Thursday, February 09, 2006

Introducing Girl Friday

Driving to work today and singin’ my heart out to along with whatever female bluegrass vocalist was blaring from "O Sister!" Volume 1, I realized that my blog needs its own traditions. Every full moon is supposed to bring you a song with the moon in it; I think I missed the last one. Anyway, I’m going to introduce another regular feature today. We’ll call it, “Girl Friday.” With it I intend to pay homage not only to the many women in the bluegrass and traditional music circuit who work hard and remain far undersung, but also to the strong and beautiful women I’ve come to know in my life, both long and of late.

The most important woman in my life was, and always will be, my mother, June Anne Dawes. She grew up mainly under the influence of her own mother, whose husband left her with two young daughters to raise. There was no support back then, so my mother and aunt helped my grandmother with household services she performed for other families, in addition to acing all their school work, finding time to be in the Thespians (now now—you know, the old time theatre clubs; I could bore you with the tidbit that one of the more popular boys in my mother’s theatre club would later turn out to be the father of my first real love), and doing their hair.

My mother married my father just before the Korean war. Dad was a flight engineer in the Air Force. Both natives of the Pittsburgh area, they were stationed in Spokane, Washington. My artistic photographer-painter father fell in love with the place, and its there that they likely would have remained had it not been for the influence of his father, who convinced them to return home so dad could take over the family business.

And that business, along with raising five children, became my mother’s life. After dad died when I was just barely 12 and my sister 9, we moved into town, and became three girls on our own. My mother refused any help from my brothers, and insisted instead that they move on with their own adult lives, which they did. We missed dad, but life, under mom’s influence and with her acting something like glue, went on, and fairly heartily, until her own death in 2002.

I do dearly miss her company. We were just hitting the stride of our adult companionship when she passed away. My kids, especially my son, had a special connection with her that is impossible to pinpoint, or ever replace. She continues to influence them in subtle ways.

This song is one of my very favorite songs of all the music I know in all the genres I know. I hope one day to have the courage to sing it with my brothers or with anyone willing to put up with my weeping through it the first few times. It was written by another incredible woman, Hazel Dickens, and it’s called, “Mama’s Hand.” Recorded by Lynn Morris in the mid-1990s, it captured the IBMA’s “Song of the Year” award in 1996. You can download the full version at

My mama was one special girl, and I dedicate this inaugural Girl Friday to her and to all my favorite mamas.

Mama’s Hand
Written by Hazel Dickens

I said goodbye to that plain little minin’ town
With just a few old clothes that made the rounds
I knew I was leavin’ a lot of things that were good
But I thought I’d make a break while I still could

As I looked back to wave once more
To Mama cryin in the door
For me and what the world might have in store
For she knew I’d never be her little girl no more

She was driftin’ back to another time
When she was young and hoped to find
A better life than what her mama’s had been
And it was hard to let go of mama’s hand, my mama’s hand

Chorus: One old paper bag filled with hand-me-downs
Plain old country girl, raised on Gospel sounds
With only the love she gave me, and pride in what I am
It was hard to let go of mama’s hand, my mama’s hand

I thought of all the love she gave
I thought of all the years she slaved
To try to make this run down shack a home
A dream that really died ‘fore it was born

Well she pulled us through the hardest times
And made us hold our heads up high
A we’d carry with us all our lives
We were so special in mama’s eyes

As I look down the dusty road
To mama and her heavyt load
I knew what I was leavin I’d never find again
It was hard to let go of mama’s hand, my mama’s hand

Chorus: One old paper bag filled with hand-me-down
Plain old country girl, raised on gospel sounds
With only the love she gave me
And pride in what I am
It was hard to let go of mama’s hand, my mama’s hand

It was hard to let go of mama’s hand, my mama’s hand


At February 10, 2006 4:08 AM, Blogger My Boring Best said...

What a beautiful post. It's so touching how much you loved your mom. Makes me all sentimental and stuff. :-)

At February 10, 2006 7:46 PM, Blogger Darkneuro said...

Laff... thespians show up in the strangest places (I'd still be one if I paid my dues)... She sounds like a magnificent women. And I love the song.
Congrats on your inaugural Girl Friday!

At February 10, 2006 9:50 PM, Anonymous Cassandra said...

Absolutely beautiful. I am a huge fan of my own mother. She's my very best friend. I really enjoyed reading a bit about you and your family.
A very beautiful song as well. It reminds me of some of the songs on Joan Baez's "Country Music Album" (my favorite album by my favorite artist).

At February 11, 2006 9:19 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Thanks people. I sure do miss her. I wonder what she'd think about this "bloggin" thing!

At February 11, 2006 1:57 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

And hey, Cassandra--Thanks for the album tip! What a GREAT collection of songs, including some of my faves! Our taste in music is quite similar. Oooh, Banks of the Ohio --gotta throw in a couple murderin' ballads. I see "Long Black Veil" appears there as well--I just ran a post with those lyrics.

I saw Joan Baez a few years ago at, where else, The Kent Stage. She is really magnificent. Must put this recording on my list.


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