Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #37

Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #37

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 those nightly musings. Later I started a journal on my computer and began Conversations with Mama, and just recently last year began compiling them here on my blog. On my last visit to mom, I gifted her a book of all I had so far – she had never saw 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!


September 29, 2016: “Johnny came over today to lite my gas heaters – it might be cold in the morning and me and Boo would be cold. I don’t like to be cold! Afterward, we all went to Charlie’s to eat – Johnny sure ate his fill of chicken wings.”

“I didn’t go to the senior center today; ever since I stopped working in the clothes closet, the woman that had wanted it so bad is hardly there. People want something and pester you about it, then when they get it, they don’t seem to really want it.”

I mentioned how I can’t wait to eat some Southern fried chicken when I come down and mama said… “chicken back then aren’t like they are today, they never taste fresh like I remember eating; daddy loved to eat the chicken head and neck. It’s a wonder they didn’t take the skin off to fry too – they didn’t let anything go to waste.”

“Daddy killed hogs every fall – raising them just for that purpose and made money every way he could. It was a full day when the hogs were killed; he preserved them on top of the tin roof – later curing them in the smoke house.” (the smoke house still stands today)

“Another way he made extra money was selling bonded liquor; we lived in a dry county, which meant no liquor was sold. Whenever he went to visit his brother, who lived in a wet county, daddy bought bottles. If he paid two dollars a bottle – he sold for 4 dollars. Daddy was a wheeler and dealer; he knew how to make a dollar and how to save it, he never threw anything away. That’s how I learned – if he hadn’t made money, bought that farm and saved it – I would have nothing today!”

Oct. 7, 2016: I called mama tonight to ask if Hurricane Andrew was affecting her, and …. “No nothing here, just a dreary day, maybe some rain will come later, as we sure need some. It will probably rain when you come down! We could go to Crawfordville when you come, the home of Alexander H. Stephens is there (Vice President of Confederacy), I went there with the school, but we never went inside. I think it might have been the 4-H club I belonged to. In the summer we spent a week somewhere around near there – we stayed in log cabins.”

“I vacuumed tonight, but I don’t like to as I always feel like someone is going to come up behind me.” So I asked “is that your excuse?” “No, my excuse is I don’t give a damn! Let someone else care about it, and Boo doesn’t care about how the house looks. One of the outside cats got run over today – it wasn’t Foxy. I’d hate to see her get hit. I had to go pick it up out of the road before the animals got to it.”

Oct. 15, 2016: Arrived in Georgia today to visit mama… No sooner than I got there, mama said “I thought you’d never get here, I think you brought the cold weather with you.” We were in short sleeve shirts and hubby in shorts, mama was bundled up with her bathrobe and the heat was on. As usual we turned the gas furnace down in the living room as it felt like a sauna to us. After unloading the car and making room in the living room for our “stuff”…. Mama said “what did you bring, everything you own?” Well I can’t travel without my camera, laptop, genealogy bags of notebooks… yes I bring a lot; and when we stopped at a flea-market that morning in South Carolina, I bought more notebooks. I must have a supply of notebooks to write in or I might have withdrawals… LOL!  “I just don’t know where you get this love of writing from, it certainly isn’t from me – I’m not writing anything, Is coffee ready – I’m going to pour a cup and eat a donut.” (mama loves her coffee and donuts every morning. Temp. was abt. 60 there.)

Oct. 16, 2016: I mentioned Liza Askew today (grandmamma’s sister) and… “Yes that was Aunt Liza who married James Marchman, but we called him “Monk” – never knew why. Their son Sammie was in WWII. I remember sitting out on the back stoop with him while waiting to eat – the adults ate first back then. Sammie would sit there and say, “they’re going to each all the chick, were gonna get nothing but the scratchins.” Back then the kids had to wait on the stoop.”

Mama saw Clinton on the TV tonight as she changed the channels, and “ We don’t need no woman president, especially looking like her. I don’t think a woman should be president, they’re too soft hearted and just don’t have the right temperament – they think differently than a man does.”

