The Cowboy Bank

by Robin Turnipseed

It is Mother’s Day evening, and all the celebrations are winding down. The day has been lovely, restful, and productive, the best combination. I completed several projects, ate salmon tacos and sweet potato fries from my favorite restaurant, and took a Sunday afternoon nap. My day was perfect. However, it is not lost on me that this day doesn’t look the same for everyone, and I am aware of the blessing I hold still having my mother alive and well. With this in mind, I want to dedicate this “Pretty” story to her and one of our favorite people, her mother, my grandmother, Mimi.

Running From House to House

My Mimi was like a second mother to me. The Placement of PrettyThings project developed due to her and, of course, her cuckoo clock. Growing up, I counted down the days until we would visit her house. My grandmother lived next door to her mother, my Nanny. I spent many summer mornings running from house to house in my handmade red bathrobe to see if Nanny offered anything different in the way of breakfast foods. Years later, Mimi’s sister built a house right next door, and suddenly I had an entire street full of family to visit whenever we came to town.

The Pretty Room

Whenever possible, I still take time to drive down that street and see if anything has changed. I can’t help it; my car naturally turns left onto Turman Avenue and then veers right onto Westminster Drive slowing as it passes by the all-brick ranch with the crimson back porch located on the corner. As I slowly drive by, I find myself looking at the room sitting to the left of the front door, my Mimi’s “pretty” room. This room housed all the porcelain, the breakable and the delicate.

Little trinkets of every size and shape displayed themselves on wooden shelves situated in every corner. All the items were unique, but none more than a glass Howdy Doody bank, which held court right in the center of these dainty objects. This bank, designed after the famous red-haired puppet, was cherished and rested on those shelves until he was gently removed, wrapped, and placed back in my mother’s hands after Mimi’s death.

And while I know many of the stories behind the pretties in that room, I wasn’t fully aware of all the details surrounding the cowboy bank, so this week, I made the call to find out the entire story.

Here is what I discovered:

The Cowboy Bank

PPT: First off, do you remember what piece led to the start of Mimi’s pretty room?

Mom: She always had a pretty room. Even when we lived in Oak Forest, Illinois, she had a room with all her pretty things. It began with the shadow box. You remember the one. That gold ornately mirrored box that hung on the wall, which she had since the 60s, actually started the entire room.

PPT: I remember that mirror now! It acted as the centerpiece of the entire space. But what I want is the story behind the Howdy Doody Bank. Please tell me his story.

Mom: It was in 1991, and Mimi was in the hospital finishing her chemotherapy treatments. I only had $10, but I wanted to purchase a gift for her. One day, I picked up your brother from school and took him to Big Lots to find something small to fit my budget. We went inside, on the hunt for something of value that I could afford. Suddenly, he picked up the bank, and I wondered if she would like it. I flipped it over and saw that he only cost $7. I was thrilled because I still had some money for a card. We brought it to her in the hospital that night, and I remember how much she loved it.

PPT: I know that you received the bank back after Mimi’s death and have held on to it for years.

Mom: Yes, It means so much for various reasons. The gift represents a celebration of the completion of her chemotherapy treatments. Also, it was your brother’s first gift, and it was to her. It’s priceless.

PPT: One more question, why Howdy Doody? Why was he special to you?

Mom: The Howdy Doody show ran from the late 1940s through the 1960s. It was also one of the first nationally televised American children’s tv shows. It held significance to both of us because she watched it as a child, and then later, your uncles and I watched it as well. That show came full circle and brought us all joy. And sometimes, when you encounter the difficult, you need the comfort of the simple.

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