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Velma's Work
Valiantly Velma - Page 9

Mah-Thee - Beautiful in form and spirit

Mah-Thee and Velma were friends from childhood. The aging woman was beautiful when she was a girl with petite form and sweet personality. These two women had weathered every storm on their own grounds. They were tied together through knowing the ways of the old ones and their hearts were never separated from the discipline put upon them even as children. Now, Mah-thee walked a bit slower, wore her traditional cotton blouse and skirt but was without fail, jovial. Not only was she beautiful in form but over time became spiritually appealing. If she came to the house (Velma’s office) with one of her grandchildren, as she usually did, the little one was always quiet without demanding any attention, for no matter how long their grandmother stayed. It was obvious the grandmother worked with and taught her children.

“Come on in, Mah-thee.” Lee held the door wide to welcome Velma’s old friend. Somewhere in their history Mah-thee had evidently gained Lee’s respect. He was truly fond of her. He never entertained his wife’s friends but Mah-thee was different. While Velma was busy on the phone or doing some of her other duties associated with her job, Lee and Mah-thee sat quietly, visiting in the kitchen. What was the topic of their conversations and what were these two aging people discussing in such an earnest way? Once in a while he might tap his finger lightly on the table to make a point while the woman was like a child sitting at the master’s feet, her countenance told of how engrossed she was in what he was saying. Her visits were unhurried and somehow it seemed they were lifted away from this place in town back to another time when things were even slower moving at Lee and Velma’s ranch home in the Osage where Mah-thee came with her child, for sanctuary at a difficult time in her life.

After Velma finished her work, she would join them. These tiny round-table discussions laid out the planning for the first day care to be established for Native American children. No degree from any university could have provided a better education than Mah-thee had for taking care of children. There might have been more psychology, method, research and whatever studies were needed for teaching but the heart, experience, and will was what this mature woman had. She willingly offered her commitment and without pay. Her steadfast daily attendance to it made the project possible.

Mah-thee owned another necessary element and that was a small, unused house close to a group of Native American mothers. It was what was called the old shotgun house and had no more width than a small trailer house but desirable simply because it was available. The lack of paint on the building’s weathered exterior and its rough interior was of no consequence. If day care for children could have been kept with these same soft, easy-going ways, the two women introduced, possibly less pain would have been inflicted on children and mothers in the distant future. Later programs of Head Start and other Day Care subsidized by the government had hard and fast rules with no quarter given. Some children cried for a whole morning in grief from being separated from their mother’s side. This wasn’t exactly what these women originally had wanted to happen. Nevertheless, like so many of the hardened ways of politicians, who had not the mother’s love for those they governed, this did happen.

At that time Mah-thee, her husband, Lee and Velma began to gather the necessary furnishings needed which were simply a few tables and chairs along with an ancient cook stove and refrigerator. They began to enlist the mothers who had small children to join them in their efforts. Soon the group was selling meat pies, fry bread and beans to raise money for juice and treats for the children. Each mother contributed school supplies and sometimes, could only bring old newspapers for the children to color but the beginnings of a first day care was established and working. Volunteers from the non-Indian community were enlisted and there was no end to the interesting activities these contributed from carpenters, artists, retired teachers, so on and so forth. Whoever had an idea and could bring it down to a child’s level, was used. The mother’s enthusiasm, was the key to making the day care work and they willingly contributed their time.

Some of these ideas and plans were coming from the training Velma received from the University of Oklahoma along with her job but the thinking and creating of individual activities were, mostly, her own. The joint effort and combining of each volunteer’s offering kept the movement working. Mah-Thee’s steadfast and loyal way helped bring success, too.

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