Maxine Trapnell, whom I’ve known and admired for many years, is my kind of Southern woman.
She’s exceedingly feminine, gracious, charming and tough as nails under her soft skin. Everyone who knows her loves her.
She’s now older than 70 and as beautiful as ever. She’s always perfectly appointed and coiffed. Sometimes I run into her at the beauty shop and she’s just as pretty coming in as she is going out.
When she was in her 20s, her husband was killed in a car wreck, leaving Maxine to care for a 6-month-old daughter. Many times over the years, she has said to me — at least every time I saw her at the bank and always as she was leading me to the deposit boxes — “If it hadn’t been for your daddy and brother keeping my car up, I could never have made it. Your daddy would fix my car and never take a dime for parts or anything. I will never forget how good Ralph Satterfield was to me.”
I believe that. Daddy adhered mightily to the Bible’s unchanging instructions and truths such as a person’s responsibilities to see after widows and orphans.
“Widow woman,” is what Daddy and the other folks of the mountains called them. And, to be truth, I missed hearing that phrase.
Maxine never pitied herself. Just dug her perfectly polished fingernails in and kept on going.
Eventually, she remarried and had another daughter. To both daughters, she taught the beliefs of Southern womanhood. She taught them to cook, make a lovely home, how to entertain and to work hard. Mostly, she preached the importance of tackling the hard spots in life and enjoying the soft ones.
Like Maxine, her daughters grew into beautiful women. Kelly Barrett, the little girl who never knew her father, grew gorgeous and strong. She proved to everyone how well she learned the lessons her mama taught.
Her only son, Will Barrett, was born with autism. This was nothing that was ever hidden or whispered about. Kelly plunged in, worked hard and raised a simply amazing young man who was 9 years old when Kelly became a single mom.
Will manages his autism in an admirable way. Through sheer determination, he stays focused and has declared he will be a voice for autism, to teach others about it and to inspire.
Maxine brought him to a writing class Tink and I held a couple of years ago. We were speechless to see what a talented writer and speaker he is.
His grandmamma sat by his side and beamed beatifically. Recently graduated from high school, Will has won college scholarships and earned the respect of all who know him.
Several years ago, beautiful Kelly was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and it accelerated much too quickly. The last couple of years that Will was in high school, he increased his ability to see after himself.
Now he’s as good at looking after himself as I am in looking after myself. He can cook, clean and wash clothes. He can do whatever is called for except for one thing: He can’t take care of Kelly.
And, that is because she says, “Absolutely not. I am not your job. You will not be responsible for me.”
Like her mama, there are never pity parties or looking back. She just gets on with life.
Kelly emailed one day in the late spring to tell me that her mother had been in a car accident when a teenager swerved into her lane to avoid rear ending another car. Maxine was trapped for 30 minutes but emerged with only a slight concussion, serious bruising and extreme soreness.
The huge SUV was totaled but, to Maxine’s enormous relief, her Bible and gun were unscratched.
“She was happy about that,” Kelly wrote.
I told you. She’s my kind of Southern woman. They both are.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “What Southern Women Know.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.