Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #17

Conversations with Mama… and more ~ #17

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Mama (long coat) with her mother on left, Catherine DeRango, and her father. (Catherine married her brother, Leroy, before he left for Germany)

I asked Mama if she remembers any writing she did in school. “I never liked to write in school and to write something was like breaking my arm. The most I ever wrote was when I wrote your father when he was in the Navy. I wrote him many letters – sure wish I had thought to keep them for you.” (I have kept all our letters Steve and I wrote to each other while he was in Thailand)

What’s for supper tonight, I asked? “I’m craving buttermilk and cornbread – and that’s all I want for supper lately. That was like when I was pregnant, I’d eat it morning and night.”

“I wish you could see my white Hydrangea bush this year (2010), it’s so beautiful. I’ve also got blue, pink, white and fuchsia bushes. I can’t believe they are all different colors. One year they are one color and the next year they change – I don’t know what’s happening to them.”

“I got a cutting of a new type of hydrangea today from Donna’s mother. It’s like a vine with wispy flowers hanging. I hope I can root it. If I can, I’ll root some for you, Melissa and Rose.”

Today on a talk radio program Steve listens to they were talking about chickens. I asked Mama what she remembered about the chickens on the farm. “We always had one rooster to a bunch of hens. You can only have one rooster otherwise they will fight. Usually the new born roosters were killed young before maturing and put on the table. The chickens were allowed to roam around the yard during the day, but were put in the chicken coop at night where they sat on their roosts. Daddy locked them in so the foxes couldn’t kill them.”

“We had a rooster or chicken we called “limber neck”. For some reason daddy had gotten mad at him for something he did to the other chickens and took him out in the woods and threw him against a tree to break his neck. We then went to town and when we came home, there was that chicken. Daddy swore he had broken his neck, but he was back. Daddy let him stay and his nickname became limber neck. No one ever believed the story, but it was true.” (It seems mama has told me two versions of this story, so…)

I told Mama today about Ella crying and not wanting to sleep and.. “I didn’t have any problems with you sleeping. You came into the world wanting to sleep. You take after your father – wanting to sleep a lot. My father used to say that your father could sleep standing up.”

I asked Mama if she had ever heard of pig candy, as I saw something online about it. “I heard about that years ago, but never heard of it being dipped in chocolate – I bet it’s good.” On TV it was real bacon cooked with brown sugar sprinkled on it and a little cayenne pepper and cooked crispy. When I searched online I also found some sites that dipped the crispy bacon into chocolate and called it pig candy – sounds good to me.

When I called mama today she said. “I’ve been invited out to dinner by a man I know from the center. I teased her that he was going to come over and sit on her couch and keep her company. “No man is going to come and sit on my couch and watch TV. I told him I’d go out with him as friends, but I’m not looking for a relationship. He said he wasn’t either, and if he is I’ll send him packing. He’s a man I’ve known for a long time; his wife died a few years ago and he’s lonely and wants someone to talk to.”

“I’m becoming more like my mother, when it gets dark, I want to be home. Whenever it was getting dark, my mother always wanted to go home. She was more of a homebody and kept to herself. I’m a homebody but I do have friends and go out.”

I told mama that I was going over to Rose and Steve’s (Aug. 10, 2012) for a Pampered Chef demonstration and she said. “I bought my first set of cooking pots and pans at a dem when your father and I lived in Memphis, Tenn. I still have pieces of it and gave them to you years ago. (One of them is marked Universal and made in New Britain, CT.) They were shipped to my parents house as we were in the process of coming home to Union Point. I didn’t have any place to use them in Memphis as we only rented a room while living there.”

“I remember wanting to get out of school so bad that I didn’t know what to do. There were only a few kids in school that the teachers cared about – the rest of us didn’t matter. Willie Mae and I used to beat them up – one of us would hold them while the other one socked ém.”

I told Mama about Steve getting a gun license and …. “Well, we’ll have pistol packing Steve soon. I gave you Uncle Joe McKinley’s pistol that I used to carry in my purse years ago. He had either given or sold it to my father as I remember him having it for years himself and he told me it had belonged to his brother, who at one time was the sheriff of Siloam – and he actually killed a few people with the gun. The pistol I have now I bought many years ago at Whitt’s Grill in Union Point. It was a time when you didn’t need any permit to buy, own or carry a gun. But I probably could have bought one at Whitt’s anyway – you could buy anything there – legal or illegal – at anytime of the day. I keep it under my bed and I’m not afraid to use it. I’m not registering it with anyone, if I have to use it I’ll deal with it afterward.”

