Growing up in a household with three brothers and no sisters, I rarely remember any of us boys volunteering to help my mom cook, much less clean; and with five males under her roof it’s easy to understand why mom rarely got her way, that is, until Libby came into our family. Now, just so there is no misunderstanding, my dad was the final authority in our home, not that he ever made threats or even raised his voice, but all of us boys knew better than to question him or ever cross the line, that is, until Libby came into our family.
On June 9, 1979, in what I thought was a simple wedding to my best friend, the male dominated world of my youth saw a subtle, but lasting, power shift. A few months after our wedding it was apparent to everyone in the Gilley family that two women working in tandem easily trumped the four remaining men in my parent’s house. My mom finally had a daughter and suddenly she went from being the “house minority leader” to the “house majority leader” without an election.
It all started the Christmas following our wedding when my dad decided to make use of his new “daughter” by having Libby do his Christmas shopping for my mom. Libby, for her part, was excited about the opportunity to go shopping especially since my dad gave her three hundred dollars to spend on a gift. Keep in mind as you read the remainder of this story that three hundred was a lot of money in 1979 and it was way more money than I ever remember anyone spending on a Christmas gift.
Christmas morning the excitement around the tree was palpable following our traditional breakfast of bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy, becasue all of us guys couldn’t stop staring at the one package neatly wrapped beneath the tree. When my mom was finally handed her gift, my dad couldn’t hide a huge grin as she carefully peeled back the delicate wrapping paper bound with an expensive bow.
Opening the small jewelry box my mom found an exquisite ring which had a center diamond surrounded by four birthstones representing each of her boys. The ring definitely trumped the Popsicle stick napkin holder I made from scratch using my own glue when I was in kindergarten. Tears threatened to spill out of mom’s brown eyes as she looked questioningly from face to face to determine responsibility, finally Libby admitted, ” Well, I sorta of picked it out, but the gift is from your husband”.
When my mom left the room to regain her composure under the pretext of, “checking on the turkey in the oven”, my dad turned to Libby and whispered, “Wow, I don’t know much about jewelry but that seems like a really nice ring for three hundred dollars!” “Oh”, Libby said innocently, “It cost way more than that, I put the three hundred dollars down as a deposit and the little man at the store said he would finance the rest. Wasn’t that nice of him?”. Before my dad could respond Libby said, “Don’t worry there is no interest for a year,” then reaching into her pocketbook, she said, ” Oh, and here is your payment booklet”.
All eyes were now on my dad because Libby had definitely crossed the line; a line which she didn’t even realize existed, so it was a shock to everyone that Christmas morning when dad started laughing as he tucked the payment book away in his shirt pocket and said, “Well, I guess that’s the last time I will ask Libby to shop for me.”
In our shock and confusion the four Gilley brothers and their dad implicitly understood that there had been a power shift and we were just beginning to realize the influence that the “weaker sex” could wield in what was (up that point, at least) a male dominated universe.