other person’s point of view.

    It intrigues me how often someone ditches their partner and then finds a clone of the first one to marry 2nd time round.

    But what has unsettled me more is something I’ve seen a few times recently, where a woman has a genuine disappointment to face in her relationship with her husband, but instead of seeking reconciliation and doing the work it takes to reach forgiveness, escalates the initial problem into a kind of war, determined to hurt and damage her man in every possible way without regard of what it will do to her own children.
    It’s like a kind of hatred takes over her mind. :0(

    Perhaps it happens with men too; it’s just I’ve noticed it happening with women.

  2. Larry says:

    While I was looking at the young photo of you and your calling your self little “Miss Priss”, I think back when I too felt you were my little “Miss Priss” and the days we would take a ride together or go to the beach together or when you would dance with me as I would hold you in my arms being blessed that I had a younger “Little Sis”. When my daughter came along I did the same with her and would often also think of you and how much she looks like you and how she likes to read like you. She use to step up on my shoes and would dance with me too or I would also hold her up so I could look into her eyes as we would dance and I could see how proud she was dancing with her par par just like you did dancing with your big brother.

    Oh the memories 🙂


  3. Pat says:

    What a darling picture of you! It makes me want to see the other ones you mentioned. You were an incredible blessing to both your parents, and I’m sure they thanked God for that unexpected pregnancy! Bring some of your childhood pictures to the next SAGs…

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