Since you asked

Ida Mae was a woman who helped me with the cleaning sometime in the period or 1972-1976. She would come once a week and when she left, the house not only looked clean, but it felt clean. Often she would fold laundry too.

At the time she worked for us, we had only the four older children and they were all very young. In August of 1972 when we arrived at Fort Campbell, KY, they were 4 months, 20 months, 3 years, and 5 years old. Ida Mae was not responsible for any child care, but sometimes if I needed to run out for milk or something quick, she would look after the children.

Once, when I returned, I asked where the two little boys were. She didn’t know. That worried me. She was sure they hadn’t left the house, but it was very quiet and they were nowhere in sight. By then the older of them was approaching 4 and the younger was 2.5. after looking in every room, I opened the large hall closet. The light was on. Immediately the older one came out holding a pair of school scissors (the kind made for children with the round edges that actually can’t cut anything). And then, the little one came out. Scalped. There was some hair on his head, but it was not near the hairline at the top of his face. He looked as if he had been attacked by a lawnmower. And then I looked at the older one* a little closer. He also had areas of missing hair. Ida Mae looked at me and said, “Well, they was quiet.”

Sometime later, the following summer, I was in the living room and I noticed “the barber” walking into the house on tiptoes holding a paper cup in one hand and the other hand covering it. He went to his room, spent a few seconds there, and left again. He came in once again, still walking in a stealthy, little-kid-like manner, with the cup, and then went back out again. This was repeated many many many times. I was curious, but being that he was occupied and wasn’t bothering anyone else, I didn’t ask him what he was doing nor did I try to investigate. After about the 30th time, I decided to go to his room to see what was going on. The room was clean. Nothing was out of place. I decided to look in his drawers. I opened one after the other and found nothing notable. Until the bottom drawer. I opened it and immediately tens of bees came flying out. Inside the drawer, there must have been a hundred bees. I quickly opened the window to shoo them out. “The barber” came to the room and started shouting, “My bee collection!!!! You ruined it!!!! You ruined it!!!!”

Ida Mae had taken care of the 9 children of a doctor in her town. One of those children was Ralph. At times like these, she would say to me, “Well he done remind me of Ralph.” At times like the hair disaster, at times like the bee fiasco, at other times or disaster when I was ready to turn in my mommy card and go home. I was afraid to ask her what ever became of Ralph. I was pretty sure that Ralph was serving 10-20 for mayhem. It took a couple of years, but finally I got up the courage. I asked her, “What ever happened to Ralph?” She paused. I held my breath. She smiled. She said, “Ralph…. well Ralph, he turned out the best of them all– he got all his foolishness out when he was young!”

Ida Mae. She was the best family therapist I have ever met.

*Heretofore to be termed “the barber”

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  1. I recall an egg carton was used for bee transport.

  2. Oh my goodness! I would have fallen over dead the instant I opened that drawer! (maybe literally – I’m allergic to bees – but more likely from shock!)

    Goodness. I hope MY little monsters don’t ever decide to start a live bee collection! Home barbering I can handle – but a LIVE BEE COLLECTION! Gah!

  3. I am pretty sure it was a paper cup. I will have to consult with “the barber.”

  4. One of the best Savta family stories ever. Glad I asked for it. 🙂

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