Everyone knows someone who is introverted, timid, shy or bashful. Of course, none of those labels imply criminality or wrongdoing of any kind. Anyone who has known me for the past 30-35 years would laugh at any inference of timidity or bashfulness on my part. It’s true that I’m no longer a wallflower at most social gatherings, particularly if there are at least a few people there whom I know. At a gathering of journalists, especially countrysmall town newspaper folks, I’m right at home and might even win the door prize for gregariousness.
Due to the business I’m in and the events that profession has tossed me into, I’ve managed to overcome a great deal of my natural inclinations and have even ridded myself of fright at the idea of public speaking.
However, (you knew that was coming, didn’t you) I came by shyness quite naturally. My mother was painfully shy. And, since she’s now helping St. Peter control Heaven’s Gate, I can openly discuss her timidity and how, to some degree, she overcame it.
Mother grew up a farm girl. Her father died when she was three, her stepfather when she was 23. She married at 19 to my just-as-shy father. To underscore that double dose of introversion, their wedding ceremony took place as they sat in the back seat of a car on Christmas Day, 1935, as the minister stood in six inches of snow and leaned through the car’s back door and performed the wedding ceremony.
How did I and my three brothers happen? I have no idea.
Mom loved Southern Gospel music. We attended a country Missionary Baptist Church where the Stamps Quartet was mentioned in the same reverent breath as “evangelical” and “Christianity.” The soft-cover church songbooks (that’s hymnal to you tie-clad, choirrobe wearing folks) were products of the Stamps Publishing Company.
Of course, when you attend a one-room, frame church and the average attendance is 20, everyone has to sing the gospel hymns chosen by that Sunday’s song leader. It was usually a man with a booming if untrained voice who directed the music with an arm extended and moving like a pump handle on a water well. Sometimes the song leader and the pianist (“piano player” in a farm community church of the 1940s-50s) weren’t together but, for that matter, neither were the 20 voices in the congregation.
Mother sang what she termed a timid alto. Though I couldn’t read music (still can’t), I attempted to provide a male sound to the mostly female congregation singing by chirping along on a guess-at-the-right-note bass. I like the sound of bass even though I was told by my high school choir director that I was a tenor. Singing bass was just purely cool…not to mention MANLY. But, I felt my voice had changed enough and was “low” enough to qualify me as a bass (and it really is deep enough now).
Mostly I mumbled, though. There we are with that timid business again. However, I didn’t want to steal Mother’s “musical thunder,” so I declared that I was a “bashful bass.” One of my brothers suggested that I should consider the reference to be “butchered bass.”
At one point in Mother’s life, she decided she needed to do something in addition to being a housewife and mother. She decided to be…TA-DA!… an Avon lady. I guess the idea of selling cosmetics moved her at least part of the way out of her shyness and she “peddled” Avon for a few years.
We boys may have driven her out of the business though, because we walked around the house shouting, “Ding-dong, Avon calling.” She threatened us with a belt. That always got our attention and usually mugged us.
Yes, Mother was a bit shy in some respects, but she was greatly respected, not only by her family, but by everyone who ever knew her. Shyness, timidity or bashfulness didn’t dampen that one bit.
WILLIS WEBB is a retired community newspaper publisher of more than 55 years experience. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.