Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Very Special Clay Aiken Fan

My daughter Jen with Mama Mac during a Fall 2002 visit.

Sail on, Silver Girl, Sail on By

A Mother's Day Remembrance

This blog entry is a reprint from Mother's Day 2007. Some numbers have been changed to reflect the passing year. Also, since May 2007, there are two new great-grandchildren in our family, one my daughter's son, Kai.

On July 12, 2005, my mother -- the woman who gave me life, introduced me to the wonderful world of music, encouraged me in all life's endeavors -- left behind a tired, weary 93-year-old body and sailed peacefully on to her next portal.

On this third Mother's Day since that night, my family and I celebrate a joyful life that almost spanned a century with many fond memories, a full heart, and the knowledge that this very special woman is still singing glorious harmony through her offspring and the many students she touched.

Sail on, Silver Girl, Sail on By

As a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, musician, gardener extraordinaire, Alleen McDonald, affectionately known as Mama Mac, worked hard and lived a full life. An alto in the First Baptist Church-Wilmington Chancel Choir for 42 years, she appreciated good music and was a very enthusiastic fan of Clay Aiken.

Among the most enjoyable moments of the final two years of her life were spent watching and listening to him sing. She especially loved Clay's rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and she would have embraced his new album, On My Way Here.

Our family misses its spirited matriarch. Besides her three children, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, Mama Mac was special to a large extended family of friends, former students and coworkers, as well as the caregivers at Wesley Long Nursing Home where she lived following a broken hip.

Even with 35 years in the public schools, all the successful operettas and other musical productions, Mother is best remembered in our Wilmington neighborhood as "the beach lady." On any given summer day, we would load up her old 1939 Chevy, which she kept way past its prime just for beach outings.

Picture an old jalopy, of the running board variety, bursting with neighborhood kids in bathing suits, inner tubes, fishing/crabbing gear, picnic lunches, etc., bopping down the 10 miles between Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. Fond, fond memories!

Sail on, Silver Girl, Sail on By

One of my favorite Mama Mac stories happened during National Caregivers Week in May 2005. A month shy of her 93rd birthday, Mother was relatively cognizant 99% of the time, although she occasionally had "moments," such as contending she needed to get ready for choir practice or pack for "our trip" to Wilmington.

Awakened from a midmorning nap with a visit from her granddaughter and toddler twin great-grandchildren, Mama Mac immediately began insisting she needed to get dressed for a rehearsal. No one in the family knew that Shekina, a very special physical therapist, had been secretly rehearsing a duet with her for the nursing home's afternoon talent show; so we just assumed our matriarch was groggy and still getting her bearings.

When my sister dropped by after choir practice later that evening, proudly displayed on Mother's door was a huge lst Place Blue Ribbon. She most certainly did know she needed to get dressed to rehearse. Our mother could sing harmony at the drop of a hat, a talent she shared with Clay and one of the many reasons she admired him so much. That day she and Shekina were, hands down, the best!

Sail on, Silver Girl, Sail on By

Mother would have enjoyed the Celebration of Life in her honor at her home church, especially the beautiful baritone rendition of her all-time favorite hymn, "Amazing Grace," and the loving, light-hearted reflections by her minister.

"Mama Mac was a character in the best way," he told those gathered at First Baptist. At restaurants, she always pocketed several little pink packets of Sweet-N-Low "for the church." Annoyed or bored with a discussion, her final word on any subject was "whatevah," delivered with deadpan inflection and any number of hand gestures.

At the graveside, a "Kodak moment" that went unsnapped came when William, one of the twins, respectfully placed his father's pallbearer boutonniere on Mama Mac's coffin. His great-grandmother would have been very touched by that simple gesture.

She also would have been delighted that, despite stifling temps and typical summer humidity, there was a cool breeze blowing off her beloved Carolina coastline for her mid-July farewell.

PHOTO INTERLUDE -- Featured in this special Mother's Day respite are blends and graphics by Amazing_CA, 1; Cindilu2, 2 and 3; Sally, 4; and Katt45, 5. Mama Mac's green thumb was legendary, and azaleas were among her specialties. The close relationship Clay shares with his mother, and the song lyrics my mother dearly loved are themes woven throughout.

