Momma: Birthday Memories of June Carter Cash - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Momma: Birthday Memories of June Carter Cash

Valerie June Carter is my Momma!

She was born in 1929 to Ezra and Maybelle Carter in Maces Springs, Virginia, and by all accounts, especially hers, she came out talking! She was an entertaining baby and absolutely her Daddy’s knock-kneed, feisty, funny child as she grew up from a tomboy to a gorgeous young girl. Back then, she would have just as soon be driving a logging truck or working in the garden rather than fussing with bows in her hair – as long as it meant she was helping her Daddy out with his “projects”!

How many days did I spend with my Momma? How many birthdays did we celebrate together?

Since it’s June – and her birthday is today on the 23rd of that month – I always like to think about those times and be grateful for every moment I had with her… But still, the answer to my questions: Not enough!!!

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you know her as June Carter Cash, the Entertainer. She was all that you knew her publicly as, but so much deeper than the character she portrayed on stage. I knew both of these versions of my Momma, and I respected and loved them both passionately! And she was always the smartest person in the room, of that I have no doubt.

June Carter Cash. Photo: Harry Langdon

I could write an entire book of stories about her, or stories she’s told me, but that’s not happening today. Nope! Today I want to share some birthday memories with you all.

Coming from the generations of artists that made up my family, she taught us about birthdays as she was taught by her Momma – it’s just a day, and we celebrate when we’re all together. So if Momma was on tour, and I was not with her, we looked at the calendar and picked the day that was going to be her birthday day that year!

And, in fact, so it went with all holidays and celebrations. For example, almost every summer when Rosey and I were little, our Momma would be on the road playing state fair dates. We loved this because we would go with her, and we could ride the rides while she was working. There were a lot of Momma’s birthdays spent like that, and as Rosey’s birthday was in July, same with her’s too; my birthday being in September meant that only happened sometimes as Momma was all about me getting an education under my belt. So you get the drift about our ways of celebrating special days, including the Carter-Cash Christmas, which was often done around Thanksgiving instead as they loved being down in Jamaica during the cold months in Tennessee. Sometimes we would go, sometimes not!

Momma, 1956. I was almost 8 months old on this Saturday night at the Opry. It was Momma’s birthday, and I was no doubt sleeping in Aunt Nita’s or somebody’s upright bass case off stage!  Photo courtesy of Carlene Carter

But I’ll go back to the 1950s and 1960s now. For Momma’s birthday, Rosey and I would get up extra early and make strawberry pancakes and serve her breakfast in bed, singing her HAPPY BIRTHDAY while she pretended to be surprised. We’d make these crazy glitter-covered cards for her, and she’d always say: “The most beautiful cards I have ever seen, girls!”

Then a lot of times we would have a big fish fry after going fishing in the pond at our home in Madison, Tennessee, or from out on the lake where we later lived with John after they got married. And, of course, she loved parties and having all her friends and family over – that was our Momma!

Polaroid photo of Momma and me, 1955 or early 1956, I’m guessing! Photo courtesy of Carlene Carter

She was everything to her kids: me, Rosey, and John Carter. And now I celebrate her birthday every year since she passed because I was so blessed to have been her baby girl. She was the sweetest, the funniest, the most generous, and the strongest woman I have ever known in my life!

Happy Birthday, Momma.


Guest blogger Carlene Carter is a singer and musician, and the daughter of June Carter and Carl Smith.

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