2017 – A to Z… D: Conversations with Mama… The Best of!
I married and moved away from home when I was 19, so I didn’t grow up stopping by Mama’s for afternoon chats. Living almost a thousand miles from home, a nightly phone call is how I stayed in touch, as she’s gotten older, it’s how I check in on her. As I became involved in researching my family history, it was often how I heard the family stories. I recorded the usual dates and names, but all the tidbits of family stories…. well where was I going to put them. That was how Conversations with Mom evolved, and I eventually blogged those conversations. What better choice, than to glean an A to Z of my favorites here to celebrate Mama’s birthday month; she turns a spry 87 this April, but “mums” the word on me spilling her birthday number here!
During the month of April, I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for my 2nd year… both on this blog. I will post each day, except Sundays… using a daily alphabet letter in my theme of “Conversations with Mom… The Best of.” If you’d like to read more blogs, hop over to their Facebook page.
D… Conversations with Mama – The Best of!
D is for Daddy, Dancing, and DNA
Daddy: “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… back in the yard. Daddy swore he had broken his neck, but there he was! Daddy let him stay and his nickname soon became limber neck. No one ever believed the story, but it was true.”
“I don’t remember Leroy eating pickle sandwiches, but he was older than me and I may not have known. But I don’t think he ever brought them to school on light bread, which meant store-bought sliced bread. Daddy wouldn’t have it in our house, he called it wasp bread and never ate it. I remember when I came back to the farm with him, and tried making him a sandwich on that type of bread – he’d get mad, telling me he didn’t eat that type of bread – he really wanted a biscuit like Mama used to make. I do remember Mama making pickles, they were called nine-day pickles; guess it took nine days for them to turn into a pickle.”
In talking to Mama tonight I mentioned how many people don’t know what theirparent’ss lives were like when they were young, as they never asked … “My daddy and mama used to tell me tales when I was young. Daddy told me that one time he was running through the woods from a mad dog and got his neck caught in grapevines. They got all twisted around him, but he finally got loose. When I think about that now, he probably told me that to keep me out of the woods and make me afraid.”
I asked Mama about Bowden’s Mill again as I’ve also heard it called Sander’s Mill. “Yes it was called Sander’s Mill when daddy went because a Mr. Sanders ran it. Mr. Sander’s wife was my daddy’s cousin. (Mr. Sanders married Annie McKinley, one of Lawson McKinley’s sisters.) Mama often came with us and visited her while I went with daddy to the mill. I liked to sit next to the big wheel that pulled the water up and over; Mr. Sanders would make me a hook on a string to play with the fish.”
“I remember going to the mill with daddy just like yesterday – I was around six years old when I first went. There were flat rocks in the middle of the stream where you could walk right across on them. There was usually only about an inch or so of water running over your bare feet as you walked across. If it was lower, then you could just sit on the flat rocks. I rode with daddy in the wagon when he took his wheat and corn to the mill for grinding. I remember Mr. Sander’s house being nearby on a hill and that’s where we would leave mama while we went to the mill; she visited with Mrs. Sander’s. The road to the mill was only a dirt road when I went with daddy. The picture of the two structures you sent look like what I remember. That’s the front of the mill where we would have pulled up in the horse and wagon. Behind those buildings was the actual mill with the water wheel.”
“One of my chores was to wash my daddy’s feet every night when he came in from the fields; I never minded doing that. He’d sit on the back granite steps and I’d have the water all warm and waiting; I’d take off his shoes and wash his feet. I also liked to brush his hair when I was small – he used to always say that he didn’t have much hair later on because I brushed it all off. You brushed his hair once when you were small, then you popped him in the head with the brush – that was the last time he let you brush his hair.”
