hail, hail – the gang’s all here

Christmas memories seem strange on Good Friday, but then the mind often ignores time or at least is able to reconstruct its meandering corridors to bring buried secrets to the surface of consciousness.

One of my favorite Christmas gifts when I was a child growing up in Richards, Texas in rural Grimes County was not one that I received but one that I gave to my maternal grandmother Louise whose name I shortened to Dude when I was unable to pronounce Louise. Louise became Dude-ese, then simply Dude.

I was two years old when my dad and mother and I moved into my grandmother’s small Sears Roebuck designed house in Richards in 1948. We lived in that little house with her for eleven Christmases, and each Christmas she gave me two new pairs of underwear that she bought from the general store where she clerked six days a week from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening with an hour for lunch. Two new pairs of underwear wrapped in last year’s red paper she carefully saved and used again and again, tied with a gold string and a tiny tag signed in her scrawling handwriting Lots of love, Dude.

The Christmas before we moved away from Richards I bought Dude a present at Mr. McAfee’s drug store from money I saved from my allowance. I had never bought her a gift before and was so excited about my purchase: a door chime that played Hail, Hail – the Gang’s All Here. I hadn’t told anyone about my gift, so imagine the look on Dude’s face when she opened it. Just what she needed, she said, and had me believing it.

Dude had been 50 years old when we moved in with her and was 63 when we moved away to a town 70 miles from Richards leaving her with a disabled adult son, no transportation since she never learned to drive, and very little income. My dad and mother and I came back to visit every two weeks, and whenever the front door opened we were welcomed with the chimes playing hail, hail – the gang’s all here. And on those weekends her gang was there.

I was totally unaware of what loneliness and loss of laughter and love must have been for her the other days and nights of her life at that time because I was, after all, a self-absorbed teenager whose only experience with loneliness was self-imposed and transitory. I was never at a loss for laughter.

By the time I graduated from high school, my grandmother’s life had the beginnings of her roller coaster battle with depression that would plague her for the rest of her days – a war really – on battlegrounds she fought in doctors’ offices and hospitals,  fought sometimes with medicines, sometimes without medicines, sometimes with electroshock therapy.

My visits to see her became less frequent when I went away to college, and I remember being surprised on one of those visits to discover the door chimes no longer played when I opened the front door. Surprised, but totally unaware of the significance. Her gang was no longer there.

This morning I was taking a shower and for some reason the shower song du jour was Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here which brought the Christmas memories of my grandmother’s door chime pouring over me like the hot water that rinsed my hair.

Dude (1898 -1972)

In this final post I will make for women’s history month, I honor with love and gratitude one of the most important women in my life, the first woman to love me unconditionally with all her heart.

And on this good Friday I hope that your gang, however you define it, will be with you this weekend.

Stay tuned.










About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is a personal historian, essayist with humorist tendencies, lesbian activist, truth seeker and speaker in the tradition of other female Texas storytellers including her paternal grandmother. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike, Charly and Carl. She is also Naynay to her two granddaughters Ella and Molly James who light up her life for real. Born in rural Grimes County, Texas in 1946 her Texas roots still run wide and deep.
This entry was posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to hail, hail – the gang’s all here

  1. Susanne says:

    What a great way to celebrate women’s history month by remembering the history of women in your family. And there is so much to appreciate in this heartfelt essay, Sheila. It makes me think of both my mother and grandmother in their later years and how their gangs moved away and how that changed their lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Heather Hartt says:

    What a beautiful tribute to Dude! My Granny was like dude. That unconditional love of a grandmother is an indescribable gift like nothing else. My favorite tree in my yard came from a sapling/ stick in Grannys yard. She insisted I take one for our new homestead she had given us. As I write this I am looking out into my backyard at that big beautiful tree and as the wind whispers through its leaves I can feel Granny hug me and a quiet “I will always be with you and I love you.” and the phrase she said with absolute certainty every time I saw her “I ‘m so glad to see you. You look so pretty today. ” I pray you ate with all of your gang this weekend as we celebrate the Risen Christ and our promise of salvation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heather, I love the story of your Granny and the big beautiful tree you have that reminds you of her love. You are right. There is nothing like the unconditional love of your grandmother. I’m so glad to hear from you – I know you look so pretty today.
      Happy Easter to you and all of my Texas gang!


      • Heather Hartt says:

        Grandma Gertrudes wind chimes hang in that tree, so two of my grandmothers are together. I pray earnestly that my Parker Louise and my granddaughter due in 4.5 weeks will know that same feeling. There is truly nothing like it. I miss it everyday. And might I say, you look so pretty today!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Heather, I love the idea of the two grandmothers being together on the same tree. Oh, how I hope your grandchildren will know that feeling as well. Maybe someone will tell them they look handsome, pretty, or just plain fabulous one day!


  3. Cindy says:

    Very powerful memories I’m sure. I certainly enjoyed every line! Hope all is well please tell Teresa hello.

    Liked by 1 person

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