Cecile Dixon: Memoir : Nov 2021

Southern Legitamacy Statement I was born and raised in a part of the country not thought of a typically southern. I was raised in Estill County, Kentucky, which lies beside the Kentucky River at the foothills of the rugged Appalachian Mountains. I have always thought of Kentucky as a bastard child of the south. The south doesn’t claim Kentucky in proper society, but we who live there know we belong to the south just the same. Listen to our speech and after three words you know we are related closer to Tennessee and Georgia than we could ever be to our northern cousins. I grew up drinking sweet tea and eating cornbread. I say Mam and Sir. I know what kudzu is and I have tasted moonshine fresh from a still. Now it don’t matter much what you think, because I know I am Southern.

Purple Glitter and the Harper Valley PTA

Today Harper Valley PTA came on the radio and as I listened to the familiar words I was taken back to a time long before Jeanne Sealy belted out the words.  Back to being a little girl in Mrs. Griffin’s second grade class.

I don’t remember anything much about the day before story time, but I remember this particular story time well.  Mrs. Griffin was reading.  I can’t remember what book.  This in itself is unusual because I remember many books Mrs. Griffin read, A Penny’s Worth of Character, Charlotte’s Web and Black Beauty were among my favorites.

Perhaps I really wasn’t listening because my tiny little girl bladder was bursting.  Maybe I’d been too busy socializing to go to the restroom after lunch.  Maybe I hadn’t had the urge during break time.  Maybe I’d drunk extra milk at lunch.  Or just maybe all kids bladders weren’t synched with Mrs. Griffin’s schedule. 

Whatever the reason I was miserable.  I raised my hand.  Without pausing, Mrs. Griffin motioned negatively.  I slowly lowered my hand.  I squirmed in my seat trying to find a position that didn’t hurt.  No use.  I needed to pee.  Slowly I raised my hand for the second time.  This time without pausing in the reading, Mrs. Griffin glared at me.  Timidly I lowered my hand.  I squeezed my thighs together as tight as I could.  I pushed my balled up fist against my crotch under my desk.  Nothing helped.  I so desperately needed to pee.

I braved Mrs. Griffin’s wrath again and very slowly raised my hand again.  She ignored me and kept reading.  I thought maybe she didn’t see my hand, so I waved it, just a little.  She ignored me.  I really had to pee.  Urine began to leak onto my panties.  I kept my hand hopefully raised.  Tears wet my cheeks.  Mrs. Griffin read on.

I could feel the warm wetness spread under my butt.  I sobbed silently.  Urine ran down the backs of my knees.  Mrs. Griffin read in her best teacher voice.  I was so ashamed.  I lowered my face and cried.  Urine dripped onto the floor and tears dripped onto my desk.  Still I held my hand up like a good little girl.

Kathy, who sat behind me and wasn’t as good as me spoke up, “Mrs. Griffin, Cecile peed her pants and it’s running down the aisle and it’s gonna get on my shoes.”  Kathy sounded hysterical and everyone else laughed.

Mrs. Griffin stomped down the aisle and looked at the river of pee before hauling me to the office.  They called my mother and told her I’d wet my pants, without telling the whole story.   Because my clothes were wet I had to stand in the corner behind the secretary’s desk and wait for my mother to get there.  It took a while because she was at work and time moves slower when you’ve peed your pants.

Finally, my mama marched in, took my hand and led me to her car.  She didn’t even care that my bottom was wet.  I sat my wet bottom on the seat of her baby blue Comet.  On the way home I explained the whole story.  I told her all about raising my hand three times.  I told her how Mrs. Griffin ignored me.  Three times.

At home she helped me quickly change my clothes.  “Hurry,” she said as she tugged my wet panties over my thighs, “I got to get back to work.”

“I don’t wanna go back to school,” I whined.  “Everybody was laughing.”

“Don’t worry, I give them something new to talk about,” she said as we climbed back into the Comet.

At school we didn’t even stop at the principal’s office.  We headed straight up the hallway and into the classroom.  Mrs. Griffin was at the blackboard doing addition tables and she turned as Mama flung the door open.

“Go on take your seat,” Mama pushed me toward my seat and I sat down.  I was relieved to see that the urine river had been mopped up.

In front of the whole room my mama said to me, “If you ever have to piss,” (Everyone giggled at the piss word.) “raise your hand if she,” Mama glared at Mrs. Griffin, “doesn’t let you, get up and go anyway.  Then go to the office and call me.”

For the first time I looked at my mama.  She was so pretty in her purple mini dress.  Her black hair was piled high on top of her head in curls.  It must have been a special occasion because Geneva, down at the beauty shop had sprinkled purple glitter in my mama’s hair to match her dress.  I was so glad she was my mama.

Mama took a couple of steps toward Mrs. Griffin the heels of her white go-go boots clicked on the tile.  “If I ever have to leave work for bullshit like this, you’ll answer to me.  Got it?”  The little doily curls in front of Mama’s ears bounced.

Mrs. Griffin suddenly dulled beside my mama.  Her pink A-line dress and make-up-less face looked boring beside the glow that was my mama.  “Yes,” she squeaked. 

Once again Mama turned toward me, “I’ll see you at home.”   She turned and walked out of the room, her go-go boots fast clicking down the hall.

Mama was right.  She gave them something else to talk about.  That afternoon in the bus line the girls all gathered around me to tell me how pretty my mama was and how her clothes looked like they came from a magazine.   The boys laughed and quoted my mama saying piss and bullshit to Mrs. Griffin.

From that day throughout the rest of second grade, Mrs. Griffin always asked me what I needed each time I raised my hand.  I think she asked all the other kids too, when they raised their hands.  Maybe my mama taught Mrs. Griffin something that day.