“I remember how my father never liked me wearing lipstick – said it looked like I’d been eating poke berries. One day I made my mother wear some of my lipstick when we went to town and when daddy saw her he laughed; she never wore lipstick again.”

When I called mama tonight, the first thing she said was… “I found the perfect bottle for Frank to put his moonshine in, and I found it at FISH. Tell Frank he can fill it when he comes. I also found an old metal toy car with no wheels – it looked like my father’s flat top Model T car. It was only a quarter, but I laid it down figuring you guys didn’t want it. Next thing I knew some young man picked it up saying he’d put some wheels on it for his son as he collected old cars.”

“Do you remember when you would call me from Ct. and tell me you were going to be a bag lady?” It used to worry the hound out of me.” (I guess that was before we bought a house and were getting kicked out of our apartment on Fountain Street.)

I told Mama that I went over to Melissa’s last night (Sept. 10, 2010) to show her how to make southern cream-style corn.  Mama said, “I remember my mother making cream style corn or Southern fried corn as some call it – and she made some of the best I’ve ever eaten. She cut all the kernels off and then scraped the cob – I’ve never seen anyone scrape the cob dry as a bone as my mother did. She fried the bacon nice and crispy and took it out; if there was too much grease from the bacon, she poured most of it off before adding the corn. Mama never left the bacon in – she served it crispy on the side. And she never added any milk either – she didn’t need to after scraping the cop to get all the corn milky juice out. During the week, mama sometimes made a big pot of cream corn at lunch and then reheated it later for supper. She mostly only made cream corn on Sunday or a holiday meal – and she always made a big pot. I like to eat a piece of crispy bacon with my corn and always serve it on the side too. When my father ate, he always ate only one thing at a time on his place. After finishing one thing, he’d take something else and eat. He never mixed his food. (I like to cut a biscuit in half and fill it with cream corn.)”

“When I worked at Nathaniel Greene Restaurant in Greensboro my boss told me once that I was a very good waitress, but I didn’t take orders very well – I told him that I don’t take orders from anybody. I’m still like that today.”

I called mama tonight (Sept. 21, 2010) before she leaves for her trip tomorrow to Memphis, Tenn. with the senior center. She told me… “The one reason I wanted to go to Memphis again is so I can ride one of those large Memphis paddle boats that cruise up and down the Mississippi River. I lived in Memphis after I married your father – he was stationed at Millington Naval Base, just outside of Memphis. We lived in Howland Heights – a part of Memphis. When I was pregnant I used to take the bus down to the park by the Mississippi River to sit and watch the boats cruise on the river. I wanted to ride on one so bad but your father never wanted to. Usually I only had enough money to get there and back – if I had lost my return money I don’t know what I would have done. They have gambling on the boats now, so I’m bringing some money to play the slot machines – maybe I’ll win big! I still say I saw Elvis, as a young boy, in Memphis on the street corner by the old army and navy store where he hung out. There was always a boy strumming his guitar out front and he looked just like Elvis to me. One time while I was on the bus I remember a man yell out to me, “how are you honey?”

After mama returned home I called to see how her trip was and …. “I couldn’t’ wait to get home, it was so boring. All we did was ride around while someone said… and over here is … and over there is …  I was never so bored in all my life. I just wanted to get off that bus and walk around and look, not listen to someone tell me what was on this side – and on that side.  I thought I’d enjoy the boat ride, but I didn’t. We had to walk down a steep hill to get to the boat. I was afraid I’d fall, but some boy that worked on the boat took my arm and helped me down.”

“There was no gambling on the boat – just a boat ride up and down the Memphis River while, again someone telling us what was on this side and on that side. Couldn’t wait to get off that boat too, but then there was that steep hill to get back up again. Everyone on the boat began helping each other up the hill. One nice older couple took my arms and we all walked up together. I was amazed that total strangers offered to help the seniors up the hill. I didn’t find any food there I liked and couldn’t’ wait to get home to eat my kind of food. I don’t think I’ll be going on any more trips – sure wish I had my 600 dollars back. I’d rather go shopping at FISH!”

