Conversations with Mama… and more ~ #25
I told mama about Ella getting ashes on Ash Wednesday (April 2015) for the first time – she called it “eyelashes”. Stephen said she cried and didn’t want to get ashes – she thought the priest was going to pull her eyelashes out.
April 24, 2015: Just like McKinley, Grace took her first steps on her birthday and mama said… “I remember when you took your first steps. We were uptown in Union Point and in Rusty Morgan’s furniture store. You were holding onto the furniture and walking and then you just let go and walked over to us.”
I mentioned that Grace wasn’t feeling well and … “Whenever I was sick I always wanted daddy. He would sit by my bed in a chair when I was sick. I was daddy’s girl.”
In talking about the well house at the farm… “I used to catch my father standing in the well house after he was sick. He would be standing beside the open well just looking down. I also caught him one day in the open bay of the car shed. He was weaving back and forth like he was contemplating jumping off. He often told me he didn’t want to live anymore. He had always been an in-control person and he wasn’t in-control anymore. His life, as he had once known, had been taken away and he wasn’t happy anymore. I hired an older black man to stay there in the evenings with him while I was at work. I ended up giving him “old flizzy” on the grounds when it didn’t run anymore, or he didn’t want it, that he would bring it back. But of course that never happened.”
April 29, 2015: While visiting mama we stopped at a produce stand and bought a watermelon and mama said… “I remember daddy used to turn his watermelons while they grew on the vines. We had to go out in the fields and turn them – one by one. It helped them to not lay in the same position while maturing. I hated that, as I hated most chores he gave me.
While in Georgia, it seemed to turn a little cool at night – mama’s friend Carolyn called it “Blackberry winter”. It seems to signal that the blackberries would be soon ready for picking.
May 2015: I mentioned that Steve had pounded the dents out of my baby cup and … “Mrs. Rhodes of Rhodes Drugstore gave you that silver cup and bracelet when you were born. Actually she probably gave it at the baby shower that Mrs. Cleo Sisson gave me, who lived next door to my mother in law in the mill houses. The baby ring you have was given to you by Uncle John William Gossette, your grandmother Bryan’s half brother. Sometimes I’d take you to visit Miss Donah Brown and we would spend the day. She wasn’t married and she loved me to bring you so that she could hold and rock you;. she was an artist, making hooked rugs.”
“Sometimes I’d stay a week or two at Aunt Lena’s in the summer. I don’t remember taking the train so I guess daddy drove me in the T-Model. It would have been too long of a trip for the horse and buggy. I can’t remember how long it took us to get to Atlanta.”
“I’ll never forget a teacher we had called Mae West. She often told me I was a bad girl, then on the playground I’d laugh and say – “I’m Mae West and I can do my best.”
In asking mama about Boo… “Boo wants to play rough lately. I had to give him a good talking to and then he slinked out of the room. But then he came back and got under me as if to say—I’m sorry!
I don’t know what I said for mama to tell me this, probably talking about the wind or tornado’s… “I remember seeing many whirlwinds in our yard at the farm. I saw them a lot there but never see them now. We’d run out in the yard and get inside of them; sand would be all in our hair afterward.”
Aug. 27, 2015: Had to call mama tonight to tell her about Ella’s first day at kindergarten. She cried at home before going and some at school; it was all day kindergarten. When she came home she told her parents, “I don’t think this will work for me, I need rest time, they want us to do too much.” That was on a Thursday, then on Monday she said, “I think I need a cell phone and could I have a Facebook page?” Her father asked her, “what are you going to do with a Facebook page, you can’t read.” “Oh, I can just look,” Ella said. The twins cried all day missing their sister when she began school. Ella doesn’t want to talk too much about school right now. (But after a few weeks she settled in, made new friends and loves to go) Mama laughed and said…”Sounded like me on my first day, I met my best friend Willie Mae Walker (Sisson) and we both looked at each other and said – “I’m not going to like this.” “So how do the twins like Ella going to school” mama asked? ” Oh they cried all day, saying don’t go.”
Sept. 29, 2015: I was sitting at the beach talking to mama and she mentioned butterflies and hardly seeing them lately. All of a sudden a beautiful orange butterfly flew right in front of the car – I told her “I guess daddy just flew by”; we had just been talking about him.
Oct. 31, 2015: I called mama to tell her about all the little munchkins and what they were dressed as for Halloween. McKinley was the mermaid Ariel, Grace was a Minion, Ella went as Little Red Riding Hood, Ana was her favorite – Snow White and Nina was Aurora – Sleeping Beauty, her all time favorite princess.
