“Ha ha hell!”

Ruby Tyson aka Ru Pearl aka Mom Tyson (1921-2004) was no stranger to a hard life. Her mother’s blindness prompted her aunt Ma Shug to raise her. It was with Ma Shug that she traveled from Dawson, Georgia to Hartford, Connecticut to escape the violence of the American South. In addition to her life circumstances, she had a naturally serious disposition. I mean the woman took everything seriously, from cultivating the roses, fruit, and vegetables in her gardens to moonshining. When her only daughter passed away at a young age from a ruptured brain aneurysm she raised her grandchildren as her own.

Despite never getting any let up in her own life, when we were in her care (which we were a lot), she’d allow us to play outside with our toys for hours on end. But, oh the baths that came afterward! She scrubbed her great-grandchildren so hard we feared our skin would come off! For Mom Tyson even cleanliness was no laughing matter. But here is the thing—laugh we did, adults and children alike. And it only added fuel to the fire when she’d chime in with the response she often had to any nearby laughter—”ha, ha, hell!“ Even back then that one simple statement would keep us children, now adults with children, roaring with laughter. It still does.