Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #7

Conversations with Mama ~ #7

Helen new_0015 (538x800)

Mama posing by a rock in the field… I used to wear shoes just like hers!

“The maroon ceramic teapot you have actually came with a sack of flour that Mama bought at Ulmer’s store in Siloam. That teapot is pretty old because I remember her getting that when I was a child. Back then, the companies gave you kitchen items when you bought flour and even fertilizer – she often got dishes or cups that way.”

“When I was young, I remember getting in the bed and pulling the covers over my head when it stormed – and sit there really quiet! We had some really bad clouds come up back then; they were loud and noisy storms, not like today. The storms we have now are nothing like I remember when I was little. But even now, I still like to be quiet when it storms. I’ll turn everything off – no TV or lights on. I’ll just sit in the dark and be real quiet, and sometimes even now, I still pull the cover up over my head so I don’t have to see the lightning. If it’s stormy like a tornado warning, I’ll get in the hallway and shut myself in until the storm is over.”

Mama told me tonight that Donna brought her some dressing today. She loves when someone brings her dressing, but she likes to doctor it up to her liking. “Sometimes I’ll add some stuff to the dressing Donna brings – I’ll take it in the kitchen and add an onion or a little squash and transform it into how I best like it.” Mama’s funny when she talks about her food makeovers.

Almost everyday Mama goes to Fish, and loves to tell me about her finds. “I was at Fish today and found you a small sifter – thought you could use it in the kitchen or give to one of the kids if you don’t want it. I love to go there everyday and just ramble, what else do I have to do and you never know what you’ll find. In their “free box” today I picked up a Texas cookbook for you.” (Fish is a store that takes donations of items to sell and the money goes back into the community to help those who are needy) As soon as I get there, she will be pulling out all the stuff she has bought me through the year – usually before I can even sit down and relax. Often there are some things I really like, unless she’s tried to find me clothes!

“We had Brain Power today and they asked us to tell stories we remembered when we were young. I told them about when I was a little girl and how I liked to climb up in the persimmon tree and slide off on the back of the bell cow, Bessie, as she walked under the tree – I’d ride to the barn on her back.”

“Today when I went to get gas (10/2/08) they were rationing gas – you could only get $10.00 worth. I keep my tank full all the time so it wasn’t a problem for me.” When you come down I want you to make sure you keep my tank full, as gas is more scarce down here.”

“I don’t like to watch the Republican’s or the Democrat’s on TV, I like to find something that won’t tax my brain! It doesn’t matter who gets in, they are going to do what they want when they’re in office. My father was always a Democrat, but he wouldn’t be happy with today’s elections.”

After I read about Dudleytown in the ghost book I picked up at work today, I asked Mama about ghosts on the farm, and … “I believe my Daddy is still on the farm – probably still sitting in his favorite rocking chair, rocking back and forth. I remember one night being woke up and finding his rocking chair in my bedroom, rocking back and forth. I just laid there and watched it rock before going back to sleep. I told my girlfriend, Willie Mae, the next morning and she got so scared and said she wasn’t going to sleep over ever again. I told her she was silly. Later I figured out what had happened – I had laid my exercise rope on the back of that chair, and at some point, it must have slipped off and caused the rocker to rock. I used to tell tales in town that Daddy’s ghost was on the farm. It made them talk about Mr. Ed still being on the farm and they were afraid to come around. It did keep certain people from coming down to the farm and bothering me.”

“I remember a black man named JP who often babysat me and Leroy if Mama went somewhere with Daddy. I was really young then, as we were living in the log cabin when he stayed with us. He liked to tell us ghost stories and told us that ghosts talked to him through the cracks in the floor. Back then, most people had cracks in their floors. By the time Mama and Daddy came home, we’d be scared silly from his stories. And after those stories, I stepped over the cracks in the house for days.”

“Jernigan’s Bridge was an old wooden bridge down from White Plains. There were wide flat rocks there alongside the stream of water – just right for sunbathing. I remember one time I was down there with my best friends daughters, Pat and Debbie (Willie Mae’s daughters) and we pinned big leaves all over our bathing suits. We looked like we were only wearing leaves! I don’t remember who’s idea that was, but I was just as crazy as the kids back then.” 

“Someone followed me home from a dance in Sparta one night and as I pulled into the yard, I jumped out of the car quickly and sat on the back stoop with my pistol cocked. When they pulled into the yard I shot at their tires and they peeled out of the yard and took off. Later, one night at the bar in Madison where I worked, I told some guys about that night. They laughed and said you’d better know that you can’t go home with Helen; one guy piped up and said, “there’s one place you don’t go, you don’t go to the jailhouse house drunk and you don’t go to Helen McKinley’s farm – she will shoot you!.” (Gee, I wonder how he figured that out??)

 “I’ve always had a sense of humor. Willie Mae and I laughed all the time –  at everything. She still enjoys reading through joke books today and can sit and read and laugh. I used to laugh telling jokes and remembered every one told to me when I was a beautician. I told jokes all the time to my customers. Now I can’t remember where I lay anything, much less a joke.”