I called tonight and asked what she did today, and… “I picked the rest of the green tomatoes today as they said we’d have a frost tomorrow. I have had more tomatoes from the second plants I planted then in the beginning of the summer. I had hardly any then as we had too much rain and ruined the plants. Now that it’s gotten colder, I’ve had plenty of tomatoes. I’m going to call Carolyn to see if she wants some of these green ones to make tomato relish with. My mother used to make tomato relish in the fall. I don’t remember all she put in it but I do remember that she ground the tomatoes up, not chopping them. I’ll ask Carolyn if she will save you a jar to try next year.”

I told Mama tonight that we found Ella’s first tooth today (Nov. 5, 2010). Steve heard it clicking against a toy she put in her mouth. I finally got to look in her mouth and saw a little white piece of a tooth sticking up. Mama told me… “Back when I was young babies were so covered up, you never knew when they got teeth. They always kept blankets over their faces and eyes because they said the light hurt them. Babies come here smarter today. I remember them keeping their faces covered for months before you could even see their face.”

I asked Mama tonight if she remembered what her favorite Xmas present was as a child. I had just read an article about someone remembering their favorite present. “I don’t remember any Xmas presents really, but the one present I remember is a dress Daddy gave me. He and mama had taken me to town to buy a special dress for a Valentine dance at school. I fell in love with this dress as soon as I saw it. The saleswoman told me to also try it on, but I told her that my father wouldn’t buy it. She said just try it on and let him see how pretty you look in it. I guess I did try it on along with the one they picked out for me – a plain dress with a sweetheart neck – which I didn’t like. When we got home daddy handed me two boxes. I opened the boxes and discovered that the dress I loved was inside. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to wear my dress. I couldn’t believe he had bought me that dress and I was so proud of it. When I wore it to school I got nominated for Miss Valentine of our room – and won. I’m sure I thought that is was all because of the dress. Willie Mae was so jealous of that dress and she showed it to a seamstress and the woman made her an exact copy of it. She was very jealous when I wore it to the dance. She always had more clothes than I did, but that didn’t stop her from being jealous of that dress. One thing we always fought with each other about – was clothes and boys, but always remained friends afterward.”

Mama said “I think one of your favorite Xmas presents was when you got your typewriter. You didn’t know about it as it had your father’s name on the gift. I had to come up with different ideas to keep you from knowing what you were getting because you opened all your gifts ahead of time and then re-wrapped  them. That was one of the only gifts you probably never opened and was surprised with.”

I told Mama that Melissa went with her mother-in-law  to see her favorite cookbook author, the Barefoot Contessa, and stood in line to get her new cookbook signed. Mama said. “I don’t stand in line for anybody.”

When I called tonight (Dec. 4, 2010) Mama told me she had received a copy of the funeral reading from Kenneth McKinley’s funeral (died Nov. 30, 2010). Peggy McKinley Gibbs, Mama’s cousin, sent it to her and she was going to mail it to me. As she read Kenneth’s whole name to me of Kenneth O’Neil “Cotton” McKinley, I asked why the name of cotton? “That was Kenneth’s nickname ever since he was a little boy, he had cotton hair – a mop of white cotton fluff hair. They always said my brother Leroy had cotton hair when he was young too but I don’t remember as he was older than me. Kenneth was the town character in Siloam. I can’t believe he’s really gone even though it’s been a few years since I’ve visited with him. He was close to me in growing up and even later, like my father. He still has brothers and sisters living – he was the baby of the family.”

“I was so lazy today and never got out of bed – and I didn’t even go to FISH – imagine that!  I did buy myself something there for a whole dollar the other day – it’s a chandelier that I want to hang over the bar. Boo likes it, every once in awhile he’ll get up there and I’ll hear a tinkle from him touching it. It was pretty and I wanted it – didn’t cost me much whether it works or not.”

“They are having a Mardi-Gra party at Senior Citizens and it cost 6 dollars to go. I’m not going as I’d rather take my 6 dollars and go to FISH. I keep a jar of change handy and sometimes when I need a little something to go shopping at FISH, I’ll reach in and grab about 50-cents. Where else can I go shopping with 50-cents?”

Another Mama saying: “Have a hemorrhage with a straw tail. When I questioned that one, she said she’d heard that said for years.”

To be continued…

© 2015 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco



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