Feb 262010
 
Gettin’ Her Ozella Up

I’ve decided to continue writing about my mother’s side of the family. Their eccentric ways have given me so much material, it would be criminal not to share more with you.

My grandmother’s name was Ozella Maud Spencer Cox. Family members and close friends called her Zell. If you think that just might be the most awful, countrified name you’ve ever heard, check out her sisters’ names: Mattie Lou, Annie Mae, Edna Dora, and Fanny Leona. Ozella married my grandfather, Willie Mack (Mack to friends and family), when she was 13 because it was a way for her to get out of the cotton fields. Can a girl get more country than that?

My grandmother Zell was a tiger! She was bossy, aggressive, and loud, especially when she was drunk. And she was drunk a lot of the time. They lived in a tiny Texas town where everyone knew everybody else’s business, and my mother was constantly embarrassed by her parents’ alcoholism. Ozella and Mack always fought while drinking, and Ozella often won. They had their fair share of vicious verbal arguments, but they also had knock-down, drag-out fist fights. Zell was a strong, large-framed woman, and poor old Mack weighed about a buck thirty dripping wet, so the fights were pretty fair. One time, she stabbed him. According to my mother’s account of the story, Ozella “gutted Daddy pretty good,” but Mattie Lou managed to “tie his stomach up” until the doctor arrived. I’m not entirely sure what that stomach tying procedure entailed, but it sounds gruesome. Another time, Ozella shot him in the leg. Don’t feel too sorry for old Willie Mack, though. He got his licks in. On weekend mornings, Ozella could sometimes be found sitting at the kitchen table holding a raw fleshy steak to a fresh shiner.

One of my favorite Ozella stories is one in which she loses her temper. Truth be told, the vast majority of Ozella stories involve her losing her temper, but this is a goodun.

My mother was the child of drunkards, but she was a well-dressed child of drunkards. Zell like to drink, and she also liked to shop. (My kind of gal.) So my mother wore stylish clothing while attending the podunk town’s little elementary school. One day, she went to school decked out in a brand new skirt that was flared and fancy. There was a large sitting rock on the schoolhouse play yard, and she and her friends used to sit on it during recess. That particular day, my mother sat on the rock and spread out her new skirt. She was proud of it and wanted to show it off to her classmates. She was holding her baton, one of her favorite toys, which she used to bring to school and play with during recess. Her friend Joanna came over to sit on the rock with her and accidentally sat on the edge of the skirt. When the bell rang to tell the children it was time to line up and go back inside, my mom jumped up off the rock before Joanna, and her new skirt ripped all the way to the top. My mother was devastated that her new skirt was ripped, and she was also embarrassed. The rip was so large that her undies were showing. My mom didn’t line up with the other kids. The teacher on playground duty, Mrs. Smith, walked over and told her through clenched teeth to GET IN LINE. My mom was carrying her baton while trying to holding her skirt together, and she refused. As punishment for not following directions, Mrs. Smith grabbed the baton out of my mother’s hand and wacked her on the back of the legs with it several times. Hard. My mom was crying and left school right then and there. Her legs were already black and blue by the time she walked home.

Oh, Lord, Ozella hit the ceiling when my mother came home in tears and told her what happened. She flew into a rage. She grabbed the baton out of my mother’s hand and they both got in the car immediately. Together, they drove to the school and marched into the principal’s office. Ozella stormed in with baton in hand and loudly explained to the principal, Mr. Jones, how Mrs. Smith hit her daughter with a baton and left marks, so she was on her way down the hall to show that teacher what it felt like to be beaten black and blue with a baton.

Now, here is the sad part of the story. The principal was able to talk Ozella out of beating the crap out of the teacher that left bruises on her daughter. It took some smooth talking, but Mr. Jones managed to do it. The abusive teacher didn’t return the following year, so she probably got what she deserved in the end. But still…I sorta wish old Zell had left a few bruises on the back of that teacher’s legs.

I think the reason I love this story so much is because it shows my grandmother fiercely defending her child, my mother. Most of my mom’s childhood memories are ones in which her own mother is the one doing harm. In this story, Ozella comes to my mother’s defense. In spite of her outrageous flaws, Ozella loved my mother and wanted to protect her.

Now, those Monkees who know me in real life are probably busy listing all the similarities between me and my grandmother. There are a lot of them, I know. When I get my Ozella up, bad things usually happen. But I haven’t stabbed or shot anyone. Yet.


Zell





Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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  42 Responses to “Your Morning Cocktale, On Adrianne”

  1. Just a quick comment to 2nd what Diane said…get your family stories recorded while you can! If you think your family might not have colorful tales to weave, I betcha you're wrong. I say unearth as many as you can, and write them down. (You might be surprised at how fun it is.)

  2. Just a quick comment to 2nd what Diane said…get your family stories recorded while you can! If you think your family might not have colorful tales to weave, I betcha you're wrong. I say unearth as many as you can, and write them down. (You might be surprised at how fun it is.)

  3. I'm usually late to the "comment" party, but I loved this post. I love seeing the bright side of things. It's also been great reading everyones comments about their families. My mom has many stories about her family, I'm going to make sure she writes them down to I can make sure to pass them on in the future.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Kathie

  4. I'm usually late to the "comment" party, but I loved this post. I love seeing the bright side of things. It's also been great reading everyones comments about their families. My mom has many stories about her family, I'm going to make sure she writes them down to I can make sure to pass them on in the future.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Kathie

  5. Adrianne–I love the slice of life you gave us from how things were back then. My mom's older three brothers have all passed away…as the baby sister, she never had to tell the stories, because her big brothers did all the storytelling for her. And my dad and all his siblings except one aunt, the baby sister, are gone, too. So a word of advice…get your family stories now while you can! And start telling them and retelling them so you have them forever. As the baby sister in my big family, I'm feeling the pressure already!

  6. Adrianne–I love the slice of life you gave us from how things were back then. My mom's older three brothers have all passed away…as the baby sister, she never had to tell the stories, because her big brothers did all the storytelling for her. And my dad and all his siblings except one aunt, the baby sister, are gone, too. So a word of advice…get your family stories now while you can! And start telling them and retelling them so you have them forever. As the baby sister in my big family, I'm feeling the pressure already!

  7. Those names are FANTASTIC. Love your story.

  8. Those names are FANTASTIC. Love your story.

  9. Had I spent my childhood in a cotton field, married at 13, had 5 daughters, and no access to pizza delivery or laser hair appointments there is no way I'd've gotten out of this life without physically harmin people on a regular basis. I totally get Zell. Love this scene from her life. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  10. Had I spent my childhood in a cotton field, married at 13, had 5 daughters, and no access to pizza delivery or laser hair appointments there is no way I'd've gotten out of this life without physically harmin people on a regular basis. I totally get Zell. Love this scene from her life. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  11. My Grandmother, Mabel, was a very proper Southern girl, with a spicy streak. She went to college, but when the barn at her father's dairy farm burned down, they had to pull her from school. No one seemed to mind, since she was too busy partying to do very well.

    She and her sisters (Virginia and Page) and cousins (Gertrude and Helen) were the only children of two brothers, Clifford and George Drinker. Because there were no sons, that name died out. But it's the middle name of my little Evelyn. I hope she can wear the name with pride– but not too much. At least until she's in college and I don't have to know about it.

    I have many favorite memories of my grandmother, but one that sticks out comes from playing Scrabble with her as a child of 12 or so. She was down to her last letters and had the opportunity to win– by making the word s**t. Which she did. I think she's the origin of my competitive streak. She died when I was in college, and I often think of how much she'd enjoy her 13 great grandchildren.

    Thanks for sharing your family stories, Adrianne!

  12. My Grandmother, Mabel, was a very proper Southern girl, with a spicy streak. She went to college, but when the barn at her father's dairy farm burned down, they had to pull her from school. No one seemed to mind, since she was too busy partying to do very well.

    She and her sisters (Virginia and Page) and cousins (Gertrude and Helen) were the only children of two brothers, Clifford and George Drinker. Because there were no sons, that name died out. But it's the middle name of my little Evelyn. I hope she can wear the name with pride– but not too much. At least until she's in college and I don't have to know about it.

