Sweet Home Alabama: meet my Southern Mama

Esther De Wolde / November 20, 2017

Sweet Home Alabama: Meet my Southern Mama

C. Esther DeWolde

In 2014, I set out to tick off Bucket List #67: restoring a Southern home. Which – to cut a long story short – found me in Mobile, Alabama.

Once restoration of the home had begun, news got out about this Canadian girl’s adventure in the South. Soon I was contacted by a lady who claimed to have spent much of her childhood in the 1920’s playing on the front porch of the house I was bringing back to life. She was best friends with a girl, Miss Myrtle May (Morgan) Hartman who grew up there.

The dear lady who managed to track me down is none other than Katharine Phillips-Singer. Side note: If you want to see a heart-warming reunion of the two old friends, check out their story we captured in my Southern Romance episode 8 . Still brings tears to my eyes.

It only took one visit with Miss Katharine to know my life was going to be richer for it.

She has patiently allowed me to adopt her as my southern Mama, and she lets me pester her with visits every time I am in town.

I’ve written about this amazing lady before but since this blog series is about people who have influenced me, I must include her.

If I have to pick, here are my three top reasons why:

  1. Her approach towards aging is contagious. She takes the fear of aging right out of me. In fact, she makes getting old look truly like the honour that it is. Even though she dislikes her cell phone and never did get a computer, she still embraces keeping up with what’s new and happening around the world. She still lives on her own in her familyhome and refuses to let her aches and pains keep her down – facing them with her wonderful sense of humour. Oh! If you could hear that laugh of hers – combined with her story-telling abilities – you’d see why I love to be with her whenever I can.
  2. I’ve always felt retirement is a word I have no interest in and she is my living proof that working keeps you young at heart.Although in the past year she has reduced her entrepreneurial activities to only one business, she continues to run her antique business at 94 years of age. She has no intention of slowing down if she can help it and I just love that about her. And maybe, just maybe I’m also enamoured by the fact she loves antiques just like I do!
  3. Through Miss Katharine and her brother,  Dr. Sidney Phillips, I was awakened to the fact that WWII wasn’t just about fighting in Europe. Being a daughter of Dutch parents, it goes without saying that naturally their war experiences are what I grew up hearing. In the Phillip siblings’ wartime stories, Miss Katharine was the sister left behind when Dr. Sid joined the Marines in Guadalcanal. I became aware of the battle which raged in the Pacific through Dr. Sid’s memoir “You’ll be Sorr-ee“. In it one is exposed to the atrocities of what soldiers faced everyday on the battlefield from their pathetic living conditions to the horror of witnessing gruesome deaths.

Through their many stories, the realities of war then and now has become much more personal for me and has increased my sensitivity and thankfulness for those who choose to fight for theircountry, then and now.

So, I can only hope that if I am blessed with a long and healthy life like Miss Katharine, that I too will find the secret of attracting young people to keep me company and give me purpose!