Oct. 17, 2016: As Mama dressed today, she stuck her hand in her pants pocket and came out with a $1 dollar bill in hand, and said… “I bet every one of my “britches” has a dollar in them. Me… “well let’s go through all your pants, as I bet you have way over a hundred laying around – just think, you’d have over an extra $100 to spend today.” Then mama said… “When I go to the senior center in the mornings, I stop at the filling station and buy two donuts to have with my coffee; that’s why the $1 was probably in my pocket – I am always ready with that $1. Most mornings when I pull in the station, if the man inside sees me, he comes out with two donuts in hand – he knows why I’m there… I guess this week he’s wondering where I am.”

Mama has TV channels we don’t have like “Decades”…  “Buzzr” …. and “Me TV”… and as I  watched “What’s my Line” – the contestant was catching quarters lined up on his elbow, and mama said “I used to put quarters on my elbow and flipp them up – and I caught them. Don’t know if I can still do it now – now I’m just lazy!” Melissa called and we video-chatted with her and the girls – they were being shy, but McKinley yelled, “I want to say hello to Pop.” She is Pop’s girl for sure!

Oct. 18, 2016: As we headed out to the local antique malls in the cotton mills in town, mama said… “Did I show you the cast iron griddles I bought you and Steve?” No, where are they? Mama began looking around saying “I don’t know where I put them now, but I’ll find them.” My first answer was, “I bet they’re still in the car.” She immediately told me she did not leave them in the car, but then she went outside and came back in saying, “I found them, I laid them out there on the table for Steve to see.” I couldn’t resist asking, “so were they in the car?” I wasn’t hearing any answer, she hates to admit she was wrong, but she laughed afterward saying, “yes they were in the car!” As we left, I told Steve that one of those griddles was a Griswold…. He quickly got out of the car, took them off the table and put them in our car – he was very happy with them! I told mama later that she did good! (Steve loves his cast iron!)

Oct. 19, 2016: We headed to Sparta today…. I had churches and cemeteries to visit and had plans to meet up with a new cousin I met on the Sparta FB group – she was the editor of the local newspaper and married to a cousin I never knew or met. We first stopped at Antioch Church – I’ve never been by there before, but had seen many talk about it online and that they are in the process of restoring it. While Steve and I walked around the church and went inside (yay it was open) mama looked around outside. Hubby enjoyed looking under the church at how it was built and supported by foundation rocks piled up to support the building – so strange how they built like that. They hold service there sporadically (it said) and we even found a collection basket with money left – we also left money. So I guess we went to church today! I love finding these old churches open so I can walk inside – my ancestors in Hancock county most likely sat in these very pews – if only I could turn back the hands of time and see! As I’m walking back to the car I see mama with something in her hand… “I took a cutting from the rose bushes over there, they won’t mind.” Then she’s brushing off the bottom of her pants… “we used to call these things ‘beggar lice’ when I was a kid.” I looked down at my pants and they were on me too… they weren’t really ‘lice’, but tiny oblong pieces off the grasses that pops up on you as you walk, and they actually attach to clothing or anything that the little grabbers can attach to – they were even on my shoe laces. They were very annoying, as I had to literally pull each one off, didn’t want to bring them in the house. So all three of us stood there picking the “begger lice” off our clothes!

We continued on the back roads heading into Sparta, while I took photos of everything that caught my eye, and it was a constant from the back seat… “I think it would have been shorter if we went the other way, are we there yet? When are we going to get there – I feel like I’m swaying all over back here.”

While in Sparta, I took photos of the new courthouse (the orig one burned in 2014 and has just been rebuilt) and of the war memorial markers across from the courthouse. We walked over to the Sparta newspaper where I met a new cousin. Mama told her stories about her husband’s great grandfather.

