Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #16

Conversations with Mama… and more ~ #16


Mama in the yard at the farm with possibly the dog named Spot

In asking Mama tonight about the O’Neil-Dolvin house outside of Siloam she remembered. “I was in that house once – almost spent the night. My friend Joyce Atkinson  was related to the family who lived in the Dolvin house. She took me to spend the night in that house and began telling me ghost stories. After telling me how people could hide behind some of the fireplaces in the house, I got so scared that I wanted to go home – and I did.”

“I went over and fed Sadie again today. June is in Utah and later going to California  for surgery so I’m taking care of Sadie while she’s gone. Sadie was just wagging her tail today when I came. Before I left, I gave her a good brushing – she loves to be brushed.”

“Boo is up under the covers with me right now. This afternoon I was brushing him and he was purring – then all of a sudden he turned around with glassy eyes and grabbed around my wrist. It was all I could do to get him loose – then I slapped him. I don’t know why he does that. None of my other cats ever acted like that.”

I called Mama tonight to tell her that Ella now weighs 10 lbs, 1/2 oz. Ella really is in tune with her mother’s voice – you can see how when Rose sings or talks to her that she calms down pretty quickly.  Ella loves the music from Mama Mia – it soothes her. Rose went for her two month checkup and (May 14, 2010) the doctor told her she could go back to work on June 1st. That will be Steve’s first official baby-watching day!

Ella turned over today (May 25, 2010) for the first time by herself. Mama said. “They turn over pretty quickly and soon she’ll be trying to stand and then she’ll be walking by the time I get to see her. You need to be showing her my picture and talking about me like you did with Stephen and Melissa so she knows me. They were never afraid of me when I first saw them.”

“Ever time I see cloth material come in at the Senior Center I think of my mother. She would have been in hog heaven to find so much material for sewing quilts.  Mama treasured material, but it was not very often that she was able to actually buy some for her quilts. She mostly sewed her quilts from flour and feed sack bags and reused old clothing. I remember one time when Daddy bought her a bolt of material for a quilt backing – it was a pretty blue check pattern. I happened to have found it while they were working in the field and before I knew what it was for, I used it. I made new curtains for my room and a skirt for my vanity table. I kept Mama’s pedal Singer sewing machine humming all afternoon and when I finished, I remember thinking how pretty my room looked. I had always wanted a pretty room like other girls. When Mama came in and saw “her” material all cut, she said very sadly, “that was for my quilt.”  You could see the tears swelling up in her eyes. Daddy just said, “it’s pretty.” Then he turned to Mama and said, “I’ll buy you more material.”

I called Mama this morning at work – because she spends her whole day working in the yard and I can never find her inside when I take my bath and call her. The call was a request from Frank. He wants her to find some moonshine for Melissa and me to bring home – is that legal in our suitcase?? I don’t want to be detained and strip-searched at the airport for carrying moonshine across state borders. LOL and she said… “I’ll have to call Bennie and see if he knows of any place to buy any or maybe you should call your cousin Charles Bryan in Union Point to see what he can do.” Then she told me. “When my brother and I were sick Mama put sugar in a little moonshine to give us. It made us sleep well! They used home remedies back then, they didn’t have drugstores to run to. Daddy bought certain roots from a Root Dr. near White Plains and Mama made tea with it for us to drink when we were sick. Those remedies worked.”

“Did I ever tell you about the time your father came home so drunk poisoned from moonshine that he was foaming at the mouth?  You found him on the front porch of our house in Union Point, passed out, and you came running to tell me that he was foaming at the mouth. I called the Dr. and he said he’d probably gotten a hold of some poisoned moonshine. People can die from moonshine if they get a bad batch – you had to be careful who you bought it from back then.”

I read this today – ASAP means – “ As Southern as Possible”

I called to wish Mama a Happy Birthday today (April 6, 2010). “It is very hot here today, you’d think it was July. I don’t know where I’m going to put the red Angel Trumpet you sent me. I might just put it in a pot this year. I put the fig tree cuttings in pots under the car shelter to root for now.”

In talking about sewing Mama said.. “Whenever I wanted to sew something, I’d sit in bed at night and actually make it in my head – even to the point of how I’d cut it out. Then I’d get up the next morning and make it. Sometimes I’d even stay up all night and sew you a new dress and it’d be ready for you to wear the next morning.  I’d sit at the sewing machine all night with a cigarette and a cup of coffee. After finishing I couldn’t wait for you to get up and try it on and you’d twist and turn and tell me you didn’t want it. I could have snatched you bald-headed! Your dresses were so pretty, sure wish I’d kept just one now. I sewed hundreds of sequins all over them. I also sewed outfits for your father and me that matched when we went square dancing in Perry. I wish they’d do square dancing at the Senior Center, I’d love to do that again, but we don’t have enough men. It wouldn’t work right without the men as partners. It looks pretty when the women and men are all dressed up in the cowgirl and cowboy outfits like we wore.”

“I remember my mother wearing an apron daily – from the time she got up in the morning, the apron went on. Back then all women wore aprons. It kept their clothes clean as they worked and you always had a place to wipe your hands. There was no paper towels to use like today. They did have kitchen towels, but the apron was always handy. I never wore an apron and never will.”

