April, 2011


“Now Diane, I want you to take this and put it in a safe place. I want you to have this,” smiled Mama as she tried to hand me one of her porcelain what-knots, three little white kittens – two kittens side by side on the bottom and one kitten stacked up on top.

“No, Mama, that’s yours.”

“Well, I know it is, but I want you to put it in your secretary in your living-room. It’ll be safe there. I have too much stuff around here. It could get knocked over and broken. I’m too old to look after all this stuff…” Mama shook her head as though she was overwhelmed with her house. Then smiled while a far-away dreamy look took over her face, “Yes, I remember the day I got this pretty little thing. I wouldn’t take nothing for it. I got it at your Aunt Bonnie’s house, you know, the old Henry Cofer home place.”

“Really?”

“Yes, Bonnie and Lawton Story gave me a bridal shower – back in about – 1946. And this was one of my gifts.”
“Who gave it to you?”

“I wish I could remember; I’m sorry to say I don’t. That was sooo long ago. But I do remember unwrapping it and opening the box. I held up the little kittens and looked into their faces. I knew in my heart of hearts, that one day I would have three little kittens.” Mama sat there quietly gazing at her little kittens for a few minutes. I do believe she was at Aunt Bonnie’s home in her mind and was not yet ready to return. Finally she spoke, “Yes, I knew I would have three little kittens – as pretty and sweet as these little kittens. I knew it, and I did.”

THS Prom Night, Patricia and Tommy Story

“Mama, I hate to tell you but, you had four little kittens.”

“No, Diane,” Mama perked up and spoke confidently with a twinkle in her eye, “I had three kittens —- and a Tucker Tiger.”

A Tucker Tiger indeed!

It was the “three little kitten” for many years before the Tucker Tiger was born. My father always teased us “three little kittens,” by calling us his “boys.” Patricia, Diane and Barbara were called, Pat, Donnie and Bob by our father. When we three sisters were fourteen, twelve and ten, another baby was on the way to the Story home.

It was a cold January morning with snow, ice and power lines on the ground. The three sisters peered through the windows, and watched Mama and Daddy walk gingerly on snow and ice to the car. We watched the car tires spin and slide on ice as Daddy fishtailed up Morgan Road, and thought how in the world will they make it all the way to downtown Atlanta? And would they make it in time? A challenging day with the elements and time issues; this was the kind of day my brother, Thomas Jonathan Story, Jr., decided to be born.

And what a welcomed sight Tommy was! We were all elated to have a little boy in the Story house, a first! We could not stop looking at him! Daddy could not wipe the smile off his face, and teased us often as he said, “If I had known y’ mother was having a boy, I’d a picked her up and carried her across that ice!” He would then burst out with laughter, and we all joined in on the fun. Then we would quickly go back to our obsession of looking at our new little brother.

That little baby boy grew up with three sisters watching over him – at least one sister no more than four feet away at any given time. Though on several occasions, I have heard Tommy say, “Sisters? I don’t have any sisters; I have four mothers.”

And he is just about right!

And for all practical purposes, Tommy was an only child. But not even that stopped him from playing his favorite sport, football.

Little Tommy kicked a football up in the air as far as he could, and then ran to the other side of the front yard to catch the descending football. He got so good at beating the ball; he made a game out of counting how many seconds it took the ball to land in his arms. And the higher he kicked the ball, the more seconds he racked up. No one ever had to look outside to check on my little brother while he played football, because you could hear the thump of his left foot kicking a leather ball – about every two minutes. This went on for hours, days, months and years.

Fitzgerald Field, (named after Charles Fitzgerald), was the place Tommy put his hard work to good use. My father never missed a practice or a game. I received a telephone call from my proud father to tell me about a Saturday morning football game at Fitzgerald Field.

“Donnie, you should see your brother at that football field. ‘Never seen anything like it.  This morning he kicked a forty-five yard field goal. He’s just twelve years old. They don’t even ask the Falcon’s to do that.” Our father was so proud of his son. And sadly, that was the last football game Daddy ever saw Tommy play.

That phone call was the last time I heard my father’s voice.

That following Friday, on an October day, my father fell from the roof of the Avondale Elementary School. He was up there piecing together a new section of roof with the old section. The day after his accident, my brother had a Vikings game scheduled at Fitzgerald Field. Mama told Tommy he could stay home, stay at the hospital, play the game, or stand on the side line with Coach Doug Smith. It was his decision. After careful consideration, Tommy said, “I’ll play ball for Daddy.”

Mama and my two sisters, Patricia and Barbara, along with a host of family and friends, stayed with Daddy. My husband, Jim, and I took Tommy to Fitzgerald Field. Jim walked the sidelines, because he wanted to be close to Tommy in case he changed his mind. Jim clapped and cheered the Vikings on. I was glad Jim was there, because that’s where Daddy would be if he could.

I sat there alone on the bleachers looking about at that gorgeous autumn morning. It was a perfect day in every way, except for the fact that my father was in intensive care on life support. I thought how strange it is that the world continues on so beautifully, during a time such as this. I froze my tears and plastered a smile on my face. I can’t tell you who won, because I don’t remember. The whole game was a blur, but I do remember that every time my brother jogged out on the field to kick the ball, I stood up to applaud him.

After the game, we returned to the hospital, and waited for the inevitable. My father went to live – Up Yonder.

Each boy on Tommy’s football team honored Daddy by wearing his purple Vikings football jersey to the funeral. They sat together as a team, and as a team, they were the first to follow the coffin out of the church. The team, coaches and parents were of great emotional support to Tommy and our mother throughout the remaining football season and many years to come.