And being it Halloween, I asked mama what ghost stories did she remember telling us kids when we lived on Smoak Avenue in Perry. “I probably told you ones that I was told by the older colored man “JT” who stayed with us if mama and daddy had to go somewhere at night. He would tell us ghost stories with the flashlight shining on him. He’d start saying, “JT is coming up through the cracks.” I don’t remember what else he’d say other than him saying that. I used to tell you ghost stories when you were small – you weren’t afraid. You thought nothing of going outside at nighttime and walking over to Aunt Chris’s house in the dark. (And now I am afraid of the dark. I don’t like being alone at night and would probably leave all the lights on.)
“Boo came running through the bedroom tonight before you called, he came flying through with a paper bag on his head. He had gotten it stuck on his head and just kept running and running; he had been in the kitchen, so I guess he’d stuck his head in it being nosey. I tried to catch him but I couldn’t. It was so funny to see, and even though I was laughing so hard, it scared me. He finally got it off and then walked around very slow, like he was thinking, “what was that.” Maybe he learned a lesson!”
Nov. 2015: As I talked to Mama on the phone, I told her about a discovery I’d made on one of those small photographs she took with her camera. (she won the camera on a punch board) The pictures are only about a two-inch square, so I scanned them at a high resolution so I could enlarge them on the computer. In opening one, it was a picture of her best friend, Willie Mae, standing in front of her daddy’s planting fields. Something in the top of the photo caught my eye and as I enlarged it, I saw granddaddy’s barn! This was an exciting find as I have no pictures of the barns there – only in my mind. When I told mama…. “Yes that would be daddy’s barn, it was there when he bought the farm. He built another barn directly across from it that he kept all his tools in, it was the new barn. The old barn had a peeked tin roof, and I would crawl up there and slide down – it’s a wonder I didn’t break my neck, but I was never afraid to do anything. He had a corn crib in there where he stored all the corn he dried for the cows, that’s where I believe he hid the whiskey he sold. I remember when the law came looking for the whiskey, they went through everything, but never dug down in the corn crib, so that must have been where he hid it. That barn was also the milking barn for the cows on the farm; he stored the cotton bales up top when he was going to hold onto for a better price. Daddy’s old wagon sat under the overhang on the side. He pretty much worked out of the new barn once he built it.” (I remember both barns, but I was always afraid to go in the old one. I’d peek inside but there was more overgrown weeds around so I thought about snakes being inside and that kept me out. I can fully see it still in my mind, now I have a small glimpse of it again in this photo. It was the new barn where I spent all my time rummaging through. I loved to play with his corn sheller; throwing cob after cob down the chute and turning the crank to watch all the dry corn fall out on the floor. I surely kept the barn mice full and fat! Although that’s what he had the farm cats for – to keep the mice away. I was never afraid walking around inside the barn by myself, it was a fun place to hang out and look around.)
I called Mama (Dec 3, 2015) to ask about Christmas memories – I needed info for my Advent blog stories’ but she said...”that part of my life wasn’t happy, I don’t remember too much about Christmas. You didn’t like Christmas, or Santa. You wouldn’t even go in Christmas morning to see what Santa brought you, that would make me so mad.”
Dec. 4, 2015: Mama called me tonight – she was in a talking mood. LOL! After awhile she began talking about her grandfathers house. “My granddaddy McKinley had a big scuppernong arbor, it was up on posts with wire and the vines wrapped all around. Oh Boy, you could just stand down under and eat until you had your fill. I loved going to the arbor. They had a big two-story house down in the corner of the road that went to Slip Rock; they never used the second floor – I never really knew why. Once in awhile, we kids would slip off up there – we found big empty rooms on that floor. Maybe they thought ghosts were really up there?”
I called mama tonight (Dec. 6, 2015) to ask her about Aunt Chris’s house that was next door to us in Union Point – I’d been talking to Kelley Channell on Facebook and found out her grandparents lived in Aunt Chris’s house from about 1960 – 1985 – Small world! Mama said… “I don’t have any memory of any Channell’s living there, but they could have. I remember vaguely a little girl called Pammi Nonnis that your grandfather used to ride around in the car. He’d take everyone for rides in the car but you, I never understood that. I’ll never forgot all those things until I take my last breath.” When I asked about the cellar that Kelly mentioned to me that was under the house, mama said. “Oh yea, I had forgotten about that. That house was the only original one on the block when granddaddy Bryan bought land there. He built his house and our house later on. But the house in the middle, where Aunt Chris lived, did have a dug out cellar under the bathroom floor. There was a board you took up to get down there, I have no memory of ever going down there, I just knew about it. I heard they had poker games down there so the law couldn’t find them. Maybe your daddy even played down there when he was a boy, but I don’t know. I don’t remember that magnolia tree between the houses you mentioned. (That magnolia tree was big and it was between Aunt Chris’s house and Granddaddy Paul’s.) I remember Mr. Paul coming over to our house to eat, especially if I cooked steak and gravy; he loved when I cooked that. There were a lot of times when your grandmother didn’t want to cook, he’d come by my house and I’d feed him”
Dec. 8, 2015: I don’t remember what provoked this but … “I remember my father got drunk one Saturday afternoon at the filling station, from nipping all afternoon. He missed the curve driving home, running off into the ditch and mama’s collarbone was broke. Maybe it was around the holidays as they all seemed to take more nips during that time. One time when we went to Aunt Annie’s house in Milledgeville, I remember he got drunk and I wouldn’t ride home with them.
