2017 – A to Z… L: 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.
L… Conversations with Mama – The Best of!
L is for Love, Land, Logs, and Letters…
“Someone put out a little black kitten in my yard yesterday – he meowed all night! The girl across the street came over this afternoon and finally caught him. I really wanted him – you know how I love black cats. She loves animals and took him home, but I really did want to keep him. I don’t think my Boo would have liked that!”
I told mama that someone messaged me telling me that they found a handwritten recipe of my grandmother, Evelyn Bryan, for cucumber pickles in her grandmother’s recipe box. Her grandmother lived next door to my grandparents for several years on Binns St. Mama said… “If I had wanted a pickle back then, I would have gotten one of my mama’s pickles– she made the best ones. I really didn’t have much to do with my mother in law, she wasn’t very nice to me; I loved my father in law though, he was a sweet man.” (I asked several of my Bryan cousins and No One remembers her making any pickles – that’s funny!)
“Daddy’s cousin, Lawson McKinley, drove a mobile general store around to all the farms. I loved when he came to our farm as he always gave me candy, and I loved candy; that’s how I got the nickname “candy girl.” It was like a general store on wheels and had so many things hanging inside when you looked in. After he stopped driving it, he opened the general store in Siloam. It was nice and warm today, I dressed like it was summer – it was 67 degrees!”
While sitting in traffic headed to Pennsylvania, a beautiful orange butterfly floated across the windshield – someone stopping to say hello – now which one of my loved ones was saying hello? As traffic crawled along – very slowly – we began counting all the different license plates we passed… 19 states total! When I told mama… “remember when we counted Coca-Cola bottles, or colors of cars, when we traveled. I’d take one side of the road and you the other. That’s when people threw out glass Coke bottles – and down South, they threw out lots of them.”
In telling mama how the girls immediately pull their shoes off when they come inside, she said…”McKinley takes after me. I hated wearing shoes and still do… I love being barefoot. The only shoes I wear are open summer shoes, I can’t put my feet in any closed shoe, and definitely not a sneaker like you wear. McKinley also is a string bean like I was… I was only 99 pounds when I married your father and I stayed at that weight for a long time. I never really gained weight, and I don’t really care about food today. For the most part, I’m content to drink Ensure – and the only food I really want is Brunswick Stew or a scrambled egg and toast.”
I called mama and the conversation turned 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 had my share of being sent to the principal’s office at school. One day, after returning back to class, I was sent back to the office because Kendrick said something to me as I walked back in… and I hit him on the head with my books. I didn’t go to the office that time, but to the library instead. I grew up with Kendrick, we were more like siblings. My father rented a house on their land; his father was the local doctor and had also delivered me.”
When I told mama I made a blackberry cobbler last night…. “Oh don’t tell me that, I’d sure like a piece right now with my coffee; I sure wish I could have one like my mama made. She made up biscuit dough, rolling it out really thin, and then laying it in the pan to cook till it was brown. While that cooked, she cooked her berries a little bit on the stove, then poured the berries and juice on top of the baked crust. A top crust was also rolled out, and a few pats of butter were added on top before baking.”
“We used to pick the berries on the side of the road, just out of the driveway; there were lots of them there, but the best ones were the ones we picked in the backfield where it was marshy; those were the big juicy berries. There were also many snakes back there, so we usually took Frank or Brownie with us; they’d kill a snake in a minute. The dogs would go in the bushes first, then after they came out, we knew it was safe to start picking. They were smart dogs, they knew what to do when they went with us. The bushes were back by that big rock I liked to sit up on. There was another rock back there that looked like a fireplace was carved in on one side; it even looked like it had been used. This was all Indian land years ago, so it very may have been used like that. Daddy often found arrowheads when he plowed, he’d empty his pockets at night; at one time you had a lot of them.”
On my nightly phone call tonight, Mama told me about the Fuller School House that Granddaddy owned. “Daddy owned 10 acres on the road to White Plains where the old Fuller School house sat. My father and Aunt Lena, his sister, bought it so Uncle Villa and Aunt Mae McKinley could live there. Uncle Villa (McKinley), daddy’s brother, had TB and needed a place to live away from everybody. While living there, a tornado came through and picked the house up with Uncle Villa and Aunt Mae still inside and sat it down in the woods… on top of some tree stumps; this was probably sometime in the 1940’s. They weren’t harmed, but the house was no longer livable. They came to live at our house for a few months, and stayed in the back bedroom, while Daddy and Aunt Lena built them a small house on Daddy’s land, just up the road from our house.”
“When Daddy bought the farm from the government, they thought they had the right to try and teach you how to farm your land; they also came to teach Mama how to can. Even after Daddy told the woman that Mama had been canning for years, she kept insisting until Mama and Daddy stepped back and let her show them her way – she was determined! The woman began reading and teaching from a book she brought. It wasn’t long before daddy heard a big noise and came into the kitchen to find that the pressure cooker had exploded – corn and glass had hit the ceiling and the book went flying. Daddy told the woman that she better grab her book and leave his house… that Mama did just fine canning her own way. The woman quickly left and never came back.”
“Farm agents from the government also came out trying to teach Daddy how to farm his land. He really didn’t have a choice but to listen since he’d bought his land through the government program, so he just stood back and let them have their say, but then farmed like he wanted. One time when they came to check on his cotton fields, they told him he had planted too many acres; you were only allowed to plant so much. They even made him pull up a few rows of cotton since he was over the limit, and they actually came back to check that it really was pulled up. They were strict on what you could and couldn’t plant and on how much of each.”
“My cousin, Red Albert McKinley often came down to the farm to hang around with my brother Leroy. One day he rode his bicycle down and left it there while he went off hunting with Leroy. I took it, but as I didn’t know how to ride, I pushed it all the way up the hill and climbed on. I rode it down alright, I rode it right into the ditch and landed in all kinds of sticks and brush – my dress got all ripped off and I walked the bike back to the farm in my slip. When daddy saw me, he said, “see I told you that would happen.” I was only about 10 or 12 and I really had wanted to ride that bike – all the kids in town had bikes, but daddy wouldn’t get me one.”
“I wish I had a picture of my granddaddy’s old house when they lived near us in the log cabin. Their house was on the same road near Slip Rock; today the road is called Slip Rock Road. The house they lived in was really big, I can still see it in my mind – I believe I could sketch it out; maybe I’ll try sketching it out for you. Too bad those old houses aren’t still around, I’d sure love to go inside and look. As a kid, I was intrigued by my grandfather’s old house and always wanted to go upstairs, but they didn’t like you to. They never used upstairs and I couldn’t understand why, as there were big rooms up there, but no furniture. I did sneak up once or twice but I always was caught, so I never did get to really look around. I just wanted to know why they didn’t go up there, and I thought maybe they were hiding something upstairs. After they moved over to White Plains another family moved in – I should have stopped by and asked them to let me look upstairs; eventually, the house burned down… maybe it took all the ghosts with it.”
“I remember far back when I was little and lived in the log cabin where I was born. The attic there fascinated me and any chance I got – I went up to explore. I can still see what was up there – old car parts and lots of books. Some had Leroy and J. W.’s name written inside. I loved being up there… looking down below… until someone discovered me.”
“Daddy kept his cotton dry on the porch of the log cabin until he took it to the mill to be baled. I don’t know why I remember that but I can still see all that cotton up on the porch; he had no barn at the cabin. When we moved to the farmhouse, he kept the loose cotton up in the barns.”
After watching one of my “new” favorite shows – Barnyard Builders – I asked mama about granddaddy’s barns… “The barn that was on the farm was just an old barn with barn-wood, not logs. But the log cabin that I was born in was a real log cabin, and it’s still standing. We can go back there to see it again when you and Steve come down in October. You can’t see the logs from the outside, but inside you can see the logs. I used to take mama’s thimbles and set them between the logs; probably could find them if they ever took it down. My brother and I used to play a game called “hide the thimble.”
I called several times today as Georgia was under severe tornado warnings all over the state. Every time she’d say I’m not really seeing anything. “I’m just keeping myself home today and minding my business… it will pass. I remember having bad storms and tornado’s when we lived in the log cabin…. we were poor. The rain beat on those cheap glass windows so hard that daddy had to stick rolled up paper between the frames to keep them from rattling so loud.
I asked Mama if she remembers any writing she did in school. “I never liked to write in school and to write something was like breaking my arm. The most I ever wrote was when I wrote your father while he was in the Navy. I wrote him many letters – sure wish I had thought to keep them for you.” (I have kept all our letters Steve and I wrote to each other while he was in Thailand)
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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