2017 – A to Z… T: 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.
T…. Conversations with Mama – The Best of!
T is for Tornado, Television and Thanksgiving
I called mama to check on her several times today as bad storms and tornado’s were touching down in Georgia all day. Every time I’d call, she’d say, “I don’t see or hear anything, I’ll just keep myself home and mind my business and let it pass on by. I remember being in the log cabin and the rain beating on the windows so hard that they rattled. Daddy often stuck paper in between the frames to keep them from ratting so much; there was bad storms when I was small.”
“I was at at school one day when a tornado came through… we sat under our desks during the storm; it was pretty scary, I couldn’t wait to go home. A dog showed up at our house later that afternoon after the tornado – a small black and white dog with spots, so I called him Spot. We never heard about anyone looking for him, so he stayed with us. Whenever a cloud came up, Spot would go in the house and hide under my bed. He lived with us on the farm for a long time until he died.”
“When I was young I’d get in the bed and pull the covers over my head when it stormed – and sit there really quiet. We used to have some really bad clouds come up, loud and noisy storms, not like today. The storms we have now are nothing like I remember when I was little. But even now, I still like to be quiet when it storms. I’ll turn everything off – no TV or lights on. I’ll just sit in the dark and be real quiet, and I still sometimes even pull the cover up over my head so I don’t have to see the lightning. If it’s stormy like a tornado warning, I’ll get in the hallway and shut myself in until the storm is over.”
When Mama answered the phone, I asked her what she was doing and… “ I’ve just laid in the bed all day. It’s been raining and thundering with tornado watches all day. My house inside sure looks like a tornado hit, I think her name was Helen.”
I called Mama tonight to ask about the bad weather I’d heard about (April 29, 2014)… “We didn’t use to have weather like this when I grew up. I only remember one bad tornado when I was young. That’s when the tornado picked up Uncle Villa’s house while he was sleeping in the bed. It set it down “intact” further down in the woods. A tree stump came right up through the floor. After I moved back to the farm, I remember heading home from Holiday Inn one night with a bad cloud coming in. When I got home I tried to pull the mattress off the bed to get underneath as I heard a lot of noise outside. The tornado came close by and laid a pine tree on top of the front porch roof. I called my cousin Kenneth McKinley and told him I was dead. He laughed! He headed over to the farm but had to turn around to get his chain saw as there were so many trees across the road to the farm and he couldn’t get through.”
“When you come down in the fall you can dig up some hydrangeas to take home, but don’t expect them to be the same colors up there – it depends on your soil. Years ago, a really long time ago, this land here used to be the dump; no telling what you’d find if you dug down, might even find a money box. I can tell my house has sunk, just from the years I’ve lived here. There was once a well here too, but way before I came or even when Allen bought it. The well was where that ditch is between my house and Mr. Knights. If you throw something in the ditch, it eventually disappears – I’ve done it and later could never find what I threw in. Mrs. Cooper, who lived across the street, is who told me all these things. Did you know that way back at the end of my property, between me and Mr. Knight, he buried a school bus to use as a tornado shelter. He nailed the windows shut and built an outside door and cement steps leading down into it. I’ve looked down the steps but never went down there. Allen went in there once – it’s actually more on my property than his. The kids used to like to sneak down in there and I’d have to run them off. Later someone locked it up and it’s pretty much all grown over; I’ll show you where it is… if you want to go in there, but it’s probably loaded now with snakes.
It was bad weather in Georgia today and mama remembered… “I’ll never forget the tornado that laid a pine tree across the front porch. I had just came home late from work and I was doing something with the mattress, as I had it off the bed. When I heard the noise of the pine tree hitting the front porch, I dove under it. After everything stopped I called my cousin Kenneth and told him I was dead… he laughed and said well you’re talking to me. Those winds pulled up that pine tree by it’s roots. That tornado came from the top of the road and must have came right down, stopping long enough to pull that tree down, then it went on down the road below me.”
I called several times today as Georgia was under severe weather with tornado’s all over the state. Every time I called, she’d tell me I’m not really seeing anything. I’m just keeping myself home today and minding my business… it will pass on. I remember having bad storms and tornado’s when we lived in that log cabin…. we were poor folks. The rain would be beating on those cheap glass windows that they be rattling so bad that daddy would stick rolled up paper between the frames to keep them quiet.
Many of our late night chats are often after I’ve gotten comfortable in bed to watch TV, but sometimes we often chat during my bath-time… I take long baths!
“I worked at the Holiday Inn as a bartender, after my divorce, and moved back to the farm to care for my father. My girlfriend, Willie Mae, worked there also – she was a waitress. I remember once there was a movie being made around there – this same actor came in everyday and ordered a grapefruit and vodka. He always sat at the end of the bar and talked to me while he smoked his cigar. He had been in a series on TV earlier, because I recognized him when I first saw him, but I can’t remember his name now.” (He was Richard Baseheart from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.)
