2017 – A to Z… F: 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, then to gleam 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.
F…. Conversations with Mama – The Best of!
F is for Flowers, Farm and Fire
“I don’t like Zinnia’s… I remember the old women calling them “old maid” flowers when I was young, but I do think they are one of the prettiest flowers. I spent all day in the garden today separating some lilies. I took some over to June’s, then I came in and chopped off most of my hair – it was getting too long.”
“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 in one big cluster next year so when they bloom, all the colors will be together. When I came in tonight, I slid in bed and went right to sleep.”
“I was out in the yard playing with my flowers tonight 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’m going to buy myself some Sweet William seeds tomorrow, they are one of my favorite flowers in the summer. I used to plant them all around our house in Union Point – I love them! I’ll plant them where I planted the sunflower seeds by the posts, they can grow under the sunflowers. By those posts is where I got that splinter in my hand the other day when my hand slipped off the digging tool. I still don’t know how I did that, but my hand is still a little swollen and hurts. I went to the Dr. to have them get it out, as I couldn’t, and it was red and swollen. It’s not as bad looking as it was – I have been soaking it in Epson salts.”
“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. 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 asked if they could pick some flowers for their wedding… 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.”
“I worked in the yard some 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. I’d like to just rip them out, 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 come flying by, trying to see how fast they can go. I wish I was big enough to stop them.”
“My grandfather had a tornado shelter at their house over in White Plains. I don’t know if they built it or it was already there when they moved. Grandmama used to keep her potted flowers inside there in the winter. It was dug in the ground and had two wooden doors that you opened to walk down the stairs. I remember looking inside and seeing her flowers sitting there, but I never went down in there. If they dug it, the boys would have dug it, my grandfather never did any work, he always sat on the porch and watched the boys work.”
I told mama how the woman at the farm sent me a picture of an Armadillo today and then we started talking about bringing her flowers for the farm next April. “I’ll have to root some angel trumpets and hydrangeas to bring to the farm. I can see Angel Trumpets planted on top of the bank out front and hydrangeas all around the house covering up the bottom. Steve will have to dig up the Ola Lilly down by the barn, I don’t have the strength to dig them up anymore. By the time I put all the flowers back down there, I might want to live there again; maybe they’ll let me sleep in the shed room, next to the bathroom, I can be granny”…. then she laughed. “Sometimes I look out the window in my room and when I my barn, it reminds me of looking out the window at the farm and seeing the smoke house, makes me feel like I’m back on the farm.”
“It was like summer here today, almost 70 in January! I even worked out in the yard for quite a bit fixing some of the rocks that had fallen down around my flowers. Then I came in the house and jumped in bed, and haven’t left. Boo is like a little knot under the covers here beside me, all curled up. If I put the covers on him, he won’t stay… he has to do it by himself.”
After awhile talking tonight, somehow the conversation turned to cremation… “I remember my daddy saying if you ever want to put flowers on his grave to just put bitter weed there; they have small yellow blooms. Daddy was always pulling them up if he found them growing in the field because if the cows ate them, it gave their milk a bitter taste. I remember chewing on some weed at school that had a bitter taste, but we mostly chewed on sweet gum branches.”
“I’m very good at laying in the bed watching TV… I could win a prize for it! Sometimes I feel like I want to go out and dig in the dirt, in my flowers, but not as much as I used to. Here comes Boo, he stopped to crunch on some food for a snack, now he’s up here laying with me again… until he decides he wants another snack.”
“I’ll never forget how big Aunt Chris could grow a sweet potato vine. She always had one sitting on the back of the wood stove. It would grow all over the top of the stove and then down to the floor. She grew the prettiest ones every summer, but mine never grow like hers; mine just rot in the water. June, across the street. gave me some old sweet potatoes and I grew them outside this past summer in pots, and they grew the prettiest blue flowers. I’ve never seen a sweet potato vine bloom flowers before and I’ve seen them grow from the time I was a little girl on the farm; I didn’t even know they bloomed.”
“We had hat day at Senior Citizen’s today and guess what I wore? I wore the hat you made with the flowers and long bow. I pinned a price tag on the long ribbon of the bow and went as Minnie Pearl. Vickie surprised me when she made an announcement at lunchtime that they had a special guest today – Minnie Pearl. It really caught me off guard – I was not expecting that.”