I always liked to help daddy in the field – if I stayed in the house mama made me churn butter and I hated that; I didn’t like being confined in the house, I liked to follow daddy in the field. My brother, Leroy, spent more time with mama, especially when he wanted money for something at school; mama always gave it to him.”
Dec. 15, 2015: While working on my Advent 25 Days of Christmas, I called mama to ask about what Christmas was like in school, and… “I remember we had a real tree in our classroom with colored paper chains, all homemade ornaments, probably made with sweet gum balls; if I painted them, it would have been silver or gold, like I paint everything. You also had a real tree in your classroom in school, but that’s about all I remember.”
In talking about Celia’s house tonight, (Dec. 20, 2015), mama asked if we’d found any money – yea, LOL, we laugh every time we find a nickel or a quarter. Everyone always thought we would find money, but there was none to be found. Steve looked everywhere, from going through the sawdust in the cellar to looking behind the wall of the bathroom. Mama said… “After my father died, I cleaned out his clothes and almost burnt up the jacket with over three-hundred dollars in the pocket. I had a last-minute decision to go through the pockets on his jacket I found hanging out on the back porch, and boy was I surprised when I found that money.”
After reading a blog story online on cactus, I asked mama if she had any…”I remember one time Allen and I saw a big cactus in someone’s yard, we stopped and dug a piece up near the road. I’ll have to look out in my yard, I still might have a piece growing. We never had any growing inside the house; my mother never had time for plants in the house, she was too busy cooking three meals a day. I do remember my step grandmother, Miss Bay, having a big cactus in the hallway; it always bloomed at Christmas.”
“I remember my daddy working till dark almost every night; he was a slave to his land. On Saturday daddy would say, “Ola get your good clothes on, I’m going to town.” I enjoyed watching the blacks who worked on our farm – they were happy people, they liked to dance and generally just enjoyed life, not like my parents who seemed to work from sunrise to sunset. It was fun to spend time with Aunt Mossy who lived at the tenant house. I didn’t have to work, but my brother, Leroy, had chores; I don’t think he wanted to do them either, but he didn’t have a choice being a boy. I often went to the cotton field with Aunt Mossy and helped her pick cotton in her basket; daddy didn’t care, they were paid by the weight of the basket.”
Dec. 31, 2015: I called Mama on New Years Eve and asked her who taught her embroidery… “My mother taught me how to embroider when I was young; I would sit next to her and watch, that’s how I learned. I taught myself to knit, I even made my own knitting needles, no one was going to buy them for me. I knitted squares and gave them to my teacher who sewed them together for blankets to send to the soldiers in the Army. That’s why I learned to knit as I wanted to make those squares for the soldiers – my teacher at school had gotten me involved in making the blankets. I took mama’s old feed sacks and unraveled them to make thread to knit with. We used everything in those days, nothing was thrown out.” (I had asked mama about embroidery as I was working on two tablecloths of embroidered signatures that I was making for Stephen and Melissa. I traced all the girls hands and embroidered them; Ella is the only one right now who can actually write their name.)
I told mama tonight: We picked up McKinley and Grace from school today, they are our New Year’s Eve guests tonight… McKinley immediately told me that her mother had sent party hats, but she couldn’t find them in her cubby. The teacher told her that she had put them in her backpack, so McKinley turned to me and said… “now this is what we should do, empty out my pack, we will find them and then put it all back.” I quickly told her No! Mama said…”She’s too smart for her own good.” She knows her right from her left and always puts her right hand over her heart when they say the Pledge of Allegiance and corrects the other kids when they use the left hand!
Jan, 18, 2016: When I called mama I told her… “While we were riding in the car today, McKinley said “I like reflections.” I asked her do you know what a reflection really is? “Yes, you can see yourself in the glass, water or a window.” I went in the yarn store while Steve drove around the block and they passed a crane and McKinley tells Pop, “that’s a huge crane.”
When we got back to the house, I laid down with her at naptime because she didn’t want to sleep. I told her she would have to count sheep jumping over the fence. I looked over a few minutes later and she’s dragging her hand across her face saying…”one over the fence, two over the fence.” I closed my eyes or I would have laughed! She soon went to sleep.
Read more conversations at: Conversations with Mama and more
To be continued…
© 2016 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco