She was my "Boot Mama". You know us Southern have our funny names for folks, her nickname was "Boots" for whatever reason. So when she took me to raise at 66 years of age, she had me call her "Boot Mama"
Boot Mama was not the most demonstrative person but I remember sitting with her one morning waiting for the bus to pick me up from school and she told me she loved me more than she'd ever loved anyone in the world. I'm sure she had told me over the years that she loved me, but that memory sticks out in my mind. I even remember what I was wearing that day.
So when she took me as a small infant to raise, her husband was still alive. I called him "Poppy" He was already sick and died when I was just two years old from cancer. I actually have two memories of him. One of him putting me on his lap and letting me "drive" the car through some fields. The other is me standing in the parking lot of the Tallahassee hospital waving to up his room & he was standing in the window waving at me.
When people think that Jon & I are crazy for adopting our kiddos, they should know my great aunt and uncle LOL! So old and sickly and they took a newborn to raise!
Boot Mama was an old time Pentecostal. I never once saw her in a pair of pants, she wore a dress to work in the garden even. She had thin hair, but it was long and she'd put it up in a sort of a bun. No make up, just a little face powder , nude lip gloss and some Windsong perfume. I have to admit I bought a bottle of Windsong ("Windsong stays on my mind") perfume at Walmart one day, just to smell it, it brings me back to my childhood.
When she took me to raise her sister, one of my other great aunts, Ruby. was already living with them. The two of them were at church every time the doors were open. They had me there for Sunday School. church, Sunday night church, Wednesday night "Family Training Hour" Thursday morning Women's Prayer Meetings, every night of Revival and anything else that was happening.
Boot Mama was not one who was demonstrative in church either, although to this day I can repeat some of the "speaking in tongues" that she did. She had a certain phrase that she would repeat. But she was not one to shout or run around the church, which would have probably freaked me out a little if she had! But you knew if the doors were open, she'd be there!
Sitting here, so many memories flooding back over me, I feel like crying. Good memories...
She saved my life, quite literally, of that I have no doubt. Oh I might would have made it to adulthood (or maybe not, I was a sickly kid) if she hadn't taken me in but I would not be the same
person I am.
She nor her sister Ruby had any children and not a lot of ideas about raising one! But somehow they did it and installed in me some core values.
I told my boys about her today and reminded them not to forget her. If it had not been for her, my kids would not be here today. I am sure that God used her example to open my eyes to adoption and to help me not have fears about adopting children that had medical issues. She taught me courage.
She lived through the Great Flu Epidemic, two World Wars, the Great Depression, Korea, Vietnam, the Cuban Missile Crisis, two husbands....and me! All the history she knew first hand. The stories they all used to tell, stupid me, I should have written them down! Now I try to remember them and can only in bits and pieces.
When I was 12 almost 13, she began fading. She spent some time in the hospital and came home, never the same. She shook a lot, I investigated her meds and found out she had Parkinson's and looked it up to figure out what it was. She began losing her mind to Alzheimer's. She soon began to call me "Evelyn" That used to freak me out, then I actually got to liking that name. I even thought about naming one of my girls Evelyn but since we kept all "S" names I didn't.
When I was 17 years old and a senior in high school, she died at home with lots of family/friends around. The pastor had asked me if I wanted to go to his house with them for the night. I didn't think she was that close to death but she died right after we left. I can not remember anything about her funeral, not one thing... I'm not even sure where it was held. I think we had it at the funeral home, since our church had split and we were going to the new church that didn't have a nice sanctuary.
I know she was buried in our family grave yard in Dixie county out in the woods. I don't remember the burial at all or the long ride to the cemetery. What I do remember a few days later was being in class, and just busting out crying. It hit me from nowhere.....I left the classroom and went home. I cried and cried and cried. I felt like an orphan.
It somewhat freaks me out that I have absolutely no memory of anything after she died, until a few days later. I can remember the day before quite clearly and the weeks following....but nothing else.
But I thank God for Bertha Hines Phillips who raised me and loved me. I hope that on my 115th birthday someone will still remember me and I hope my legacy lives on like hers does. She was strong in adversity, did what she needed to do, was courageous, kind and a bit sarcastic too. She was very self sufficient and goal oriented.
“One hundred years from now
It will not matter
What kind of car I drove,
What kind of house I lived in,
How much I had in my bank
Nor what my clothes looked like.
One hundred years from now
It will not matter
What kind of school I attended,
What kind of typewriter I used,
How large or small my church,
But the world may be ...
a little better because...
I was important in the life of a child.”
― Forest Whitcraft