“I cut the neighbor girl’s hair today and told her not to throw it out as the birds will make a nest with it and you’ll get a headache or if somebody gets a hold of it they could put a spell on you, or trick you. It was always said that you had to put the hair in a brown bag so no one would see it and throw it in the trash. I remember the old black women telling me these tales when they came to work on the days that Daddy killed the hogs. I followed them around all day and they told me old tales, and I’ve never forgotten them. I forget where I just laid my keys, but I never forget my memories. They told me that if you have a headache, take a Canna lily leaf and hold it on your head with a bandanna. That will rid you of your headache.”
“It is so hot here this summer – people used to say that mean people sweat on their nose, so I guess I am mean; most people seem to think so. I never used to sweat but I do now. My daddy didn’t really sweat either, so he’d pour a bucket of well water over him to keep cool before going to the field.”
While asking mama about what they did during the war to save iron, she said…. “During the war Japan was buying scrap iron but my father wouldn’t sell any of his. Men came around trying to buy it to send over there… but 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 often said that he’d rather dig a hole and bury it. They sold all-iron plows back then and people bought them to sell to Japan, and they then used them to make bombs. Some people were excited that they were making extra money, but daddy said they were actually digging their own graves.”
Dancing: “Some of the girls took dancing lessons when I grew up, but it was only the city girls as their parents had money; the farm girls didn’t grow up with those luxuries. Daddy didn’t want me to play basketball in high school, but I was determined… so he gave in. My position on the team was guard, but it wasn’t what I wanted to play – I wanted to be a shooter – and I was good at hitting the basket. But when your parents were farmers, you weren’t picked to be the star team player. Whether you could shoot or not, that’s just the way it was… no farmer’s daughter was going to be picked as the star shooter. I learned to shoot by nailing a metal rim on the car shed and used some piece of ball I had…. It had no bounce! If I had had a real ball and goal hoop, I’d have thought I was uptown!”
I told mama about the video of Grace with her hand on her hip and dancing and… “There was this young girl who mama sometimes babysat and one day she asked my daddy if he could do the Boogie Woogie? I don’t know what daddy said, but the little girl told him… “you just put your hands on your hip and go on down to the floor”… she was probably about five years old.”
“They are making a scrapbook at the senior center and were teasing me about the sexy picture of me they were putting on one of the pages. I began telling them about the time I danced on the tables at the Moss Oak Lounge we ran – that would have been a sexy picture! I did some sexy dancing on the tables that night. The night we hopped up on the tables was the night that the owner told your father he didn’t want anyone dancing on the tables. As soon as I heard that, Millie White and I jumped up on the tables and started to dance, and he never said a word to us; wouldn’t have done any good, as I had no intentions of getting off.” I asked Mama if Daddy cared that she did that? Her answer, “I didn’t ask.”
DNA: While at mama’s I did another DNA test… the one she did in April didn’t take so they sent me another kit When I told her she had to redo it… “I told you I didn’t have enough spit.” Well here you go, get to spitting, I said! I sure hope this one takes as I really want to see if her DNA will show our Askew lines or the Indian lines that Mama insists that her mother had in her family; probably would be Creek.
She asked again about the DNA test – “they better hurry up… and they better not tell me again that they couldn’t test it…. Laughing she said. “I must be so hard to figure out, that’s why they’re taking so long. I wish they’d hurry up, I want to see what this DNA thing shows on me.”
I called mama tonight to tell her that her DNA results finally came back today… Well you are less Irish than I am, you’re 25 %, where I am 35%. “Well what about the Indian lines… what showed up?” No Indian ancestry shows for you. “Well I don’t care what they say, I have Indian in me. I know my mama had Indian ancestry and you can’t tell me any different… she had that jet black hair.” Laughing I said, well it’s not showing! “I’ll probably go down to the center tomorrow so I can tell everyone that my DNA came back and I have a little bit of everything in me.”
My mother grew up on a small farm in Georgia, and has more memories of her childhood than I can only dream to remember. If you’d like to follow along from day 1, click on 2017: A to Z… Conversations with Mama – The Best of!
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