Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mrs. X and The Lady of Shalott

Here is a story that I heard my mother and her family tell many times.

There was a woman, a widow, living in the community with her son. Two older sons were married and lived nearby, but after her husband died, Mrs. X became extremely dependent on the remaining unmarried son. He helped with the chores and became the “surrogate” husband, making all the decisions for his mother, financial and otherwise.

Mrs. X was an opinionated lady, and illustrated that trait once against my mother’s family.

The time was in the 1920s, before hardly anyone in the area was lucky or rich enough to own a car. One Sunday morning, as Mrs. X and her son were on their way to church services in the wagon. They passed over the creek where my mother’s two brothers and four other teenage boys were playing.

As the wagon passed by the boys, Mrs. X said to her son in a loud voice, “you see those boys there? They are going to Hell because they play in the creek instead of going to church on Sunday.”

But that isn't the end of this little story. It seems that several years passed and Mrs. X’s son found a young lady and, after a period of time, announced to his mother that they were to be married. It was reported that Mrs. X cried and pleaded with her son not to leave her and threatened if he did, she would kill herself.

Naturally, her son did not take the threat seriously. He thought that his mother was just upset at the initial idea of his marriage and would “get over” her anger.

Now the X home was located on the property where the stream known as “First Creek” originates. A spring emerging from the ground forms a pool that becomes a small creek and flows southward, increasing in width and depth as it twists and turns and eventually flows into the Tennessee River.

On the X property, the water is no more than two feet deep. On a certain day, following her threat, Mrs. X made good on her promise. She walked out to the pool of water, lay down and drowned herself. This is the end of what I know about the story.

And the purpose of my telling the story here is nothing more than just being something I've heard all my life. A strange one, definitely, and sad. It touched my family’s life because of Mrs. X was a well-known neighbor and because of her condemnation of my two uncles, who were teenagers at the time.

For some reason, although they are completely different, the Mrs. X story reminds me of Tennyson’s poem, The Lady of Shalott, a classic and a long poem, a few verses of which read:

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right--
The leaves upon her falling light--
Thro' the noises of the night
                  She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
                  The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darken'd wholly,
                  Turn'd to tower'd Camelot;
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
                  The Lady of Shalott.

Are there stories that have been repeated in your family over time? If so, I would love to hear about them.


  1. I could tell you the stories told by my family, but I'm very sure that they are all tall tales. My family is fond of fiction.
    Maybe the one where the whole family went down to the election board and changed their affiliation to Democrat, even though they had been Republicans since Lincoln, when they found out that Richard Nixon (who had been in the same grade school as my mother, although much older) had switched parties from Democrat to Republican. They refused to be in the same political party as Nixon.

    1. That's an interesting story, Beryl! The fictional stories are fun to tell, too!

  2. Ooh, that is a shocking story about Mrs X - I was expecting a happy ending when she became a grandma or something! As for my family, there is the story about the large python which lived in the ceiling to catch the mice, in my father's farm house. His new bride, my mother, would not live there until he removed it, and he delighted in telling the story. He could never understand her qualms!

    1. It is indeed shocking - pure Southern Gothic! Now your family story is delightful. Funny!

  3. I enjoy reading or hearing the old stories that come down through the family. All I could think of when I read this one was "That poor son!"


    1. Indeed. I didn't use names just in the event any of the family members are still alive and would by chance read this (very unlikely, but one never knows).

  4. Sanda- this is quite incredible...I cannot any stories that compare to this one. is quite stunning I think.
    Growing up we had a lovely parrot that could talk and say all of our names and a few sentences too. Our neighbor detested this parrot and so kept telling my grandmother who lived with us that parrots brought bad luck. My grandmother who was very impressionable let the parrot loose. The poor bird stayed around on our trees for some weeks until it finally gave up and left. For some reason I never forget this because some people are just naturally mean and jealous it seems. That bird could not be heard around to be a disturbance but out neighbor was just a miserable mean person. Oh well...wishing you a happy thursday!

    1. Oh your poor parrot and how sweet that it knew your names. Such a tragedy that your grandmother let the bird loose. Must have been very traumatic for you children. And a good Thursday to you as well.

  5. Love hearing these stories again that we have heard all our life. Your ability to tell them makes them even more interesting! Keep telling them so we will never forget them.
    Since Haloween is approaching, maybe we can hear about Bloody Bones! My sister gets her story telling abilities from our father's family as they were all story tellers. I was left out on these genes or perhaps wasn't listening as close as I should have been!

    1. Oh, at your suggestion, the blog post today IS on Old Bloody Bones. Love these old stories!

  6. I left a comment, but it is not here..
    Well, anyways, no stories told or then I don´t remember any of them.
    Your story was a great one, and if there is more to come, I´m waiting anxiously to read them.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it and there's another story posted today. A good Halloween story!

  7. My father was raised in New Orleans and had several stories he told us when we were children. One I remember well--there was a woman who had a fit and died. As her casket was being carried to the cemetery, there came a knocking from inside. The lid was pried open and she sat up, alive. About 6 months later, the same thing happened; once again the woman literally came back from the dead. When she died the third time, the people took no chances. They nailed the coffin shut immediately and buried her within hours. A strange tale, told to my Dad by their housekeeper Mahalia in the 1920's-1930's.

    Thank you for linking to my blog today. I have other ghost stories listed under the labels ghosts, ghost stories, Halloween and Halloween stories. I have enjoyed reading your stories here!


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