Mary Alice Jun15


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Mary Alice

One of the things I most wish to impart with the Laloba page is tribal knowledge. Women’s knowledge — that special knowledge that civilized human beings, particularly Americans, don’t have (or even know they need) anymore. . .

When my aunts were growing up in Blue Ridge there were grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins everywhere (and not a few skeletons, if you get my drift), but the bank of life knowledge that was available to them was huge and diverse. . .

Mary Alice Mashburn-McClelland, at her high school graduation

Mary Alice Mashburn-McClelland, at her high school graduation

When I was growing up the sisters had moved away from Fannin County and settled in Cobb and Dawson Counties. Visits to my grandmother’s house were frequent when I was a child, but after age 5, she wasn’t in my life every day, nor were my cousins, or my aunts.

In other cultures (cultures that are considered uncivilized by our sophisticated standards) there are tribes of people who give each adult a responsibility to the children born to that tribe.

One elder might know when to plant crops and how to grow them well; another may have a special talent for hunting, and with some women it is child-bearing and child-rearing knowledge that they share.

Someone teaches each child how to get along in their world, how to shoot a bow, clean a fish, nurture a child. Nothing an adult is required to do is left to chance to learn, or perhaps not learn. They see to it that their young are prepared to meet the world and conquer it.

One of the prettiest women in Blue Ridge, circa 1954

One of the prettiest women in Blue Ridge, circa 1954

This is my Aunt Alice. She is Alice within the Mashburn tribe and Mary, or Mary Alice outside it. My mother and her sisters were known as the prettiest girls in Fannin County. Easy to understand isn’t it?

There have been some people in my life who gave me that special gift of love and nurture that a child requires. Alice is one of those special few. She was the only woman I ever saw nurse a child when I was a child. The ONLY woman.

When I asked burning questions about a cousin, she answered them. In a straightforward, honest and down-to-earth fashion. Sex was the issue, & parentage, and lies.  And none of that mattered in her love for him.

When I asked her what my father looked like, because I hadn’t seen him since I was five, and I had forgotten, she said, “Look in a mirror. You’ll see him.” I spent hours after that wetting my hair and combing it like a boy, to see him.

When he died without meeting my two youngest children, and I mourned that for him and for them, and for me – she pointed out that he could have been a father to me if he’d chosen to. But he hadn’t.

And so I hope I have given some of that special gift to my own children, and perhaps passed on some of that knowledge I’ve amassed raising the six of them to those women who have come to me, as I went to her.