Tonight Mama was talking about all the pills she takes and she began telling about how much she hates it that she can’t eat turnip greens anymore. I told her she could have a cup of them a day, but she said, “if I can’t eat myself silly with them, I won’t eat them at all.” She takes Coumadin (blood thinner) and you can’t eat many greens when taking it. Mama said, “when I was pregnant with Monica, I craved turnip greens and salmon – and both together! When I was pregnant with you, I still craved turnip greens, but also my Mama’s fried chicken, but only the breast. If I was there on Sunday dinner, I’d hide the breast in the cabinet until time to sit down and eat – I made sure I got the white meat – no matter who was there. I could eat myself silly with a big plate of turnip greens and cornbread – it was like I just couldn’t get enough of them. Mr. Paul (my father-in-law) laughed when someone was looking for me and always said, “she’s probably down in the turnip patch.” I just couldn’t get my fill of them. When I was young, I never liked turnip greens, I’d rather have had a sandwich instead.”

I told Mama tonight that Robert emailed me about the two bowls he had that belonged to Grandmamma Bryan. He gave them to his daughter Regina awhile back. Robert found them when he cleaned out his mother’s house – his mother must have taken them after Mama Bryan died. I don’t remember ever seeing them, but Robert said she always mixed her biscuits and cornbread in them, and always by hand – she never used any utensils to mix with. The bowls are made by a company called Watt Ware Pottery, and marked No. 64 and No. 65 – they have apples on the outside. Mama said, “Mama Bryan made biscuits like my mother did, but my Mama’s were much better, no matter what Robert says. She made them the old-fashioned way just like my Mama and the same way I do. I’m surprised that she didn’t have a wooden bread bowl like my Mama – you have my mother’s bread bowl that she made biscuits in. I also remember that Mr. Paul (Bryan) made biscuits too, and I always thought that his were better than Mama Bryan’s. He knew how to cook and did a lot of the cooking – he even made cakes and they were better than hers. Your father loved my Mama’s cooking. He liked her cooking better than his mothers.

During my chat with Mama tonight I told her about the 90th birthday party for Procter Allen McKinley Jr.’s mom in Siloam. Allen is the grandson of Lawson (My grandfather’s uncle) and Ulma McKinley who owned Ulmer’s general store in Siloam. Mama told me – “Lawson McKinley was also the mayor of Siloam; he was the son of Granddaddy’s father’s (Edgar Lawson McKinley) brother, James Kinchens McKinley.”

“The McKinley’s pretty much ran the small town of Siloam – my father’s brother, Joe McKinley was the Chief of Police. He was the “only” policeman in town. Uncle Joe was also the local blacksmith; his shop was behind the wooden jail building they used for temporary lockup. He locked up anyone there until he could take them to the city jail in Greensboro. It was always told that Uncle Joe would just as soon shoot you, as look at you – you didn’t dare him to shoot either; I heard he did just that to someone who did dare him once. I don’t know how my father ended up with his police pistol, but we had it for as long as I can remember. I used to carry it in my purse when I was out late at night.”

 “I remember Daddy taking Mama and me to town (Siloam) on Saturday afternoons  and sometimes evenings. There was no other place to go. Mama and I liked to go to Ulmer’s store where my cousin, Kenneth McKinley, and I would sit on the stools at the counter and listen to the adults talk; Kenneth was about my age. The counter was actually from when the store was a bank. (I gave you original checks from that bank) It was the Bank of Siloam up to some time in the late 30’s, then they bought the building and opened a general store there. (Before the store, Lawson drove a big rolling truck where he sold food and kitchen items out of.) Even the original safe remained in the backroom there. Kenneth and I sat quietly so we could listen to the adults talk as they sat in the chairs around the pot-belly stove in the back. My mother loved to go to town and visit with Ulma, she was really the only one she enjoyed spending time with other than her sister Christine Amos. My mother was a very quiet person.”

I don’t know how the conversation turned to Tide tonight, but… “ I remember Tide washing powder running a contest when we lived in Union Point. The question to answer was, “who was the female vocalist who’s name sounds like the ocean?” I immediately knew the answer, it was Dinah Shore. She was very popular in the 50’s. I never did send in the answer, and always regretted that I didn’t. I don’t even remember what the prize was, but I do remember always wishing I had sent in my answer – I think I was just excited that I knew the answer.”

“I know you don’t remember, but I collected a set of mini-dolls from Tide when you were young. We were living in Union Point at that time. They were advertised on the back of the Tide box – I sent in box tops to get them. They were about 4-inches tall and each one came dressed to match a country. I never let you play with them and kept them high on a shelf. When we moved to Perry, I don’t know what happened to them. I don’t remember having them in Perry or ever seeing them again. I must have thrown or gave them away when we moved; I wish I did know what happened to them.”

