2017 – A to Z… H: 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.
H… Conversations with Mama – The Best of!
H is for Halloween, Hospital, History, and Hair…
I always ask Mama about her day when I call and how things are at the senior center, where she volunteers… (and has volunteered for over 20 years) and from that question came – “We went to Helen, Georgia a couple of weeks ago, but I forgot to tell you about this town we went through that had scarecrows all over – they were in front of businesses as well as on people’s lawns, they were everywhere! I can’t remember the name of the town right now, but it’s right below Braselton; they are competing to be in the Guinness World Book of Records for having the most scarecrows this Halloween, and they are literally all over town. They weren’t regular scarecrows, more like home-made stuffed scarecrow people, all made from old clothes and accessories; the bodies were stuffed with plastic bags and decorated with hats, scarves and even jewelry. They made heads from stockings and plastic bottles with painted faces and usually some type of hat to cover the top of the head; some even had hair. As we entered the town, there was a complete football team out in a field looking like a game was in progress… even had spectator scarecrows at the fence watching; they were pretty unique. One garage had a stuffed man bent over looking like a car mechanic, complete with tools in his pocket and the famous “plumbers crack.” It was interesting to view all the many “stuffed people” around town, and there were many. We talked about them coming home and decided to make some ourselves using the donated clothes that can’t be sold. We can put them out front at the senior center. (The town was Bostwick, GA.)
“Before jumpsuits for women were even thought of, I made them. I wanted one because I’d seen the airmen wearing them, and I thought they would look nice on me, but there were no patterns at that time. I pinned a pant and top shirt pattern together and cut it out as if it was one piece and made my own jumpsuits. Everyone wanted to know immediately where did I buy them – but there was no place. If I’d had any brains, I could have probably designed something to sell or even sold my idea, but who knew. All I knew was that I wanted one. I sewed them in every color and wore my new jumpsuits all the time… they were so comfortable. One Halloween I even made myself a polka dot jumpsuit, attached a tail in the back and attached fabric ears on a headband to wear – I was a cat. I drew whiskers on my face and I thought I was the cat’s meow that night at the club. I got a lot of attention, and almost got in trouble, as I walked around twirling my long tail in my hand and saying “meow.”
As I talked to Mama on Halloween night (2009) I asked her what do you remember about that holiday. “We never had “trick or treat” when I was young, but we always had a Halloween party at school. No one came in any type of costume though, they had no money for that and probably didn’t even know what a costume for Halloween was. I never remember dressing up, we just came in regular clothes; it was a party that included your family, and I remember my parents attending with me. We bobbed for apples, had haunted houses to walk through and often we were able to even get all the father’s to bob for apples; I remember seeing my father “bob” for apples one time. I also remember all the mothers bringing home-made cakes for the cakewalk. My mother never made one, it was usually just certain mothers who baked them. Mama didn’t socialize with too many people, she was a loner. While the parents stayed inside, the kids played out in the schoolyard until way after dark, hiding and jumping out yelling Boo… to scare everyone.”
In asking Mama a few questions tonight about me, she said. “I remember you going out trick or treating, but I don’t remember you dressing up. You were a very curious child about things.” (I do have memories of me dressing up as a hobo at Halloween one year.)
I called mama to tell her about all the little munchkins and what they dressed up for Halloween as. McKinley was the mermaid Ariel, Grace was a Minion, Ella went as Little Red Riding Hood, Ana was her favorite – Snow White, and Nina was Aurora – Sleeping Beauty, her all-time favorite princess. “Hurry and send me photos so I can see them.”
I asked mama what ghost stories did she remember telling us kids when we lived on Smoak Avenue in Perry. “I probably told you ones that I was told by the older colored man “JT” who stayed with us if mama and daddy went somewhere at night, which wasn’t often. He’d tell us ghost stories with the flashlight shining upon him. He would start saying, “JT is coming up through the cracks.” I don’t remember what else he’d say other than him saying that. I used to tell you ghost stories when you were small – you weren’t afraid. You thought nothing of going outside at nighttime and walking over to Aunt Chris’s house in the dark. (And now I am afraid of the dark. I don’t like being alone at night and would probably leave all the lights on.)
I asked mama if she remembered cakewalks, and “yes we had them at school, mostly at the Halloween carnivals. You walked around on numbered squares while music played, and when the music stopped, if you were on the number of the cake being offered – you won a cake! I think I remember winning one once. My mama baked a lot of cakes, they were so good, but she never made any for school activities; she didn’t associate with any of the women that baked and even when she came to school, she was quiet and kept to herself. If they had them at your school, I really don’t remember and I know I didn’t bake as I never baked cakes, I only made that lemon pie…. I sure could go for a slice of that right now!” (I remember having cakewalks at the Halloween carnivals I had at school, but I don’t think my parents came)
“Those Halloween parties we had at school were so much fun as the entire family came; my parents always came and daddy joined in on the activities. I remember him bobbing for apples with the other fathers. The parents would just turn us kids loose and we had so much fun bobbing for apples and walking down the Hall of Horrors. Someone had to lead you down the hall in the dark and you’d touch things like grapes and they’d tell you it was someone’s eyeballs – and we’d probably scream at that point! The Halloween party was a really big thing and everyone came with their family, there wasn’t much to do back then so the families all joined in on the activities.”
“My mama and daddy came to the hospital when I had you. Daddy might have even brought me as they were at the house when I was having pains. My water broke at the house, but I was determined to clean my house first. Mama followed me all around the house as I swept and mopped… telling me I better hurry up and go to the hospital. And I kept telling her I didn’t want to go. I don’t even remember if they took me or your father. They say you get a burst of energy before you go into labor – and I guess that was my burst.” (I was born at the Minnie J. Boswell Hospital in Greensboro, GA.)
In talking about Melissa’s wedding pictures, Mama said. “When it gets warm I’m going to dress up in my dress I had for the wedding and have a picture taken for Melissa’s wedding album. I’ll find a pretty antebellum home to take a picture in front of, maybe I’ll go out to your Tara home you love and stand on the front steps.” Maybe I can take her picture and cut her out and impose her into one of Melissa’s wedding group pictures. “I wish I could have been at her wedding, but it just didn’t work out with me getting sick and ending up in the hospital, but Melissa knows I was there in spirit.”
“If I didn’t amuse myself as a child, I wasn’t amused. I used to take birds that my brother shot, like blue jays, and put them in my hospital to take care of. I also remember picking plums and sticking a stick in them and calling them a sucker – we were poor.”
Mama wasn’t feeling well the other day and after going to the Doctor, they put her in the hospital overnight. She was fine, except for congestion and a cold and came home the next day, but from talking to her in the hospital. “I’m not a happy person here, especially not in the winter. I don’t like anyone to be the boss of me, not even you. I’ve asked for a cup of coffee as I’m freezing in here and they bring me nothing. I bet that Doctor will be glad to see me go tomorrow morning. I just want to go home, get in my own bed, and find a good movie on TV and get naked! I’d like to tell them what I used to hear my father say, I’m getting my drawers on and going home”
“I hate people asking me over and over – the same question. Today I went to Walgreen’s and when they asked me the same question, again and again, I finally told the girl. “I was born in Greene County on April 6th, 1930, on a straw mattress in the hallway of our log cabin. It was the same mattress that my daddy used to lay on in the afternoon when he came in from working in the field. Then I said to them, I’ve told you all about where I’m from, so please don’t ask me again. Another girl there asked, “why don’t you come to the drive-in window and pick up your prescription instead of having to park your car, walk across the parking lot and walk all the way to the back of the store.” I told her, “No, I don’t want to go through the drive-through, when I talk to someone, I want to look directly into their eyes. I guess she won’t ask me again after my little speech today. I just hate having the same question asked of me over and over again, especially when they have my history on their computer – stop asking me! I never had all these problems when I picked up my prescriptions at Monroe Drugs, everyone there knew me, all the girls smiled behind the counter, and my pills always had the right name on the bottle… I was never given the run around like I get at Walgreen’s. I’ve told them before that they don’t seem to want to cater or help seniors – they just make it harder for us every time we come.”
I called to wish Mama a Merry Christmas (2009) and she began talking about old family photos she remembered at her great-grandmothers house. “I sure wish I had that box of old pictures we cousins used to look at when we went to Miss Bay’s – she was my step-grandmother. I don’t know why they called her Miss Bay; her real name was Josephine Askew McKinley and she was a second cousin or about of my mother. They always said they were related, but could never tell us kids how, but after you began researching the family history you discovered that they were actual cousins. When all of us younger cousins were there, she’d give us the box of old photos she had and a stereoscope viewer and we’d sit for hours looking at them. Some of them were even printed on tin. I don’t remember her ever telling us exactly who they were though. My mother always said there was Indian blood in our lines and many of the older photos looked like they were of Indian descent, but you never found any Indian bloodlines. I still believe that we have Indian blood in our lines – just look at our old family pictures and their faces. I think my cousin Margaret ended up with that box of pictures.”
“Yes, Mr. Copelan, Carroll’s uncle, waited many a morning on me at the bus stop. If he’d left me, I would have missed an awful lot of school. He said it was the best present ever when I graduated and he didn’t have to pick me up anymore. I remember one time at school when we had to gather in the auditorium and I was in the bathroom crying because of my hair, one of Leroy’s friends found me and tried to help to comb and fix my hair so I could go in. When we first got to school every morning we always went to the auditorium to salute the flag, say the pledge of allegiance and have a prayer – they don’t do that anymore.”
“Mr. C.C. Wills taught me geometry, everyone got 100 in his class; the year I graduated Mr. Wills was principal. One day on the bus I sang “John, Jacob, Jingle Hiner Smith all the way to school, with each verse getting louder and louder. I did that because the bus driver wouldn’t make the boys let up the windows, and all of us girls were getting wet and our hair ruined. As soon as we arrived at school, I was sent to the office. When I told Mr. Wills what I did, and that I was Leroy’s sister, he handed me 10 cents to get get a Coke and sit in the office for awhile. Once he heard Leroy’s name, he knew I was Edgar McKinley’s’ daughter. He was the one who had pushed for my brother to be drafted into the Army out of school – and he was the one my daddy punched in the nose when word came that Leroy had been killed.”
I don’t know what I said for mama to tell me this, probably talking about the wind or tornadoes… “I remember seeing many whirlwinds in our yard at the farm. I saw them a lot there but never see them now. We’d run out in the yard and get inside of them… and sand would be all in our hair afterward.”
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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