On our way back, we went through White Plains and mama said… “see that old house burned over there, that was the Lewis house… that’s where daddy bought the oak table and chairs that you have today. It was sitting out in their front yard and he bought it for probably a few bucks. He brought it home and stripped off all the paint; it was painted several colors, but he cleaned it all up. I used it for many years until I moved back to the farm and then you married and wanted it.”

In asking mama about family stories and what was talked about at the table at holidays, she said… “I don’t remember anything special said as most often the kids were sitting out on the stoop waiting to eat. The adults ate first while we waited – probably the only conversation we had out there was… “when are we we going to eat.” I do remember when mama’s sisters, Liza, Annie and Christine all got together, Aunt Liza loved to talk while twirling her fingers in her hair and saying how she never gossiped, but that’s all she did.”

As we passed thru Greensboro today we stopped for ice cream at one of our favorite spots and mama looked at birdhouses while eating her favorite chocolate ice cream, and said… “I like those, bet I could make them if I had a saw, but I think mine walked off like everything else around here.” Then she told my husband Steve, you can make that for me, it’d look good out in my yard.” Steve found her brand new saw later on the front porch, he left it out in plain sight, she might just make those birdhouses!

Oct. 20, 2016: While in Siloam today we rode down Slip Rock Road and mama said “I used to walk this road many a time. Daddy rode down this road every day with his wagon and he took this route on the way to White Plains to visit his father when he moved there. One time, Pat the horse, ran off in the ditch over there. Whenever Pat reached close to home, he’d get in a fast trot, wanting to get back to the barn. He’d start running and often end up pulling the wagon down in the ditch; daddy would get so mad and he’d be cussing at Pat as he struggled to get the wagon back on the road.”

There was no water running anymore through Slip Rock – we stopped on the small bridge and you could see all the big rocks on both sides, and they were all dry; a place I used to walk and wade through. Mama said… “this used to be the place to come in my day, the water was crystal clear as it ran over the rocks. They called it slip rock because the rocks were so slippery and smooth from the water running over them. The big ones at the end, way down further through the woods were really slick, especially the big one that slanted down toward the pool of water. We used to slide down it into the water below – that was our entertainment and where we cooled off!

We then headed over to the old farm where mama grew up… hoping the new owners would be home and we could walk through the farmhouse again. The people who bought the farmhouse built a brick home just a ways up – about where the old barns were. The logging company in White Plains bought the 117 acres from mama and divided it out and sold in lots. We lucked out – the owners were home and let us walk through. Mama entertained them with stories throughout the house. The farmhouse is now being restored for a family member, so this was the last time seeing it before a big change takes place.

In the kitchen, the older wood cabinets had been removed, but she saved the doors – and she graciously offered me one; I was so overwhelmed and excited to have that piece of history. It was the highlight of my trip! Funny how some things that cost nothing – mean the most! When she offered me my choice of a taller one or a shorter one, I told her, that was the wrong thing to do as I can never make decisions…. so she said, well it’s ok if you take one of each – and I walked out with two doors; it was so exciting and the best present anyone could have ever given me. Now what do I do with them?

They had removed grandmamma’s old sink and was going to actually move the spot for the sink under the back kitchen window. I told them how I loved to let the water run in that sink as it emptied out under the house and ran toward the field by means of a cement trough granddaddy made; no real plumbing there.

I was excited to see the corner cabinet still in place – her daughter in law loves it and it’s going to remain for her to use. Grandma used it to store all the canning she did; I’m sure it will be put to good use. Mama told stories as she walked room to room – “my father built that cabinet for mama so she could see and find what she had canned.”

In the back shed room (we called it), which was an addition to the house my grandfather built. Mama told “daddy built this room on for my brother Leroy to use as a bedroom and the room I used as a bathroom was actually a big closet. When I moved back here to care for my father, I insisted a real bathroom to be put in – he said we didn’t need one – but I insisted yes we do – and I won!”