    I have many favorite memories of my grandmother, but one that sticks out comes from playing Scrabble with her as a child of 12 or so. She was down to her last letters and had the opportunity to win– by making the word s**t. Which she did. I think she's the origin of my competitive streak. She died when I was in college, and I often think of how much she'd enjoy her 13 great grandchildren.

    Thanks for sharing your family stories, Adrianne!

  13. My grandmother's name was Towera Dora ;) and she was fiesty. She had to be! I don't know if women are built the same with each passing generation, but I love the spirit and spunk the Towera Dora's adn Zell's of the world had!

    I'd like to think that we do carry those on!
    Obviously we need to trade some grandma cocktales over cocktails.

  14. My grandmother's name was Towera Dora ;) and she was fiesty. She had to be! I don't know if women are built the same with each passing generation, but I love the spirit and spunk the Towera Dora's adn Zell's of the world had!

    I'd like to think that we do carry those on!
    Obviously we need to trade some grandma cocktales over cocktails.

  15. Holy moly! What stories, Adrianne. Am thinking this would be a good movie!

    In my family: Della, June, Macel, Lenna, Delphia…

  16. Holy moly! What stories, Adrianne. Am thinking this would be a good movie!

    In my family: Della, June, Macel, Lenna, Delphia…

  17. What great stories! It's funny how when you add a half dozen decades it no longer seems scary and abusive… what funny things time does!

  18. What great stories! It's funny how when you add a half dozen decades it no longer seems scary and abusive… what funny things time does!

  19. Thanks for sharing Adrianne – you definitely have a gift!! Smiles!

  20. Thanks for sharing Adrianne – you definitely have a gift!! Smiles!

  21. Spunky family! You create such vivid pictures with your storytelling.

    My FIL's family's from the mountains of NC. He and his siblings are named: Maxine, Earline, Maloy , Wayne, Melvin and Elmer. The parents are Martha Elvira and Cleo Choncie…spelled that way. Best people you'd ever want to meet.

  22. Spunky family! You create such vivid pictures with your storytelling.

    My FIL's family's from the mountains of NC. He and his siblings are named: Maxine, Earline, Maloy , Wayne, Melvin and Elmer. The parents are Martha Elvira and Cleo Choncie…spelled that way. Best people you'd ever want to meet.

  23. Oh Adrianne! I loved this! We all have things about us that we are not proud of, but I love how you see past these things in your grandmother to appreciate the fierce love she had for her child. Thank you for sharing this with us!
    XoXo Susie.

  24. Oh Adrianne! I loved this! We all have things about us that we are not proud of, but I love how you see past these things in your grandmother to appreciate the fierce love she had for her child. Thank you for sharing this with us!
    XoXo Susie.

  25. I love Mama Bear stories, especially those from our families' past. Thanks Adrianne!

    ps – Glennon, I did send you an email yesterday from my hotmail account. :)

  26. I love Mama Bear stories, especially those from our families' past. Thanks Adrianne!

    ps – Glennon, I did send you an email yesterday from my hotmail account. :)

  27. Love your family stories Adrianne. I can't wait for more. I agree that you find the unique side of your family. No doubt that you will have stories of your own that your little one's will tell. NOT of shooting or gutting (!!) but of funny events and fierce love because you and your hubby are so funny and loving and you stick to your guns (no pun intended). Have an awesome weekend.

    Terri

  28. Love your family stories Adrianne. I can't wait for more. I agree that you find the unique side of your family. No doubt that you will have stories of your own that your little one's will tell. NOT of shooting or gutting (!!) but of funny events and fierce love because you and your hubby are so funny and loving and you stick to your guns (no pun intended). Have an awesome weekend.

