Saturday, November 29, 2014

Strong Women

Daddy always told me to marry a strong woman. It is long tradition in our family that the Hodge men wed wives who are above average in terms of physicality and energy. When my Uncle Alfred was sick, nearing death, and could no longer walk, his wife used to pick him up and physically carry him across the road they lived on to a pond so he could fish. Aunt Edress, bless her heart, was strong.

My grandmother, Elsie Hodge, once responded to the idea of men doing domestic duties by saying, "I had six brothers and six sons and I never asked a man to do anything around the house." She was strong.

Last Christmas at Mom's, my brother's wife, Rebecca, toted firewood, a lot of it, so we could build a fire and feed it the whole holiday. Rebecca is strong.
My brother and his strong wife, Rebecca.

When we were younger, my wife once owned a three-wheeled lawn mower. That's right, one of the wheels got broken off from over use. And it was not a self-propelled kind either. Sweet Penny could mow the lawn with that thing that had only one front wheel. She was strong in those days, strong.

About my momma, Dad says that though she was not physically strong, she was indeed headstrong. She built cabinets in our home. She built a bathroom in the cabin in Carroll County. She built shelves in the storage room. She could do just about anything and she did it because she was strong.

 Life is better, Dad used to say, if your wife is as strong as you are. You don't have to help move as much stuff and pick up heavy objects if your wife can do it herself.

My wife, even today, can take a fifty pound bag of dog food out of a grocery cart and load it into the back of her truck. She can do the same with a case of drinking water. She can even push real good if the truck runs out of gas. She is strong.

My sister is strong too. When I was in the seventh grade, she beat me up. I was bloodied and broken. After a trip to the doctor, I had the middle finger on my right hand splinted to give me a six week perpetual bird.

Over and over people asked, "What happened?"

"My sister beat me up," I would embarrassingly answer. "In our family, the women are strong."

My cousin, Roger Dale Hodge, used to visit us (back when I lived with Mom and Dad) with his wife. She unloaded all the luggage while Roger Dale began visiting. She was tall and strong and could womanhandle a heavy suitcase.

Jo Jo Hodge had two wives-- not at the same time-- both of them strong ladies who could work a garden, kill a snake with a rake, and tote watermelons wherever they needed toting. His father taught him to marry strong.

My cousin Clark Hodge had a wife once. I didn't know her but someone told me she was good-looking and strong.

My uncle Durant Hodge was visiting Dad once when he saw this thing, I don't know what it is called, but it is a heavy piece of cloth with handles on each end. We use it to carry firewood from the back yard into the house.

"What's that?' he asked after spying it lying innocently on the floor.

"It's a wood-toter," Dad answered.

"I need to get Pearl one of those," was his reply.

Aunt Pearl was strong.

My cousin, Roy Ray Hodge, had a wife who could move all the furniture that needed moving when the family gathered at Mamaw's on Christmas. She could move couches, set up tables, and direct parking in the back yard. She was strong.

My Uncle C. D. had a lovely wife. I always wondered how he got her because I thought she was way too pretty for him. Aunt Mary once said, "Not a single Hodge man deserved the wife he got. Not a one of them." C.D. (His full name was C. D. Hodge before the military forced him to make those letters stand for something) certainly didn't. Not only was Aunt Doris nice looking, but she could help him launch a boat, load a three-wheeler, move a picnic table, scale fish. She was strong.

Time and space forbids me to tell of Hodge wives who changed flat tires, bore babies, roofed houses, skinned deer, hoed gardens, shelled peas, repaired porches, set the timing on the tractor, mowed lawns with three-wheel mowers, pushed trucks out of ditches, shoveled gravel, fixed bicycle flats, baited trot lines, cut down trees, and wore high-heels to church on Sunday. I just want y'all to know how proud I am of all of you. Aunt Mary was right: not a one of us has ever deserved you. God bless you, and may a Hodge man fix your plate and bring you a cup of tea. And Rebecca, I'm proud of my brother for buying you that nice lawn mower. I helped raise that boy, and when he did that he made me proud.