The epitome of style, grace, and social etiquette emanates from this lady, my great-aunt, Mrs. Birdie Lee Chadwick.
As long as I can remember, she has always been that presence in the room that cannot be denied your attention.
Birdie is socially relevant and has been so throughout the years. A year or two ago, I received a Facebook friend request from my then, 95 year old great-aunt. She managed to post a picture and periodically sends me online game token requests. Several weeks ago, she pulled out her cell phone and looked up a phone number to call either a friend or relative. I can’t remember but the point is that I was watching a 97 year old woman communicate clearly the desire to pick her and her dog up and take her home as she was done with visiting her 99 year old sister. All I could do is say to myself, ‘Yasss!’ She is doing it like I will when I’m her age!
It hasn’t been that long since she went to the casino (with her oxygen tank in tow). Being 90 years old has not slowed her down. Even though she still has health challenges, she manages to live alone, move around relatively freely, and attend social events of her choice. I even remember the controversy that sparked when the family stopped her from driving. I was grateful that I didn’t have to be the one to break that news to her!
Mrs. Chadwick had several means of income throughout the years. As a licensed beautician, she eventually serviced clients right out of the front room of her home in the Third Ward of Houston, Texas. I recently learned that she sold insurance as a part of a large group of African-American ladies that held social gatherings to attract new clients. Mrs. Chadwick owned and operated her own bar, which I believe my grandmother worked in! Oh, the stories!!!
I have been gathering photos and listening to her become reminiscent of the stories behind the images. It has been fun, eye-opening, and surprising at the life she led up to now. I had no idea! She showed me her friends from the years that she lived on a military with her first husband. Honestly, I didn’t know she had a ‘first husband.’
Then came the discussions about the boyfriends. Yes. The beautiful, vivacious Birdie Lee was not without her share of suitors. I spent hours scanning pictures of people as her eyes lit up with happiness to share fond memories. In her vast collection, she has the pictures of nice cars, handsome men, and even a signed picture of the Nicholas Brothers expressing their thoughts for the one and only, Birdie Lee.
I had to cancel the last shoot for my documentary that was scheduled to interview Mrs. Chadwick. She said, “Oh no. I can’t be on camera until I get my hair fixed. Can we reschedule next week after my hair appointment?” My grandmother, her sister, got wind of the rescheduling and uttered the same desire.
Naturally, I complied.