|Sister was the
third of six children of Thomas Malone Laster and Ila Inez
Smith. A farm family, not too surprising for that time, they
did well. ‘Lone had a milk route. ‘Nez
had her butter and egg money. They had hired help living down
the lane. Even with all of that, ‘Sister’
had to work hard, picking cotton along with the field hands, milking
cows, and other field chores. She was such a hard worker that
one season her father wanted to trade her for two young men. She was
always afflicted with migraine headaches but headache or not, her
father forced her to work in the fields. We can understand
why she would never want to return to a farm.
We can have great empathy for a young girl who would hide when visitors
came or neighbors stopped by because she was barefoot.
Barefoot in the summer, catalog shoes in the winter. T.M.
believed that what was good enough for his father was food enough for
his family. Times were not all bad, Flora did have shoes to
wear to school in the winter, did graduate from high school, in fact
played center forward on the girl’s basketball team.
It was easy to understand why she escaped to Washington, D.C. to live
with Uncle Sam, lied about her age, saying she was 18, so that she
could join the Yeomanettes in 1917. Flora Dell had an
outgoing, generous, loving and fun-loving nature. One of her
relatives told her that she would never be a good mother because she
laughed too much. We know that she could not have been a
better mother and one of our cherished memories is sharing jokes and
funny stories with her. That is the thing I missed most after
she died, telling her the things that she would have found funny about
the children. She loved parties and entertaining.
She was also impulsive and would act before considering the
consequences. Not all bad, if every consequence was always
considered, lots of things would be left undone. In trying to
understand her I arrived at the conclusion that she was a child-like
person (marked by innocence, trust, and ingenuousness).
Except ye become as little children, ye cannot enter the Kingdom of
God. Each of us could do a lot worse.
Flo met Walter Colvin while both were working at the Treasury
Department. They moved to Xasbrouck, New Jersey, where Robert
Laster Colvin was born in the house at 103 Jefferson Ave. Flo
was upset that he was not born in Alabama so gave him the middle name
of Laster so that he would have something of the South in him. Walter,
Jr. or Baby Brother as we know him was born two years later.
Some time after that, she left Walter, returned to Washington,
D.C. Baby Brother contracted diphtheria, died and was buried
in Potter’s Field as she did not have the money for a
plot. Robbie said she returned to New Jersey and with the
help of Walter’s brother, kidnapped him from kindergarten and
took him to D.C. by train.
Flo lived on G Street in N.E. across from the Souders. Ralph
invited her to a party to be a date for a friend of his. She
never quite forgave him as she had thought she was to be his
date. It was a couple of years later before he was really
smitten and determined to make her his. They were married
December 27, 1926.
Flo was proud of her dimples and claimed that all the children
inherited their dimples from her. Never mind that Spittle also
has dimples and wanted some credit too. She had lovely, naturally
wavy auburn hair (hated the freckles that went with it), straight,
proud posture, and good looking legs. People were always telling
me what a good looking mother I had. Also she always knew that
fun thing to do. When she took her turn at spending the night at
Girl Scout camp, she brought treats and made the whole evening fun.
One of the things that I constantly pray for is to
have her ESP. (Never made it.) She always knew when she was
needed and either called or came. Her Christmas gifts were always
what were needed or wanted, even though the want might be months old
and almost forgotten.
Mother was always determined that her children would
have a better life than she had. She would do whatever was
necessary so that they would not have to do without what they thought
essential to their happiness at the moment. To gain necessary
fund, she often hocked her $20 gold piece. One of those times was
for my senior prom to buy me not only a new evening gown but also a
short red evening coat. I just about froze and it would have been
much more practical for me to have worn my winter coat but I would have
been disappointed and felt deprived.
Mother loved fresh flowers and drove Daddy crazy
cutting the azaleas to bring inside. She also loved cleanliness,
our windows always sparkled and the house always ‘smelled’
clean. She said Grandma Souder had told her that if the front
door was clean, then people would have a good first impression and
would overlook other things. So we had a clean front door.
And so did I as long as she was around.
Mother continued this happy faculty of knowing what
each one needed right down toe her grandchildren. Many of them
feel #1 in her life. That is because she was able to give of her
whole self to whomever she was with. She didn’t have to be
a millionaire to make everybody happy. Her mending, cooking,
kidding, cleaning, confiding, did it all-scolding too when we needed
it. No one was immune. When Grandma Souder was sick, Mother
was the only ‘daughter’ to give of herself. Others
were too sick or too busy, one hired help. Grandma Souder told me
many times how lucky we were to have such a good mother. She was
a good mother, a good friend, a good neighbor, one who didn’t ask
what she could do but always knew what was needed and did it from
laundry to scrubbing floors or shopping.
She loved to travel and one of the highlights of her
later life was her trip to Arizona and through the west. The
terrain is so completely different from the east. She enjoyed
every minute and was not ashamed or afraid to show it.
One of my favorite stories about her Grandmother
relationship is about Mike and David. I was after them to wash
some windows in our dining room in Idaho Falls when Mother was so
sick. Mike said, “Why don’t you send for
Grandma?” Dave’s reply, “Are you crazy?
She’d make you do them yourself!” Irreverent maybe
but we all knew she loved us and loved her in return.
Written by: Betty Louise Souder Spittle
(age 56) in December 1983