Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #24

Conversations with Mama… and more ~ #24


Mama sitting on top of the Rat Hole in Union Point – behind the mill. Note the train going by in the background. That’s why the rat hole was there, so you could get to work if the train was stopped on the tracks.

I called to wish mama a (Dec. 25, 2013) Merry Christmas – I must have mentioned biscuits.. “I remember my daddy making biscuits. He always made big ones, probably because he didn’t want to stand there patting out all those biscuits; they were good too. He cooked good scrambled eggs to go with them. If mama was sick he’d cook a little, otherwise he left it to her. My father in law, Mr. Paul (Bryan) cooked good cakes I remember. He actually made them better than his wife Evelyn – but I bet she would never say that.”

I asked Mama tonight (Jan. 20, 2014) about the small pictures in my album of her, and…”Those pictures were taken from a camera I won by selling chances on a board. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me a camera; I was tickled pink when I won that camera.” (I wonder how much film developing was then?)

I called Mama (Jan. 28, 2014) to see if she had ventured out from the snow they had the other day and she said… “Well today was the first day I went back to the center, me and Boo had stayed home in the bed watching old movies for two days.” Then she said, “Do you want a cast iron kettle, like the ones we used to have on the farm? I used to play with them after mama stopped using them. I’d take it down to the creek and gather tadpoles in them. Then I’d watch them grow into frogs and hop out. I would do that all summer as my entertainment.” Every time I call her she’s telling me about a piece of cast iron she’s bought me or asks if I want. By the time I get there, she’ll have a room of cast iron waiting for me.

“School was closed for three days, they closed it before there was even one flake on the ground. Today it was really warm and I got out in the yard and worked a little. When I’m gone, I want you to have a yard sale, then go out to Charlie’s and eat and set a plate for me.”

“I don’t know why I still remember this, but I can still see you and your friend Janet doing the Teaberry shuffle going across the street – you’d be holding your invisible rabbit Harvey’s hand as you walked down the street – when you reached the corner, you’d let go of his hand, do the Teaberry shuffle, then continue on across the street. You girls walked to the drugstore, plopped up on the stools leaving an empty stool between you and ordered a coke for yourselves and Harvey, your invisible rabbit you girls walked around with, after seeing the movie Harvey.”

I called Mama (March 5, 2014) while McKinley was here. I put the phone near her ear and mama talked to her. It’s funny to watch her face as she’s listening but still trying to look in the phone and see her. When I hung up, I said “bye Angel” and like a little parrot, McKinley said “bye Angel.”

In talking to mama tonight (Mar. 7, 2014) she said…. “I can’t wait for Grace to be born – and she’s going to be a red head too.”

Mama mentioned her dentist and said… (March 27, 2014) “I remember my father still had nearly all his teeth when he died. He never brushed his teeth but rinsed his mouth daily with kerosene. He thought it was the cure for all!  I remember my mama going to White Plains in a horse and buggy on a cold day to get all her teeth pulled out – at one time. I don’t know how she did that. I hate false teeth, I just want to break mine in half.”

While riding with Mama (April 1, 2014) down to Greene County she said… “See that broom straw out there in the field, that’s what my mama used to make her brooms with. Daddy would cut it down and she’d make brooms with it. There was a comb she had that she combed all the flowers out with. She could make that broom so tight and tie the top all by herself. I can still see her sweeping the house with it – she would sweep the whole house with that broom and then go sweep the yard.”

I called Mama to wish her a Happy Easter (April 20, 2014)… “Did you know that I was born on Easter? Maybe that’s why I like to dress up so much. Daddy always said that I would dress to go to the outhouse!”

 Steve called Boo by the name of Beauregard and mama said… “ That’s what they used to tell us kids when we didn’t mind, that Beauregard in the cornfield was gonna come and get us if we didn’t behave. I don’t think I was ever afraid of him though.”

I called Mama today (April 25, 2014) to tell her that Grace Kathryn Gillon had arrived at 8:21 a.m., weighing 8 lbs, 4.3 oz. and was a strawberry blonde with grey blue eyes. “I’m happy to hear she is fine and that Melissa is ok. Now if I could only see her.” As soon as Steve heard a baby crying, he said “that’s Grace.”

I called Mama tonight to ask about the bad weather I’d heard about (April 29, 2014)… “We didn’t use to have weather like this when I grew up. I only remember one bad tornado when I was young. That’s when the tornado picked up Uncle Villa’s house while he was sleeping in the bed. It set it down “intact” further down in the woods. A tree stump came right up through the floor. After I moved back to the farm, I remember heading home from Holiday Inn one night with a bad cloud coming in. When I got home I tried to pull the mattress off the bed to get under. The tornado came close by and laid a pine tree on top of the front porch roof. I called my cousin Kenneth McKinley and told him I was dead. He laughed! He headed over to the farm but had to turn around to get his chain saw as there were so many trees across the road leading to the farm that he couldn’t get through.”

“I’ve been out in the yard all afternoon moving flowers. You should see my Lily’s, they are all in bloom and so many colors. I’m going to put them all in a cluster so next year when they bloom all the colors will be together. When I came in tonight, I slid right in bed and went right to sleep. I need my Steve back down here to help me. I hope he knows how much I appreciate all he did while here and I love him too. I can’t wait for him to come back.”

I asked mama about granddaddy and fox hunting and… “When my daddy went fox hunting on Friday nights he usually had to leave mama by herself, but he’d come back after a couple of hours and check on her. Then he’d go back to check on his dogs. He had a rifle that he had fixed to repeat, he told her if someone broke in to grab it and just keep pulling the trigger.”

That reminded me of mama’s pistol and I asked her if she had found it. “Yes I finally found where I had it hidden in the house. I tell people I have a gun and if someone wants to come in they better say a prayer and dig their grave first.”

I saw a picture on Facebook of chicken and dumplings that reminded me of Aunt Chris’s and I told mama. “My Aunt Chris made the best dumplings I ever ate. She made them with sweet milk and flour. After mixing the dough she rolled them out, covered them with a cloth and let them rise really good – then rolled them out again. She cut them into strips, laid them across her hand and slowly let them slide into the chicken stock; they never stuck together! I don’t remember my mother ever making them so I don’t know who taught Aunt Chris – she was my mothers sister; my mother was always busy canning. Aunt Chris made them for me all the time when you were born. The only meats we had at the farm were chicken and pork because that’s what daddy raised – he didn’t have beef cows so we very rarely had beef; he didn’t like beef.

I mentioned Leroy to mama tonight (June 11 2014) and … “Daddy wouldn’t let Leroy play football. I do remember going to watch him play baseball though; mama and daddy went  sometimes. Maybe he didn’t want him to play football because it was a certain time of year and he needed him to work on the farm. I remember hanging around under the bleachers there – funny how I remember those things.”

  “We had no camera at our house but Aunt Lena had a camera – I think she was the only one in our family who did. She would bring it when she came down to spend time with us at the farm. I never wanted her to take my picture, I thought it would bite me. I still remember standing there twisting my dress not wanting my picture taken; it was the picture with me,Leroy and one of my cousins. I sure wish I could go back and walk around and see myself as I grew up.”

“My mother had no life, she cooked, washed clothes, canned, ironed and quilted. She had nothing she did just for fun. I remember her reading to us at night. I still remember the story about a cat who lived during the Civil War – his name was Kitty Ken. I got a cat soon after that and named him Kitty Ken. After I married and went to Memphis he was run over. When I asked Daddy about him one day, he told me that he caught a ride.”

“I remember often wishing that there was a movie theater across the road from us so I could go and watch movies every night. I loved going to the movies. There were people who came around with big tents in the summer, usually a couple of times a summer to show movies. It was a big thing and everyone went. People sold medicine there too – like medicine shows. They were fun to go to – kids were always running all around – having a good time.”

“Roscoe Jarrad, who ran the filling station just outside of town was one of Leroy’s best friends. Daddy let him take me to a 3D movie in Greensboro once as I had really wanted to go. I was so scared. He told Daddy that I had crawled all over him; the movie scared me silly.”

