August 29, 2010 3:47:00 AM
David Creel -
I grew up the youngest of four boys in a small country town just east of Hattiesburg, with dirt roads beneath my bare feet and where cutoffs were a positive fashion statement. My older brothers are Richard, John and Tony -- good old American names, I have always thought.
So, yes, I was "the baby." We never outgrow being the baby, and even now when I call my mama on the phone, Daddy summons her by yelling, "Your baby is on the phone." Never mind that I am 38 years old. It''s just one of those things that never changes, and I love hearing it, I confess.
Being the baby came with special entitlements -- a shiny red sports car at 15, a diamond-encrusted class ring that had to be special ordered, and, most important, birth-to-now never been able to do anything wrong status, at least in their eyes. I think it''s because my parents knew I was the caboose, the last hooray, their final chance to "get it right," and by all accounts this meant spoil him rotten! I had no problem with that, of course.
It has made me closer to my mama. I am thankful for that. Richard truly got everything first since he was the oldest. John wore Richard''s old football uniform, which later became Tony''s Halloween costume. Tony also showed up in several yearbook photos wearing a familiar striped Lacoste polo from prior years and, yes, he even carried John''s old used trumpet to elementary band practice.
As the "little brothers," we all piled into Richard''s 1980 Toyota hatchback on far too many cold mornings, heading into town on the way to school, stopping only twice after being told by Mama and Daddy to stop nowhere. First we picked up John''s girlfriend, Deana Kay Brown, and the other stop was at Cody''s Country Store to get chewing gum and a cherry Coke in the bottle. Mama would not be pleased if she knew what my older brothers exposed me to from the backseat of that ugly car, from cool girlfriends to fast cars ... or was it the other way around?
They had hand-me-downs, and I had brand new Guess jeans, Polo eyeglasses, not one but three or four Swatch watches, and an in-ground swimming pool. Well, Daddy put in the pool for all of us, but I am pretty sure it was at my request. I cried with joy, literally, each fall when the Spiegel catalog was stuffed into our mailbox. I was only 8.
Being the youngest also afforded me alone time with Mama. I can still remember the times we stood inside the walk-in closet selecting for her the "right" pair of black dress pants or shoes. My mama had more shoes than Alexis from "Dynasty," or so it seemed. Most of her clothes still had the price tags attached, usually with a small ticket complete with a handwritten, "Thanks, Lou," from Mrs. Evelyn at our town''s department store.
Our favorite thing in the whole entire world was to go shopping at the old Casey''s Department Store on Front Street in Richton, where the door had one of those little bells to alert Mrs. Evelyn that we had arrived with my daddy''s American Express card.
I learned everything I know about fashion from Mama and Mrs. Evelyn. Never wear white after Labor Day; gold jewelry is the finishing touch for every outfit; shirts without pins, cardboard and tissue are simply not worth having; and full-length dressing mirrors are the only kind worth using.
But the best part was the time spent with my mama. Those moments were truly the gifts. So, I guess the moral of this rambling story is that whether it was my new red sports car or those overpriced clothes in Mama''s closet, the ones we knew to hide from Daddy, great gifts sometimes come with purchase -- and even greater ones without.
Former Columbus resident David Creel owns Beautiful With David salon in Jackson and has 20 years experience in the beauty industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.