Saturday, January 31, 2009

Religious nepotism

Hi, I'm Elizabeth Scanlon Thomas (everyone knew me as 'Tizzy' when I lived in Natchez). Thank you, Casey Ann, for asking me to contribute to this blog. I grew up in Natchez but moved away when I was 12 and still miss the place so much. I married an Englishman and live outside London now, but still pine for Southern food, friends and the azaleas in bloom in the springtime in Natchez.

Here's one of my memories of growing up in Natchez:

One of my mother's favourite things was teaching Sunday school to first graders at Trinity Episcopal Church in Natchez. She would let me re-arrange the felt figures on the board after she had taught a lesson so I could make Job sit in the sky, for example, or whatever I wanted the Biblical characters to do.

When I was old enough to be in her class, I felt so grown up. I had perfect attendance, but so did another girl. That was a problem for Mom because she got to select the cast for the Nativity play at Christmas, and every girl wanted to be Mary.

My mother thought and thought about it, and finally she decided that she would give the role to her daughter, even if everyone thought it was complete nepotism. I was thrilled with her choice. I wore her light blue silk bathrobe and used my cherished Thumbelina doll as the baby Jesus.

It was one of those perfect childhood moments I had the day I was Mary in the Nativity. But do you know that my mother felt a bit guilty about that, even after all those years? She would say, as if to re-assure herself, "but you were my daughter, after all, and you had been to every lesson...."


Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, welcome to the blog. What years did you live in Natchez?

Casey Ann said...

This is a great story! What a dilemma your mother had. I'm not sure what I would have done.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Anonymous, I lived in Natchez during the 1960s -- moved away in 1970 -- it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I never got over leaving that place -- my father moved us to Kansas. Can you imagine? From the green mysterious lushness of Natchez to the flat wheat fields of Kansas?

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, I can very well imagine! I grew up in Kansas among those very flat fields of wheat. My father was one of those wheat farmers and it was an incredible childhood. I remember so well walking for what seemed miles, exploring the sand dunes, searching and finding arrowheads, pocketing lizards to take back home. Open sky and flat stretches of plains with rare interruption creates such a sense of freedom and openness.

And then, I encountered Natchez and couldn't believe any place could be so lovely. Your description "...mysterious...lushness" is so befitting. In fact sometimes so lush it's like eating too much chocolate cake and so much green that at times, claustrophobic. Occasionally I'm so ready to take a break from the place but then after a few days away I find myself trying to figure out how and when to get back home.

I'm fascinated that you went from Natchez to Kansas. Where in Kansas, if I may ask? gwen ball

Elizabeth said...

I knew what you were going to say the minute you said you'd lived in Kansas -- that the lushness of Mississippi with the kudzu and greenery was claustrophobic. When I complained about the flatness of Kansas, the natives replied that they couldn't stand to live in Miss where you can't see for miles and miles. I'd never thought of it that way before. I lived in Halstead, about an hour from Wichita. Pop 2,000.

Gwen said...

Thank you for your reply, Elizabeth...and welcome back to Natchez via the blog. Perhaps you'll be back for a visit and I'll get to meet you.

Yes, Halstead is familiar but not sure I've been there unless was on my way to and fro Wichita. I was a student at Wesley School of Nursing in Wichita many years ago. My sister lived in the Wichita area and her husband grew up there.

And here you are now living in England! What a story. I look forward to your future contributions to the blog.

Marty Ellerbe said...

Thanks for sharing this little memory with us Elizabeth. Please send some more, if you have any you'd care to open up to others.