2017 – A to Z… P: 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.
P… Conversations with Mama – The Best of!
P is for Perry, Plowing, and Pig
“My friends in Perry liked when I brought my father out to the club. He’d sit at the bar and they’d buy him drinks… as he told them he liked to drink. They got him really drunk one night and had to put him in the car for me to take home. He enjoyed his nights out once in awhile and talking to them. One night while sitting on the stool, smoking his cigarette, a man said, I don’t like smelling that smoke. He just turned around to him and blew the smoke right in his face.”
While telling mama about the playhouse we bought (Nov. 2011) Ella for next summer, she told me…” I built you two playhouses. The first one was built from scratch while living in Union Point. I got the wood from the sawmill in town for free and built it while Granddaddy Paul often watched. I think he was amazed that I knew what I was doing; I didn’t want any help. It had a door, windows, shelves inside and I sewed curtains for the windows. The playhouse you had in Perry was made from a huge crate your father brought home from the base. I cut windows and a door painted it brown and made curtains.” (I remember that house very well, but I really don’t remember the one in Union Point.)
“Do you remember the time you had a real Stop sign under your bed when we lived in Perry? I don’t know how you got it, but I remember you coming home with it one night and you hiding under your bed.” (I do remember that and vaguely remember stealing it)
“We never had fire ants in Greene County when I grew up, they later migrated there from South Georgia. I remember first seeing them in Perry when we moved there – they also had sandspurs there also – which I hadn’t seen before, but now they’re here also. Sandspurs are small pods with thorns all around like cactus spines – it is most definitely no fun stepping on them and really hard to get out of your foot.”
“We also didn’t have the kind of gnats in Greene Co. like we did in Perry; they’d eat you up and drive you crazy getting in your eyes. I learned quickly how to blow from both sides of my mouth to get them away from my face.”
I mentioned that Stephen was painting, and …. “ One time, when we lived in Perry, I tied a rope to myself and crawled out the attic window to paint the outside. The other end of the rope I secured around the rafters in the attic. I remember the neighbors walking over to tell me I was going to fall, but I was determined to paint the outside of that window. I always did everything, even cutting the grass in Perry. I used to cut my grass here until a few years ago, but now my friend’s husband cuts it for me, and I take them out to eat. We often go down to Holcomb’s for BBQ after he cuts the grass; I stock up on Brunswick stew when we go.”
In telling mama that Steve has jury duty on Wednesday, she said… “I think I was only called once for jury duty in Perry, but I was sick and our doctor gave me a note to send in. I was never called again there or here in Monroe and I’d never go now – they better not send me a notice!” (I told her not to worry because they can’t make you when you are over the age of 70 – but again she just said, “well I won’t go.”)
When I called Mama tonight, I asked, “do you ever remember your dreams – I don’t seem to dream, as I haven’t remembered any in a long time.” Mama said, “I dream a lot and I always go back to the farm when I was a little girl. Even when I lay here awake, I put my mind back to the farm and think of all the things I did there. I guess those were good times – I had no problems, no worries. Those were truly the best times of my life! I’ve also dreamed of when you were a little girl. I never seem to dream about living in Union Point or Perry though… I can’t hardly remember living in our houses in Perry anymore.”
“I know you don’t remember, but I collected a set of mini-dolls from Tide when you were young; We lived in Union Point at that time. They were advertised on the back of the Tide boxes – I sent in many box tops to get them. The dolls were about 4-inches tall and each one came dressed to match a country. I never let you play with them and kept them high on a shelf, but after moving to Perry, I don’t know what happened to them. I don’t remember having them in Perry or even seeing them again. I must have thrown or given them away when we moved; I wish I knew what happened to them.”
“Did I ever tell you I was a good runner in school? I was so good that I outran all the boys in school. Kendrick Lewis and I often fought to see who’d be first in line at the lunch room…sometimes I’d beat him – sometimes he’d beat me. When we lived in Perry I used to run around with all you kids, one time I raced one of the boys down to the tennis court around the corner, but I don’t remember who won. I don’t think I could do any more running now, I’d be afraid I’d fall and break my neck.”
“The very first time I saw snow was when we lived in Perry; it was a bad storm with snow and lightning. There was so much lightning that you even saw it strike the poles and run down to the ground. Everything stopped – cars were abandoned all over the local roads and I-75. No one was on the roads. All the motels were filled and local people began offering rooms to strangers because they had no place to go and were stranded. Many trees broke from the wet snow and we all lost our electricity. I remember looking out the window and saying out loud, “I guess it’s the end of time.” You heard me and started crying and asked me if it was really true; you were only about 5 or 6. We had just recently moved to Perry, and that was also the first time I’d ever seen snow in Georgia – I never saw any when growing up on the farm.”
“I never cared about any sports, but I did enjoy going to the basketball games at the Perry High School. I liked to watch the group of boys we had there that went to the state championships every year. There was one short boy on the team, and when he stole the ball, he’d head down the court to make the winning shot before the boys on the other side even knew what happened – he was very fast when he took off with the ball. Later in life, I became interested in the Atlanta Braves baseball team, but after my favorite boys were traded… I stopped watching.”
Often when daddy plowed, he picked me up and plopped me on the mule’s back. I’d ride up and down the rows, as he stood behind the plow, yelling “gee, haw, you son of a bitch.”
When I called tonight, somehow this came up… “ There was a tree up on our hill with a sapling growing up right between two big rocks. It was my favorite place to ride – I’d shimmy up the tree and wrap my coat around me and the tree and get it rocking – almost touching one side of the ground and over to the other side. It’s a miracle I never flew off and hit those rocks; Daddy just plowed in the field, never saying a word to me. Behind the barns was a tree we called the “lighting tree” – as it seemed to be petrified from being hit by lighting too many times.”
Mama talks about her father plowing the fields: “Daddy plowed from early morning, till dinnertime, he’d then come in and eat lunch – lay down for awhile and then go back and plow till dark. It was “gee, haw, you son of a bitch, turn around” as he walked behind the horses. He usually wore two shirts and two pairs of overalls so the sweat would keep him cool. Sometimes he even poured water on himself to keep cool during the hot afternoon.”
“I raised a pig on a bottle when I was young; no sooner after filling a bottle with milk – he’d grab ahold of it and suck it dry. I toted him around in a blanket when he was small and he even came in the house and slept either under the stove or under my bed; once he grew up daddy made me keep him outside. Leroy and I made him mean like a bulldog by pushing on him with our feet as we’d swing. One day a man came up on the back porch and when he pushed him away – the pig bit him. Daddy decided to sell him after that as he was getting to be a big hog and he was afraid of what he might do to one of us. He told us that the man who bought him wanted him for a pet, but we knew better; daddy couldn’t kill him.”
“Fishing is not for me, you have to sit too still and too quiet and I can’t do that. I used to go with your father, but I’d do other things like catch bugs or dig worms for him. One time I went with him and Bobby, at his farm, but I decided to sunbathe instead and took a blanket and laid in the field. All of a sudden I heard grunting noises and looked up to find myself circled by the pigs, they had discovered me. I jumped up and ran back down to the lake, afraid that they might eat me.”
When I called Mama today she told me about Alice, the pig next door; she somehow got herself loose and was
waddling, walking down the middle of the road, and that led to… “We used to have wild boar pigs on the farm back in the marsh back-forty. Daddy used to get really mad when his fox dogs got off the fox trail and onto the scent of the boar. Those boars were pretty dangerous and could kill your dogs when they were cornered.”
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!
© 2017, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved