Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #31

Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #31

I call my mother almost nightly to chat, hear how her day went, and as always, enjoy her stories. Several years back, I began scribbling on paper her musings to me. Later I started a journal on my computer and began Conversations with Mama, and just recently I began compiling them here on my blog. On my last visit with mom, I took her a book of all I had so far – she had never seen them. Mama was thrilled with the book and took it to the senior center to show everyone. Thank You mama for your nightly conversations, they truly make my night!


Mama and her pet pig. He would follow her in the house and sleep in a cardboard box under the wood stove at night to keep warm. You can see part of the car shed and chicken coop in this photo. Love the little piggy curled up tail in photo!

May 1, 2016: When I mentioned the Union Point hosiery mill, mama said… “Your father was born in one of those mill houses on Mill St. They lived there as your grandparents both worked there; later your grandfather bought property on Binns St. and built their house. He had a hard time with your father as a young boy – he did not like going to school, instead he wanted to hang at the sawmill and play poker with the older men. They must have taught him when he hung around there – they thought it was funny that he played. I guess he must have been pretty good, as he would have had to won money, at some point, to be able to continue to play. He often told his parents that he didn’t ask to be born. Maybe that’s why he ran away at age 15 and joined the Navy; Somehow he had acquired a fake ID. Your grandfather had to go and bring him home; later they signed for him to join when he turned 16. He later decided he didn’t want to be there and begged his father to come back for him, but his father told him no; he walked the line while in the Navy.”

May 3, 2016: When I called mama tonight, her first words were… “Well Trump is winning in Indiana tonight, I’ve been watching the results. I sure hope he wins and becomes President! Back in the day when my daddy talked politics, there were more Democrats, and they hated the Republicans with a passion. But it was different then, the Democrats were for the farmers, it’s not that way anymore. The men gathered every Saturday at Conley’s filling station in Siloam to talk politics – the men could get in some heated arguments and actual fights. One time Willie Mae’s daddy, Bill Walker, got so mad over the election that he tore up the radio! My father grew up in times when elections were considered very important to everyone – daddy always voted, and voted Democrat! In Siloam, everyone was a Democrat, you hardly found anyone who was a Republican – and if you were a Republican, you had best keep it to yourself. I don’t believe my father would be a Democrat in today’s world – he would not like Obama!”

I mentioned the beauty shop she used to work at and … “One time someone called and made lots of appointments with me at the beauty shop in Perry and never showed. I sat there all day on Saturday with no customers. Supposedly there were girls mad at you and they took it out on me.”

May 5, 2016: In talking to mama tonight, I asked… do you know what today is? Today is our wedding anniversary! Then I asked, do you know how long we’ve been married, and …. “I don’t know, 8…” LOL… “15, 20?” Do you know how old Stephen and Melissa are? He will be like 40 this year. “Well it doesn’t seem like he will be that old, I don’t keep up with time anymore, but it keeps up with me.” (If anyone is wondering, we are married 45 years today. Years ago, when I heard someone was married that long, I thought, dam that’s a long, long time and now look – it’s caught up with us. Where did those years go – sure wish I could turn back the hands of time and find my youth again.)

May 6, 2016: When I asked tonight what mama was doing…. “I’m scratching “piss ant” bites. They bit me all up today while I was digging in the garden. They’re not the red ants, they are the little bitty black ants, you know, the ones not bigger than a piss ant! They bit me up good, now they are itching like the devil.”

“We had a band today at the senior center. They played all type of music for us and I got out on the floor and showed them how to do the twist. We had a good time laughing and talking. Some of those women were really out there shaking it up!”

It was 9:45 p.m. when I called tonight and she was headed to warm herself up some Brunswick Stew… “It’s never too late to have stew, time doesn’t mean anything to me. I eat when I’m hungry and when I want to.”

May 7, 2016: I called mama and told her that McKinley was changing her profession, now instead of a cowgirl, she wants to be a doctor…. “Well maybe she will grow up and become a doctor and make lots of money. I didn’t make any money as a beautician, but they make pretty good now. It was a lot cheaper then, hair cuts were only like one dollar and I only made half of what I brought in. Clara (the owner) got the other half. Perms were usually about five dollars and I worked six days a week – Sunday was my only day off. All the town news was told in the beauty shop and if you didn’t hear it all there, then you could go down the street to the barber shop and hear the rest. I thought about going to work in the barber shop one time – imagine that – I would have had a ball in there! I never liked doing manicures, it was boring – the owner usually did them if anyone came in. I remember the doctors coming in for manicures – they were suppose to keep their hands clean and neat looking.”

“I laid in the bed all day today, didn’t feel like fooling with those “piss ants” again and getting all bit up. I  think I’ll just lay in the bed tomorrow too and let the world go by. I used to like to do things, but I don’t anymore. Now I just fight with those dam “piss ants.” Once in awhile I’ll see a cow ant. Ants always fascinated me when I was young – I could sit and watch them work all afternoon. They work like people do. The cow ants are white, you’ll see them on bushes or tree leaves. The regular ants take them out of the colony and leave them on the leaves – then they bring them back down into the colony home. When ants find a dead insect, they alert all the others by some type of language. They then gather to take the insect apart, piece by piece, and take it down inside their home to store for food. I’ve sat there and watched them dissect insects and they literally take them apart that way. Ants live just like humans. When you see them going single file, you’ll notice that they stop near each other, like their communicating, then they continue on their way.”

“We never had fire ants in Greene County when I grew up, they migrated there later from South Georgia. I remember first seeing them in Perry when we moved there – they also had sandspurs there  – which we hadn’t seen before;  they are here now! They’re small pods with thorns all around like cactus spines – it’s no fun to step on them and hard to remove.”

“We also didn’t have the type of gnats here like we had down in Perry; they could eat you up alive, and drive you crazy trying to get all in your eyes. I learned quickly how to blow from both sides of my mouth to get them away from my face. I know that sounds funny, but everyone down here will know what I’m talking about. At some point, you’ll be doing blowing them away from your face and not even realize it – it just becomes a way to survive them.”

“This afternoon a young boy, about nine or ten, came to my door and asked if he could pick a flower for his mother for Mother’s Day. Of course I told him to help himself to a few, so he walked around and picked some hydrangeas and told me Thank You before leaving. He skipped off down the street with those flowers in hand. I had some people stop once and ask if they could pick some flowers for their wedding, of course I said help yourself. I’m the only one on the street who has flowers, so they all know who’s house to stop at.”

May 8, 2016: I called Mama to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. We ate brunch at Melissa’s in-laws and as soon as I mentioned blueberry bread pudding… “I don’t want no bread pudding, no thank you. My mama used to make it, I don’t want no soggy sweet bread. Mama made it with  leftover biscuits; I guess they ate it. I never even tried it – I can look at food and tell if I want it or not.” (We had McKinley’s birthday cake today, but she didn’t eat the cake, she just wanted to eat the pink frosting that Melissa had written Happy Birthday with. I think she would have been content to play with the frosting bag and squirt it all out. Gracie ate all her cake!)

“I worked in the yard this afternoon, still moving flowers from the back to the front. Now I’m paying for it, as pollen is terrible, and I just want to dig my eyes out. It would feel so good to just pull them right out of the socket, but that wouldn’t be good. Cars are just flying by as I’m working in the yard – they need to start slowing down before I start taking tag numbers. Those young boys fly by, trying to see how fast they can go. I wish I was big enough to stop them.”

I asked about granddaddy’s barns at the farm, and… “My daddy’s barn had a shelter on one side for the wagon and the backside had stalls for the horses. That was the old barn, which was there when he bought the farm. Later he had a new barn built; it had stalls for the cows to be milked in. Both barns were still standing when I sold the farm and the new owners tore them down as they built their house in about the same area as where the old barn was. The farmhouse is still standing, along with the smoke house; which will last forever as that wood was coated with creosote. The well house was there for years, but it’s gone now and they put a concrete slab over the well.”

I mentioned how much my feet were hurting after going back to work, and …. “The old women said I was born with high heels on my feet; my arches are high. I don’t remember ever having any problems with my feet, even when I bar-tendered and stood on cement floors. My feet have never bothered me, I can just put on a pair of sandals and go on. Don’t give me any lace up sneakers though – those things I would never wear like you do. I like my feet to be free, I’d go barefoot everywhere if I could.”

“I never have done anything I didn’t want to do – I’d just make myself go limp and faint. I often fainted in the cotton field and daddy carried me back to the house. Sometimes at school I’d faint if I didn’t want to do something and Mr. Burke, the principal, would carry me to the office. I don’t need to faint anymore now, I just say I’m not going to do that and walk on.”

“I sure do dread this hot weather in the months ahead. It’s pretty hot today – I pulled off all my clothes as soon as I came in today and got comfortable with the fan blowing on me. I turned the heaters off finally, but it’s still a little cool in the morning.”

May 9, 2016: First thing mama said tonight when I called was … “My package came today and I’ve already had a piece – I love the banana cake with the chocolate chips; you know I love anything with chocolate. I think I’ll go get another piece with a cup of coffee when I hang up with you.”

“Melissa called me earlier and I talked to McKinley, although I think I forgot to tell her Happy Birthday – I can’t remember everything. Melissa told me all about her new car  –  too bad she’s got to pay for it!”

“I think the kittens are under the kitchen window now. I was fixing my flower box by my bedroom and I heard a “meow” – I moved on quickly as I didn’t want her to move them again. I don’t know why she can’t just leave them where I put them for her.”

“My allergies are really bothering me tonight, I could just pinch my nose right off my face.” I told mama to go flush her nose with salted water and then have a piece of cake… “You know me, I just might go have that cake, it doesn’t  matter what time it is to me when I want food.”

May 10, 2016: I asked mama if she knew when or who gave me the Madame Alexander baby doll I have, and … “I don’t really remember that doll, but it was probably a Christmas present. Our maid, Annie, often took home all your toys and dolls you didn’t want anymore.  Aunt Lena gave me a doll once when I had the measles. Mama let me play with it when I was sick, but then she’d put it away after and only let me play with it again whenever I was sick in bed. She had this thing about saving things and not letting you play with them – I guess because she never had anything as a child. I remember sitting in bed playing with it and I still had it after I married; I used to let you play with it – I guess it eventually fell apart.”

“I used to have a Doctor’s bag I played with – it was a real one too and had belonged to Dr. Lewis, the local doctor, who also delivered me; it was his doctor bag when he first began his practice. His father, Judge Lewis, gave it to mama when she had Leroy; he told her to use it to carry his diapers in. The judge lived with his son, Dr. Lewis, who lived next to us; daddy rented land and our cabin from him. Judge Lewis liked daddy and mama and often came over to the cabin to talk to them. My father was highly respected in Greene County. He may not have had much money, but he was respected; when he first married they were dirt poor, but he worked hard and eventually bought and a farm. After I moved back to Greene County to take care of my father, I still had that doctor bag. I contacted Dr. Lewis’s son, Kendrick, and gave it to him; he had also become a doctor. Kendrick and I grew up almost like brother and sister – always together.”

“Daddy was as stubborn as hell, but a good man.”

“Aunt Lena made me many dresses when I was growing up, but she always made them too big – she’d say, so I could grow into them. That made me so mad, as I wanted them to fit me. I don’t think I hardly ever wore them before they fit me; I probably tore them up. She made pretty dresses, but they never fit.”

“I’ve about eaten all my Brunswick Stew you left. I guess when Johnny cuts my grass again, we’ll have to go down to Holcomb’s and I’ll buy myself more to fill the freezer. I don’t want to cook, just reheat; I get all my vegetables eating it!”

“I went to the senior center today… we will play Bingo on Thursday. I sat in the clothes closet for awhile before lunch, but I didn’t eat today, think I brought home most of mine for the cats.”

I told Mama that Melissa was taking the girls tomorrow to the Natural History Museum in NYC and going to see the butterfly exhibit there… “I used  to see lots of butterflies at the farm when I lived there after my divorce. I’d lay out on a quilt, put lotion on me and pretty soon the butterflies would just land on me. I laid there real still and they just sat on me. I hardly see them anymore, and not the pretty ones like years ago. I think it’s because of all the planes spraying the crops and they spray for mosquitoes here in Monroe; they come down the street with the trucks spraying. If I know they’re coming around, I stay in the house as I don’t think it’s healthy to be outside and inhaling all that.”

I told mama about the bear sightings today in New Haven, but not too close to me… “They say people around here have seen bears, but I sure don’t want to see one.”

“My daddy ate possum, squirrels and doves, probably would have eaten bear if the opportunity was there. One time this possum came to the back door nightly to get the bread I’d put out for him. I remember mama cooking possum, but I didn’t want any. When I moved back to the farm with daddy, I’d come home and find doves, waiting to be cooked, that he’d shot in the yard. He threw corn out in the yard, then sat quietly with his rifle waiting… I’d clean and cook them for him, but  I really didn’t want any. I remember daddy and Leroy putting out rabbit boxes in the woods. That was another meat I didn’t want any part of. They sometimes came into the yard too – they liked to eat the apples that fell off the horse apple tree; all kinds of animals came around the farm. I remember your daddy going rabbit hunting with Bobby White in Perry; they went out at night with the jeep and shined the lights to blind the rabbits.” (I remember going with them one time)

“One night at the VFW, I ate some type of fried snake, I think it was rattlesnake. This man came walking by and asked what was I eating – I told him chicken and gave him some. After he ate it, I told him what it really was and he disappeared outside somewhere; he probably got sick. He never came back around me that night. I thought it was good, it did taste like chicken.”

….. To be continued

Like to read more… click on Conversations with Mama and more

© 2016 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco



About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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