Did I ever tell you about the time I threw a ‘full’ sack of sugar at your father? I was so mad at him for going to the poker game that I busted it right up against the wall in the kitchen. It went everywhere! Of course, then I had to clean it up, but I guess it helped me to get my frustrations out as I cleaned up.”

I asked Mama tonight when I called what she ate for supper and… “I haven’t eaten yet. I’m a very picky eater. If there’s nothing there I like – I just won’t eat. I like to eat my own food.”

Melissa and I went to Georgia on June 6th (2010) for a week vacation to spend with Mama and while riding through Greene County, Mama’s words were. “All around Siloam you see those big rocks in the farmer’s fields. There was a large rock back in my daddy’s back fields that I loved to crawl up on and sit. Somewhere around Siloam there is one really big rock that looks like the head of an eagle. It’s been said by many that all the big rocks around Siloam are the actual roots of Stone Mountain. You don’t see these type of large rocks in the farm fields anywhere else except around Siloam and White Plains. The granite rocks of Stone Mountain are said to stretch for many miles underground, so they could very well be the roots of Stone Mountain.”

As we rode along she told me. “I remember one time when my father put me and Kendrick (Lewis) up on a pony. Kendrick didn’t want to get up there and then he fell off and ran home crying. He was the son of the local Doctor and we lived on their land in a log cabin; it was before my father bought the farm. I played with Kendrick every day and we went to school together.”

On the back dirt road coming from White Plains, Mama said. “I remember riding in the school bus on this road and when it rained it was so muddy that our school bus often got stuck in the red mud. Sometimes when the bus driver got to syrup mill crossing, he’d stop the bus and let us off to get a drink of sorghum syrup.  My father hauled his cane there to make syrup – he’d carry jugs to bring it home in. Often the owner would give us a small sip in a tin can and sometimes he’d even sit us up on top of the horse or mule that walked ‘round and ‘round as the cane crushed into syrup. My father grew two types of cane – one was called ribbon cane – it was a very thick cane stalk.””

“I was taught to not be around young black men when I was growing up. Even today I feel un-easy around young black men; I don’t often feel that way around an older black man. I was chased by one who jumped off the sawmill truck one day as I  walked home and I’ve never forgotten how I felt as I ran home crying to mama and daddy.”

“When my mother made pear preserves she cut the pears into thick slices and laid them in the cooking pot between layers of sugar. She let them sit overnight before cooking them the next morning. She then cooked the pear slices down until they were soft, thick and candy like. She always had a crock of them sitting on the kitchen counter; that was considered candy to us. We had pear trees in the field – everything we ate basically came from our land; the pear trees are still standing in the field today.”

“When I visited my step grandmother, Miss Bay McKinley, in White Plains I played with my girl cousins that were often there. I didn’t have any girls around the farm, it was only boys I played with there. I remember running up and down the streets in White Plains near her house. We ran and climbed up on the big rocks. Kids today wouldn’t think it fun to climb up on big rocks like we did then – there was no other entertainment – you entertained yourself.”

“I entertained myself at the farm by going into the woods and swinging on grapevines and swimming in the streams, but I wouldn’t have let you do that when you were growing up. My daddy probably didn’t know I did it either.”

In driving from Siloam to Greensboro, we passed a road on the left called Jernigan Lane road, just past the pretty Dolvin house on the right. Mama said, “I think if you go down that road you’ll find Jernigan’s Bridge, where we used to go sunning on the large flat rocks. You went there a few times with some of your girlfriends and I used to go a lot with Pat and Karen – Willie Mae’s daughter’s.”

 As we rode around Union Point, we rode by the old school gymnasium – mama said. “That is where I took my father to a wrestling show once, but there was so much cigarette smoke inside that I had to take him out because he couldn’t breathe. The smoke was so heavy that it just hung above you like a cloud – I don’t know how anyone breathed in there. My father loved wrestling so much that I thought he’d enjoy it, but he liked to watch it on TV better.

In riding down the “one-sided street of Union Point, Mama pointed out. “The movie house here on the side street we took you to when you were small and the Farmer’s Bank is still there on the corner but remodeled. They are restoring the movie house now and will use it for town functions. On the main street was the pool hall, a five and dime store, Miss Vicky’s store, Rhodes drug store, and next to it was Rusty Morgan’s TV shop where your father worked. Also on the main street was Dr. Middlebrook’s office and the Union Point bank – where the famous clock sat right above. When the bank moved off main street they took the clock and mounted it in front of the new building, but after the bank closed, the city bought it and put it back where it had always been on main street. It’s a landmark in town. On the second floor of one of the two-story buildings uptown was also the Masonic Lodge where your father belonged as a Mason.”

We ran into my cousin Charles Bryan in the store owned by the Mayor, Lanier Rhodes. Charles told me that he remembered my grandfather saying to Floyd (my father’s brother) once, “you talk too much with your mouth open.”

“Did you know that there are three sets of Bryan families in Union Point and they all are not related to each other? One set of Bryan’s own the Chipman Hosiery Mill in town. That mill supplied work to most all the residents years ago. It even supplied housing to people – they were called mill houses and were rented to the workers. Only one house remains today. Your father was born in one of the original mill houses – they were just down from the mill. Both your father’s parents worked in the mill. I did for a short period – very short – I didn’t like it at all.”

To be continued…

© 2015 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco


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