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Three of a kind: Mother, daughters talk life lessons over card games

VIDALIA — When the weather is nice, Hattie Neal can usually be found spending time with her daughters underneath the carport of her blue house on South Spruce Street.

A card table and folding chairs anchors the scene of countless card games that are a mainstay of the women’s quality time together.

When The Dart landed at Neal’s house Saturday evening, it was Phase 10 that was the day’s form of friendly competition among Neal and her daughters, LaToya Ellis and Jerricia Scott.

Laughter echoed down the street as their eyes scanned card hands and the driveway to make sure Ellis’ son 2-year-old Jabez Ellis kept his tricycle close to the house. Ellis’ daughter 9-year-old Roniya Ellis, stood behind her mother braiding mom’s hair before hopping on her bicycle. Big brother Ronald Ellis, 11, was in the house.

Ellis is the first to dart her hand in the air when asked who rules at the card table.

“Lately, she has been the best,” Neal concedes with laughter.

While the competition is energetic, the card games are merely a backdrop for conversations about life, how the children are doing in school, what happened at work this week, each dispensing advice to one another for life’s problems.

“We can talk about anything with each other,” Ellis said.

With a family that is mostly women, Neal and her daughters say being strong women is an almost innate quality of the women in their family.

“We get that from Dorothy,” Ellis says. “She’s always been like that, strong and independent.”

“Dorothy” is Dorothy Baker, Neal’s mother. She was inside, resting. Neal has lived with her mother in the house on South Spruce Street since 2004.

While they stay busy at work — Neal at Concordia Parish Library in Vidalia, Ellis at Concordia Bank and Scott at Receivable Solutions — the women always make time for a card game, a shopping trip or a bite to eat together.

They will likely be out underneath the carport again next Saturday, sitting in the shade watching the children play and reporting the latest news in their lives.

“I think it’s important to come back and have family time and have people that will be there for you for sure,” Ellis said. “And it’s just very relaxing to sit out here and talk to people who know you and understand your life and what you’re going through.”

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