“There was no door originally from that shed room into the dining room, and for some reason my father never wanted to build one, but mama wanted one, so when Aunt Lena (daddy’s sister) came to visit, she built mama a door. Her husband was a cabinet builder; maybe she learned from him. I don’t know why daddy wouldn’t build her a door, but he ended up helping to finish it. The reason mama wanted a door was because in order to the bathroom you had to walk through their bedroom to the hallway to get to the back room, if there was a door from the dining room into the back room where the bathroom was, it would be much easier. Lena took a saw and cut the opening and began cutting wood to make the door – she was a tough woman and when she wanted to make something… she did. She was also a very smart woman, you are like Aunt Lena.”

When they mentioned that their son had a farm bell they would be adding, I told them that there was a farm bell here, but I took it years ago; it had sat on a pole by the smoke house – exactly where they will be installing one.

The walls and ceiling of the old tongue-and-groove wood are being left unpainted; they are my favorite there as you can see all the knots in the wood and I used to imagine seeing faces in some of them.

Later that evening I asked mama if she was going to watch the president debate tonight (Trump vs Clinton), she didn’t hesitate to say… “I sure am, they’re gonna put on a show and go all out tonight.” If I lived here, I would be dragging her to vote, but she doesn’t want to go by herself; it’s been a long time since she voted in Perry and probably not even registered here to vote; and if you’re wondering – she’s a Trump fan!

Oct. 22, 2016:  While watching a TV commercial showing Chili… mama said “I never liked anything with beans, and if I don’t like it, I’m not eating it for any reason. I got spoiled growing up on the farm, having all our vegetables out of the garden. I don’t want any vegetable out of a can and especially turnip greens. I’ll only eat them if they’re fresh – I used to cook them, sometimes even added a few collards. I don’t know how anyone can eat them out of a can! I used to cook turnip greens and they were really good, but I don’t want to cook anymore. I only want to eat Brunswick Stew now.”

Oct. 23, 2016: We headed down to Greensboro to pick up the BBQ and Brunswick Stew at Holcombs to bring home and as we went through Good Hope, they were having a “Poppy Festival.” There was a sign saying “biscuits” and mama said…. “Let’s stop and get a biscuit and tell them – sorry I’m late, where’s the biscuits.” I’m bringing home 3 gallons of stew and 16 pounds of meat! That means we’re lugging 3 coolers in the car and wherever we stop coming home – there MUST be a fridge with freezer in the room. We usually only pick a motel with a floor outside entrance for easy in and out. We never travel light, even bring our own coffee pot for the room and hair dryer; when we were in PA. this summer, those rooms had no hair dryer! (The woman called the “Poppy Lady” is buried in Monroe – I plan a post on her soon)

As we passed fields and fields of cotton on the sides of the road, mama said… “ Years ago we had to pick all that cotton by hand, walking row by row, lugging a basket. I didn’t like picking cotton and would do anything to try and get out of it – I often would just faint out in the field. Daddy never said anything, he’d just pick me up and carry me back to the house; he knew I was faking, but never said anything or got mad!”

While riding in the car my grandmother’s name came up and mama said… “after my mother’s mind got bad, she used to call me the “woman in the white dress” because I always wore my white beautician outfit.” When I asked about the farmhouse before granddaddy bought it, she told me that two colored brothers lived together in the house, then after they fought, one moved out down below in another house and he said that he put a trick in the chimney when he left.” When I asked what that meant, mama said… “that’s an old saying, if you put a “trick” in something, it’s like a spell, don’t know why it was said he put it in the chimney?”

Oct. 24, 2016: We left mama’s this morning, heading home… but we detoured up to Dahlonega, GA. for a few stops. And I mailed out mama’s DNA test today. I did the test with her last night, and when I gave her the vial and told her she’d have to spit in it, she was like… “I don’t know if I can spit in that. And what are you going to learn from this, who I’m related to?”

Oct. 27, 2016: When I called mama tonight I told her about the “whoopee cushions” I had bought the girls. When I saw them at The General Store in Dahlonega, I thought they would have fun with them. As soon as I showed McKinley, she immediately said, “I know what that is, Jordan had one.” I blew it up slightly and she sat on it, laughing when the air came out, and of course she kept say, “I farted.”