    Terri

  29. Also, my paternal grandmother's name was Ruth Glennon.

  30. Also, my paternal grandmother's name was Ruth Glennon.

  31. Oops – meant to say BECAME Irene Thomas. Thanks for helping me remember her this morning, Adrianne!
    :)MK

  32. Oops – meant to say BECAME Irene Thomas. Thanks for helping me remember her this morning, Adrianne!
    :)MK

  33. My maternal great grandmother was named Mary and so was her daughter, my grandmother. My grandmother Mary used to reel off the names of her mother and her siblings in really rapid fashion and it went like this: Jesse-Minnie-Mary-Perry-Helen-Fanny-Ernest. I never knew a one of them, but I'll never forget their names!

    My paternal grandmother was named Irene and her sister was Annie. While all of their brothers had middle names, Irene and Annie only had one name each. When they were teenagers, they decided it wasn't fair, so they put a bunch of names in a hat. GaGa (Irene) said that she supposes they only knew about boy middle names because they only put boy names in that hat. My grandmother's new, unofficial name because Irene Thomas Hurst and she was durn proud of that name. I swear she told me her name appears that way on her fancy college diploma that she got from Duke at age 19 in 1924. Funny lady. I miss her.

    GREAT story Adrianne. Keep 'em comin'.

    :)MK

  34. My maternal great grandmother was named Mary and so was her daughter, my grandmother. My grandmother Mary used to reel off the names of her mother and her siblings in really rapid fashion and it went like this: Jesse-Minnie-Mary-Perry-Helen-Fanny-Ernest. I never knew a one of them, but I'll never forget their names!

    My paternal grandmother was named Irene and her sister was Annie. While all of their brothers had middle names, Irene and Annie only had one name each. When they were teenagers, they decided it wasn't fair, so they put a bunch of names in a hat. GaGa (Irene) said that she supposes they only knew about boy middle names because they only put boy names in that hat. My grandmother's new, unofficial name because Irene Thomas Hurst and she was durn proud of that name. I swear she told me her name appears that way on her fancy college diploma that she got from Duke at age 19 in 1924. Funny lady. I miss her.

    GREAT story Adrianne. Keep 'em comin'.

    :)MK

  35. There are apples and there are trees. Adrianne, I know for a fact that you would have beaten that teacher black and blue but your words would have been what she remembered the most.

    I have an aunt named Juna. We called her Nunie and then later, once she lost her senses, we secretly called her loonie.

  36. There are apples and there are trees. Adrianne, I know for a fact that you would have beaten that teacher black and blue but your words would have been what she remembered the most.

    I have an aunt named Juna. We called her Nunie and then later, once she lost her senses, we secretly called her loonie.

  37. My grandma Alice's sisters were named Honey and Babe.

    Adrianne, you are such a gorgeous noticer and storyteller. I love how you find and reveal the unique beauty of your family. And you make us laugh, too. I think Zell would be tickled pink.

    When you tell us your family stories I feel like I'm sitting around that Momastery campfire you described months ago, eating marshmallows and listening cozily to my friend.

    Thanks for inviting us in.

    Love you.

  38. My grandma Alice's sisters were named Honey and Babe.

    Adrianne, you are such a gorgeous noticer and storyteller. I love how you find and reveal the unique beauty of your family. And you make us laugh, too. I think Zell would be tickled pink.

    When you tell us your family stories I feel like I'm sitting around that Momastery campfire you described months ago, eating marshmallows and listening cozily to my friend.

    Thanks for inviting us in.

    Love you.

  39. I love Love LOVE stories of old times. It's one of my favourite pastimes when I'm together with my extended family. We had a "Minnie-May", but most of the other names were pretty tame.

  40. I love Love LOVE stories of old times. It's one of my favourite pastimes when I'm together with my extended family. We had a "Minnie-May", but most of the other names were pretty tame.

  41. I love the names! My family seems so tame in comparison, but I had a great-grandmother named Nina Temperance and her sister (my great-grandmother on the other side) named Erle. They had other siblings whose names I can never recall.

    The sisters who were great-grandmothers on either side of my family is a complicated one.

  42. I love the names! My family seems so tame in comparison, but I had a great-grandmother named Nina Temperance and her sister (my great-grandmother on the other side) named Erle. They had other siblings whose names I can never recall.

    The sisters who were great-grandmothers on either side of my family is a complicated one.

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