It was a difficult time for the whole family, but especially for Mama and Tommy. Mama had to learn to drive a car, and to become an independent woman. Tommy stayed busy in after school physical education where he excelled in running techniques and hitting hoops. Staying after school helped Tommy keep busy until Mama came home from work – that way – he did not have to enter an empty house – alone. And now, Tommy Story had completed his Tiger training and was ready for Tucker High School.

And what a high school career Tommy Story had! He was on the Tucker Tigers Basketball Team in his eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth year.

He was on the Tucker Tiger Track Team in his eighth, ninth, and tenth year. Tommy loves to run. He knows every mile of jogging trails in Tucker like the back of his hand. And to this very day, runs up to the top of Stone Mountain just for grins.

And last but not least, Tommy Story played his heart out as a kicker for the Tucker Tigers Football Team in his eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth year. In the ninth grade, he played first string Varsity Football as a kicker. Many articles were written about him in the AJC, local Tucker and Dekalb County newspapers. And Tommy was awarded the honor of All County and All State his Junior and Senior year.

Tommy graduated with the THS Class of 1980.

Mama supported Tommy by attending all of his games – that is except basketball. At first she thought she would enjoy basketball more than football. “Oh I just can’t wait to see Tommy play indoors! I won’t have to sit out in the cold air – through rain, sleet and snow! These Tucker people don’t have any quitting sense! They’d play football in the middle of a tornado,” Mama laughed. “Basketball will be sooo much better.”

That is what Mama thought until three minutes into the first basketball game. And she had a lot to say about that game.

“I sat on the floor level. I decided to let those younger mothers climb those bleachers. There I sat – as close to the center as possible; I wanted to see y’ brother up close and personal play basketball. All of a sudden – a whistle blew. Like to have scared me to death! I couldn’t take the noise! The yelling —- the screaming! The boys running making their shoes squeak! And that ball bouncing around —- echoed inside my head. It was just too loud! And there was too much pushing and shoving going on. And the referees didn’t do a thing about it. It was too rough. I prayed – Please Lord – don’t let these boys get hurt; this is so dangerous! And the little cheerleaders – they need to get out of the way. I wouldn’t have a daughter of mine in the middle of that mess.”

Mama rolled her big brown eyes and swallowed hard, “And then, another whistle blew – lonnng and loud! Somebody was down! A boy was hurt! I could‘ve told ’em that was gonna happen! I couldn’t see who it was, ‘cause so many were standing around the poor hurt soul. Then I looked down and saw your brother’s foot sticking out from the crowd! It was Tommy! I wanted to go down there, but y’ brother told me not to get on that court for any reason. He told me it didn’t matter if he died; I was to stay off that court.”

Mama teared up a little just thinking about it. She wiped her eyes with her dress tail, “I held my breath and prayed. Please Lord, let Tommy walk again, let the boy live. That crowd of folks stayed bent over him for such a lonnng time. It felt like an eternity. But finally —- they carried him off the court.”

And then Mama became a little bit outraged, “And they blew that blamed whistle again! I couldn’t wait for that game to get over. I told myself, Helen, if you ever get out of here, you’re never coming back!”

And Mama kept her word to herself; she did not attend another basketball game. But she found other ways to support her basketball playing son by selling tickets, baking cookies, pies and cakes. Mama never missed a pancake breakfast, and always supported the Tucker Tip Off Club. Her tickle box turned over every time she slipped the cheerleaders into Tommy’s bedroom to hide candy in his dresser drawers, and color his room in a sea of maroon and gold balloons and streamers. She also made terry-cloth tiger outfits for her grandchildren to be little Tucker Tigers.

Mama was proud of her Tucker Tiger! She never missed a football game!

On a beautiful autumn evening in Briarcliff at Adams Stadium, my two sisters and I sat with Mama at a Tucker High School football game.  It was a perfect night in every way. But strangely, I became overwhelmed with sadness as I watched my brother jog out onto the field to take his punting position.

Tommy took his time as usual to size up the situation. Now he was ready. His arms by his side, fists clenched, upper body bent forward, he stood frozen, the way he does when he blocks out everything – except for the football. The snap was good and Tommy had the ball in his hands. He paused for a moment, took a couple steps, and then put his left foot into the football. The crack of leather was the only sound made except for the crowd’s gasp. The ball soared up into the sky, past the lights and out of sight. That ball went waaay – Up Yonder.

I leaned into Mama’s shoulder and said, “I wish Daddy could see him now…”

Mama spoke with conviction, “Oh he sees him! Tom Story knows what his son is doing, believe you me! In all these years, he’s never missed a practice or a game. Y’ Daddy’s got a front row seat!”

About then the football fell back into view, and the spell was broken. The Tigers were deep in enemy territory. The crowd stood and roared in unison while the Tucker Tiger Marching Band played. The Tucker Tiger Drill Team and Majorettes danced. The children dressed as tigers clapped their little hands. The Tucker Tiger Cheerleaders jumped into formation and cheered their hearts out. It was pure magic!

Mama stood and we three sisters stood with her, as we followed her lead.

GO TIGERS! GO – YOU MIGHTY – MIGHTY TIGERS!

Little Tiger Kimberly Logan, Tommy Story's niece

 

 

Action shots taken at THS practice field – courtesy of Nona Boyd AJC 1979. Click on photo to enlarge.

 

Note: In 2008 our dear mother passed away and we have not been able to locate the newspaper articles of Tommy playing football. If you have an article or any action shots of him, and would like to share, please email: story@tuckerdays.com I want to post them for this Story! Thank you!