“I still remember how Daddy planted his crops – he’d check the moon at night and how many stars were nearby… that told him how many days before it would rain again… then told he knew when to plant. I don’t know how farmers make a living anymore working a farm. This past week has been close to 100 degrees everyday. You could go out and fry an egg on the cement – and I truly mean that.”
On the way to Watkinsville we stopped at a roadside stand and I bought some muscadines.… “When I was a little girl on the farm I remember climbing up in the tree where the muscadine vines were and sitting there eating until I had my fill of them. Then I’d hop down and be on my way. No one ever bought them, everyone had muscadines growing somewhere… nearby.”
I called Mama to tell her I finally received my Heritage of Greene County Book after waiting over a year for it to finally be published. “Maybe there will be a picture of the log cabin I was born in – it was on Dr. Lewis’s property. He delivered me along with his midwife, Lena Credille. We lived on their property and daddy farmed his land and shared in what he farmed.”
In talking to mama about making BBQ sauce… “Mama Bryan always put real butter in hers, and granddaddy Paul only used real butter bought from a local farm. They didn’t want any artificial butter from the store. The only ingredients in their sauce was – butter, black and red pepper, salt and vinegar. That was all that was in there. Their sauce wasn’t red like Holcomb’s.”
“When I visited my step grandmother, Miss Bay McKinley, in White Plains, I played with my girl cousins. I didn’t have any girls around the farm, it was only boys I played with there. I remember running up and down the streets in White Plains near her house. We ran and climbed up on the big rocks. Kids today wouldn’t think it fun to climb up on big rocks like we did, but there was no other entertainment – you entertained yourself.”
“I entertained myself at the farm by going into the woods and swinging on grapevines and swimming in the streams, but I wouldn’t have let you do that when you were growing up. My daddy probably didn’t know I did it either!”
Today on a talk radio program Steve listens to they were talking about chickens. I asked Mama what she remembered about the chickens on the farm. “We always had one rooster to a bunch of hens. You can only have one rooster otherwise they’ll fight. Usually the new born roosters were killed young before maturing and put on the table. Our chickens were allowed to roam around the yard during the day, but they were put in the chicken coop at night where they sat on their roosts; Daddy locked them in so the foxes couldn’t kill them.”
I called mama to tell her that I think her middle name of Rebecca came from Rebecca A. Mapp – her great-grandmother. I recently found the name of the mother of Maggie Hillsman Askew (mother of Ola Askew McKinley). “Maybe my mother knew or had heard of her grandmother and that’s how I got the middle name of Rebecca – you never know. I remember a Meadows woman that used to come and visit with Aunt Liza (mama’s sister) and Uncle Villa Marchman. They lived in White Plains in a big house with a large wrap-around porch. I sometimes wish I could go to sleep and wake up and be back on the farm and riding in the horse and buggy; I’d like to really go back now.”
“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’d 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 with Leroy and one of my cousins. I sure wish I could go back and walk around and see myself as I grew up.”
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 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 with you.”
“Do you remember the big fireplace we had in the house on Hillcrest Ave… actually we had two fireplaces in that house, the other one was in the living room, but we never used it. The one in the den was big, with a raised brick hearth about 12-14 inches off the floor. On each side of the fireplace were large knotty pine bookcases. That’s where I kept those huge encyclopedia’s I bought for you – that you never used! Mr. Bobby White used to bring firewood for my father because he liked to build a fire all the time. I wish I had one of those nice wooden electric fireplaces like they advertise on TV, but I don’t know where I would put it.”
I mentioned to Mama that I was smelling someone’s fireplace burning and … “I love smelling a fireplace – it smells so good, and brings back memories of living on the farm with my parents. I loved when daddy popped popcorn over the fire. He had a long metal popper with a lid that held the popcorn as it popped. That was considered a real treat for us.”
“It was always dangerous to be outside in the yard on the farm when it was storming. The ground on the farm was full of iron rocks and they attracted lighting. I remember one time when lightning struck the ground and a ball of fire rolled all around the well house.”
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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