I called Mama the night before Thanksgiving (Nov. 2008) and told her I was making her favorite dish for the first time – she calls it Pink Stuff, but the real name on the recipe she sent was Cherry Fluff. My Ga. Sis (Donna Powell) makes it every holiday and they always tell me about it, but I never got around to actually making it. So I decided that I would finally make it to add to our holiday dinner this year. Mama immediately told me… “ I sure wish I could have some right now – I love that stuff and could eat myself silly with it. Allen’s mother made it a little different from Donna. She put chopped grapes and bananas in hers, and chopped everything up small. I really loved hers. Her pink stuff was the first time I ever ate it – and I was hooked from the first taste. I like to eat it with my dressing.”

In talking about Sweet Potatoes tonight, Mama began telling me. “I’ll never forget how big Aunt Chris could grow a sweet potato vine. She’d cut the top off of a sweet potato and stick toothpicks on both sides to keep it sitting just over the water in a glass. As it grew roots in the water, it began growing into a vine. She usually had one sitting in the kitchen on the back of the wood stove. It would grow all over the top of the stove and down to the floor. She grew the prettiest ones every summer, and whenever I’d try and grow them like hers, it never happened. Mine just rotted in the water. June, across the street, gave me some old sweet potatoes she’d gotten from her mother the other day and I grew them outside this past summer in pots; they grew the prettiest blue flowers. I’ve never seen a sweet potato vine bloom flowers before and I’ve seen them grown from the time I was a little girl on the farm. I didn’t even know that they bloomed.”

Mama asked me tonight, “did you ever play the gossip game when you were little? We played that at Senior Citizens today. The woman who comes to do the memory exercises had us play it to see what it would end up as. She started it, but it didn’t end up what she began with. I remember our principal, Mr. Burke, making us play the gossip game to show us what gossip really was. He started it in the 1st row and we all whispered something as it went through the rows to the end. And by the time it got to the end, it wasn’t anything like what he started. Then he told us, “that is what gossip is.” He said, “believe what you hear yourself, because gossip is tales that were not originally said.”

Mama told me today about the antibiotic pills Boo has to take and how hard it is for her to give them to him. She tried putting them in his food, but he wasn’t eating it, and now she can’t get him to take them at all. Then she began telling me… “I could never give you pills when you were small either. Willie Mae never had any trouble giving Pat and Karen their medicine, but I could never get you to swallow pills by putting them in your mouth. The only way I made you take pills was to sit you up on a high counter in the kitchen and tell you that if you didn’t take your pills, I was going to leave you sitting there. You didn’t like heights, and I guess you believed me, because you quickly opened your mouth like a little bird – and down they’d go. I don’t know why I had such a hard time with you; I’ve never been able to even give any of my other cats pills either.” 

To be continued…

© 2015 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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1 Response to Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #7

  1. Evelyn Smallwood Smith says:

    Memories, sweet memories. I, too, think turnips are best with cornbread. I’ve tried biscuits and bread but still go back to cornbread. You know, cornbread just isn’t cornbread as a muffin. I know a lot of restaurants serve muffins as opposed to actual cornbread. Guess they think it saves time or they can make more that way, but it just isn’t cornbread.
    I also tried that Jiffy cornbread once and went right back to my cornbread in the cast iron skillet. That Jiffy must have sugar in it! Even my husband, who like cornbread more than me, turned his nose up at it.
    Mother never said anything about Tide dolls. Maybe because she used Ivory. Besides years later, she and I discovered we were both allergic to Tide. Not really sure why but we itch all over if we wash in it, even though I rinse my clothes like my grandmother McKinley always did -twice. Mama McKinley always told me that helps make sure the soap is out of the clothes.
    I remember Mama McKinley’s (Grace Marchman) brother, Howard Marchman owned and operated a General Store in Hardwick, Baldwin County, Georgia, which also housed the United States Post Office. Hardwick is about 50 miles south of Siloam, where most of our family memories started.
    I don’t know where that ‘Pink Stuff’ came from but I do remember seeing it on Mama McKinley’s table year after year but not the first time. Actually, I don’t recall ever eating any but I’m sure I did because we were raised that you had to try something before saying you didn’t like it, unless there was a legitimate reason, such as medical. Food was put on the table for you to eat and pickiness was frowned upon. I recall that when I was a teenager, Mother began making a fruit salad that she took to all our family gatherings. I don’t know exactly what she put in it but it but I do know there was cherries, bananas, grapes, pineapples. I tried it a few times, didn’t want to hurt Mother but never was too crazy about it. My husband loves it. Maybe I should see if my sister has the recipe or can remember how Mother made it.
    I know Mama McKinley always had Waldorf Salad, always. So do I. Some people call it Apple Salad but I stick to Waldorf. Talk about pigging out on something. My sister puts raisins in hers but not me. That is one of those personal preferences things.
    Yes, those memories are so precious and I do love reading your mothers stories. Tell her not to worry so much about forgetting things. She has about 25 years on me and memory is one of my problems. I hate it.


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