I told mama about the Lizzie Gooch story I wrote and she immediately began telling me about… “I’ll never forget the time Willie Mae spent the night with me, she woke up in the middle of the night when daddy’s old rocking chair started rocking. She got so scared that she put her clothes on and went home. I told her if daddy’s ghost was there that he’d never hurt her, he loved life and this farm. She was too spooked; nothing ever scares me.”

“I showed everyone my bracelet today with the pictures of the girls, I’m working on something else to add the twins too. They all look so cute.”

Nov. 6, 2016: I called mama tonight and the conversation turned around to her father’s farmhouse….“If that farmhouse could talk, it probably could tell some tales. Daddy is still walking that land, he loved that farm and was proud of it.”

I asked mama if the old kitchen cabinets were already there or did granddaddy build them, and …. “The farmhouse was remodeled before we moved in. Mr. Beckum was in charge of all the remodeling on those farmhouses the government bought and sold. It wasn’t much of a house until it was remodeled, it was just a shabby house. Remember I told you that two brothers lived there, then they fought over something and one moved out, just down the road. That brother was the one who put the trick in the chimney, they talked like that back then… it meant they put a curse on you. Then that brother moved out of the house. Maybe that’s when the government bought the lands and houses and started selling to the farmers. Daddy was only one of a few who didn’t lose his farm. He skimped and saved to pay that loan every year.”

“Mama loved living there, she had a lot of shelves in the dining room and kept them all filled with her canning jars. She enjoyed canning and she grew a small garden so she had plenty of vegetables to put up for the winter.”

Nov. 7, 2016: Mama called me tonight, she said she was bored. She asked me what I was doing… “I’m sitting here on the couch writing.” She laughed and said…“You should be writing stories to sell and make some money so we can spend it. I’m watching Andy Griffith on Mayberry, that Barney is stupid. I’d like to just slap him silly.”


I asked Mama if she was voting tomorrow… “I might end up on the news by saying something I shouldn’t. No me and Boo will stay home and watch TV and maybe eat some Brunswick Stew.”

I told mama about the 20+ pound turkey that Melissa won at a work meeting. She cooked it last night and we ate dinner there. Mama asked… “Did McKinley and Grace eat turkey?” Well McKinley said she didn’t want any turkey and Melissa told her it’s just a big chicken. Then Grace took a bite and said, “I don’t like turkey.” Then the conversation turned to “did you have dressing, I sure could go for some good dressing, cranberry sauce, pink stuff and potato salad.” I told mama that when I come next year I’ll bring her some homemade dressing and pink stuff, and immediately she said. “We will buy a chicken and potato salad for me and Steve and eat ourselves silly.”

To be continued…

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

© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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3 Responses to Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #37

  1. Lyn Smith says:

    I love your stories, especially the conversations you have with Helen. She sure can tell some doozies. I’m so glad you write these things down, not just to entertain us from time to time but think of the stories your grandchildren will have when they are older. Memories and treasures.
    Holidays at Papa and Mama McKinley weren’t quite like Uncle Edgar’s. Us children were put at smaller tables, usually card table. I remember there was this one table that Papa McKinley made with four stools. The top was red. We all ate together, though. Conversations were pretty much about whatever was happening at the time but we paid little attention to what they were discussing.
    As I got older, I remember that some of us would go out on the porch to talk and sometimes we’d take a walk. I remember a pink stuff, too. I think it was a gelatin of some kind. Is that the same as the pink stuff you’re talking about? I’d have to ask my sister about any details, because I don’t remember how it tasted or anything.
    I’ll bet the new owners of your grandparents home really enjoyed the stories Helen told. Now they have a true history of the house. How many people can say that.
    Again, great story.


  2. Janice Brown says:

    Your stories are wonderful to read even if I’m not related. Home-spun, made me smile! You even threw in a ghost story!

    Liked by 1 person

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