In talking about money …. “I remember hearing tales about all the Confederate money that people used to stuff in the walls during the Civil War to keep the Yankees from stealing it. Her father told her that his grandfather (Joseph T. Sharp) had a lot of Confederate money at their house, he had seen it all as a child. He also remembered his grandfather sitting on the porch chewing tobacco and spitting it.”

“I loved when Uncle Jim McKinley came to spend time at our house; he was my grandfather’s brother. He usually came and stayed a week and loved to tell us tales. I’d curl up on a quilt nearby and listen, and  sit there all quiet so I could hear everything said.”

“I was out in the yard playing with my flowers tonight (June 19, 2014) but I came in as a big cloud came up. I’d rather take a beating then come inside and clean house. I only want to work in my garden. I need my Steve down here.”

 “When I was in first grade one day I asked Dr. Lewis if he’d take me home when he came to pick up Kendrick to bring home for lunch. I told him that mama had said I could come home – so he took me. I always wanted to go home for lunch too but daddy couldn’t come and get me – he was busy working on the farm. When I got home mama asked me what was I doing home? I told her I wanted to come home. Dr. Lewis took Kendrick back after lunch but I didn’t go back that day.”

“I’ll never forget that teacher you had in the first grade, Mrs. Couey. She used to spank your hand with a ruler. I went in the school and told her that she better not ever spank you again. I told her that I was your mother and if you needed a spanking it would be me – not her. She never touched you again. She said you wouldn’t listen and keep your paper out on your desk and that you liked to sit and look out the window. My mother told her “that’s because she wants to come home.”

 I told mama that McKinley slept in her big girl bed the other night (June 16, 2014) for the first time. Last night she got out of her bed and got her baby and baby carrier and put them in bed with her, then she went to sleep.”

While asking mama about what they did in saving iron during the war, she said…. “During the war Japan was buying scrap iron but my father wouldn’t sell any of his to Japan. There were men coming around who bought it to send over there and daddy would say – “I’m not selling any of mine to them so they can melt it down and use it against us; that’s what they did when they bombed Pearl Harbor.” He would say that he’d rather dig a hole and bury it. They sold all there iron plows then – people were trying to buy them to sell to japan to make bombs with. Some people were excited that they were making extra money, but daddy said they were actually digging their own graves.

I called mama and told her about McKinley saying “I have a bird in my belly and he’s going to fly away.” McKinley keeps talking about a baby in her belly at school. One teacher there is due any day and McKinley told her that there is a big watermelon in her belly. I told McKinley the other day that I’d take her for pizza, she said no, so I said well Ella likes pizza, so I’ll take her – she said, “but what about me.” She’s so thin with flat abs. Mama said… “When I married, I could take my hands and fit them around my waist – I was really thin.”

Jan. 2015: The subject came up as to what mama wanted when she died… “I want no open casket, I don’t want anyone gawking at me other than you (me) or the family. You can cremate me and spread my ashes partly over the grave of my parents and baby Monica (my sister) and some at the farm. I know daddy is still walking that farm and I’d like to be back there too. Then you can bring some home to Ct. with you.”

When I told mama that Melissa was learning to knit… “I learned to knit on two sticks, I sharpened them to points, and I pretty much taught myself. No one was going to buy me knitting needles.”

Feb. 2015: I wrote a story on mama’s brother Leroy to commemorate his death in Feb. 1944. I asked mama, what did he say when he left for the service, and asked who took him to where he was leaving from. “I was so young, it’s hard to even remember, but somehow I remember him waving and saying “so long” as he left. I guess daddy took him to catch the train, not sure why we all didn’t go, but my mother was probably too upset to go. She cried a lot when he left and all the time later on. On one of only times coming home on leave, I  remember a girl named Lois Brown taking him back to the train station. (I have a postcard Lois sent to my grandparents telling them she took him to the train and he got off ok. I never understood why she sent a postcard telling them this; maybe no phone or a way for her to go see them?

“Once Leroy got to Texas he met a girl named Katherine DeRango, she was the sister-in-law of a friend in his unit; the friend was married to Vergi DeRango, her sister. It wasn’t too long before he married her before shipping out to Belgium.”

To be continued…

© 2015 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco



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One Response to Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #24

  1. janene65 says:

    Makes me miss my mama even more.


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