Students Honor Teacher

In addition to a stream of memorial gifts to First Baptist's music program, our family received an outpouring of letters from former students from throughout Mother's 35-year teaching career. Parts of three are shared here.

Dianne (Sunset Park, 1955-56): It was with much sorrow I read of your mother's death. I was able to read this because she cared enough to take the time and patience with a LDADHD girl. I only learned I had these problems 10 years ago. I remember having such a hard time not talking in class and keeping my attention on her teaching. She also encouraged my mother to be more patient with my behavior and my learning problems.

Several years ago my daughter, who was a teenager at the time and had heard me speak of Mrs. McDonald, and I saw your mother in a doctor's office. I recognized her and spoke. To my pleasant surprise, she knew me right away. It was a wonderful moment, for "my" Mrs. McDonald remembered me with all the students she had taught. She showed such interest in what I had done with my life and my daughter's plans for college.

I have been a teacher's assistant for the past 25 years. I hope that I have been able to give my students a portion of the loving care that your mother gave to her students.

Susan (Sunset Park, 1961-62): Your mother was my beloved 5th grade teacher at Sunset Park Elementary. My year with her was very special. Mrs. McDonald taught us everything from how to do research projects to how to harmonize when we sang.

The Christmas play she directed that year probably raised the bar for not just harmony but also the amount of instruments she had us playing in the background. She encouraged us to be inquisitive beyond the textbook and rewarded us for creative thinking with extra credit points. She was a fair teacher with high standards. If we pleased her, we felt very good about our efforts.

Raymond (Hillcrest Elementary, 1936-38): One of Mother's earliest students touted her influence during his Burlington, NC, school days via a newspaper letter to the editor. A music major, he later became a minister and also served as a collegiate public information director.

His 1980 letter to the High Point Enterprise was inspired by a reporter who attended an opera in Atlanta and wrote a column filled with intense derision and mockery of this art form. The letter to the editor, which ends with a paragraph addressed to the reporter (Clark), was later forwarded to our mother:

Ah, Clark, you have gone too far. And to think one of my fondest recollections of the third grade over 40 years ago in Burlington was when Ms. McDonald, the twice-weekly music teacher, arrived with records and storybooks with color scenes of ancient Egypt, and opened with her enthusiasm to us the glories of "Aida." I'm sorry that you missed such an opportunity, for it has given me a lifetime of pleasure.

Happy Mother's Day, Daughter!

Mama Mac would have reveled in her ever-expanding status of "great-grandmotherhood," which now includes two girls and three boys. Above is a clickable of daughter Jen with Kai taken during the week of his birth.

You can still send a special Mother's Day greeting from Clay Aiken by clicking on the photo link below:

Happy Mother's Day, Clay Nation!



1 comment:

Sandy said...

Hi Caro,
I never tire of visiting your blog and hearing the stories of your Mom. She was truly the classic example of one fine Southern lady. It's amazing how fast the years go by and yet somehow the memories we have of our mother's never go away. They are with us forever! Your opening picture of your daughter with your mother and then your daughter with Kai was very touching. That was such a beautiful picture of Jen and Kai!

I just got an e-mail from Jean, one of our Clay fans here that lives just outside Ottawa. She is in her seventies but LOVES Clay. I can't remember her screen name on the OFC as it's been so long, but anyways she wanted to let me know that her family got her an iPod for Mother's day and her grandson had already uploaded all her Clay music into it. Now if that wasn't one of the best Mother's day gifts! She was truly touched by it! She always said that Clay makes her feel better than any of the pills she takes...LOL!

Another NJU I waiting for my husband to pick me up at the doctor's, I was leafing through the song playlist from the CD cover and this woman who was on her way out caught the cover and said to me "Where did you get that? I cheered for him on American Idol and had no idea he has become this famous until I saw an ad the other day saying he was going to be on the View. I just love his voice." I told her all about his new CD and that it was everywhere. She said she will definitely be buying it. Can you imagine the CD sales if Clay was to get radio play! It's just not fair!

I noticed the sidebar thing where you can view all the visitors and what countries they are visiting from. How neat is that!

Hope you had a wonderful day!

Sandy :)