I asked Mama tonight what TV programs did I watch when I was small. “When we lived in Union Point your father was a TV repairman and we had one of the first TV sets in town. You didn’t watch much TV when you were young, you were always too busy trying to sell something. Your father sold insurance for New York Life and you’d take his free give-a-ways, like combs and rulers, and even his blank insurance policies, and go up and down the street selling them to the neighbors. You always came home with a pocketful of change. One time you took his wallet that held the weeks collection of money from his customer’s insurance premiums and hid it. When we asked you about his wallet, you kept saying you didn’t know, but I knew you must have hidden it as you always hid things. I let you overhear me say, “well I guess the police will have to come and lock up her Daddy since he doesn’t have the money to give to the insurance company.” You quickly ran home and brought the money to me; you hid it in one of the shoe pockets that hung on my bedroom closet door. I had looked all over the house, but never looked there – usually I’d find what you had hidden. When we moved to Perry, I found coins hidden under everything throughout the house as I packed.”
When I asked tonight what she was doing… “I’m just laying here with my eyes closed, nothing much on TV but a western; don’t know what I want to watch, so I was just thinking.” Then I laughed and told her, well I bet there’s some dishes in the sink you could wash if you’re bored… Mama said “Oh My Heavens let them stay in there! I bet Steve would cuss knowing all those dishes are piled in the sink. Things like that don’t matter to me anymore.”
I began telling mama about the great “almost” escape of the mouse tonight. Steve had went to pick up pizza and while I sat on the couch, Penelope came into the living room with something dangling from her mouth. I stood up to see and… she dropped something alright – a small grey mouse. Yikes! I only had a book in my hand, so I dropped it on him, but after a few seconds he scrambled away behind the TV with Penelope in pursuit. I ran into the kitchen looking for something to catch him in, but couldn’t find anything right away. Finally he ran under the couch and I gave up… waiting for Steve to come back. After we ate, we began the game of playing “mousetrap”… me armed with a kids butterfly net and him with the vacuum cleaner. Finally he yelled that he had him corned and when he said go… turn on the vacuum…. he sucked him right up! Mama laughed, and said… “Poor little mouse, he took his last ride up the vacuum tube. I used to have a baby mouse as a pet. I had found him in the barn and kept him in a matchbox… he was so tiny. I tried to feed him, and called myself raising him… until daddy discovered him! Well that was the end of the mouse as daddy stomped him. He was such a bitty baby of a mouse, but daddy fussed about how they carry diseases and I better not ever bring any more into the house.”
“I’m very good at laying in the bed watching TV… I could win a prize! 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.”
While we talked, mama skimmed through the TV channels…. “Girls are on TV doing gymnastics and swinging on the bars. Now that’s something I would have liked to do when I was young. I swung in the trees a lot, it’s a wonder I never busted my head! I did relay races and high jumping at school too. I could outrun every boy! Wish I had a time machine, I have a lot of things I’d like to go back and change.”
When I called tonight, I told Mama that I played her today, laying on the couch and watching TV like her. “Well that’s OK, it’s called “spring fever” – and then you get over it and get energized! I piddled around for awhile in the yard, but there’s nothing in the house that interests me to do!”
I called Mama the night before Thanksgiving and told her I was making her favorite dish for the first time – she calls it Pink Stuff, but the real name on the recipe she sent me was Cherry Fluff. My GA sis Donna makes it every holiday and they always tell me about it, but I never got around to actually making it. So I decided that I would finally make it to add to our holiday dinner this year. Mama immediately told me… “ I sure wish I could have some right now – I love that stuff and could eat myself silly with it. Allen’s mother made it a little different from Donna. She put chopped grapes and bananas in hers, and chopped everything up small. I really loved hers. Her pink stuff was the first time I ever ate it – and I was hooked from the first taste. I like to eat it with my dressing.”
“I finally feel a little better tonight and will probably go to the Senior Center tomorrow for their Thanksgiving dinner. I drank all my Ensure, so I need to get out and buy more.”
When mama answered, I said “I know where you went today as you didn’t answer the phone this morning.” Mama said… “I told Boo to take my calls while I was gone, I guess he was napping! I went down to the Senior Center for our Thanksgiving Dinner and it was really good…. After not eating much the past week, I ate myself silly. It was so good that I even bought a plate to bring home, I’ll probably eat it tomorrow. Donna said she’s bringing me a Thanksgiving meal, so I can have that on Thursday. We had turkey and dressing, it was really good… it reminded me of my mama’s. There was green beans, sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, cranberry sauce and sweet potato pie for dessert. I couldn’t even finish all on my plate and hated to leave it, but I didn’t want to open up my covered dish to bring home.”
Just called mama to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving…. “I’ve been eating myself silly all day… I have a fridge full of food that Donna brought over yesterday. If I had all that food in there all the time, I guess you’d have a fat mama!” I told her that we were still waiting to eat; I made home-made dressing this year and I’m excited to eat it. Steve made the cornbread yesterday and I made biscuits this morning. “Too bad you can’t send me a piece to try, you’ll have to freeze me a square to taste next time you come.”
I asked if she had dinner yet when I called tonight…. “I had an Ensure, wasn’t really hungry, but I’d sure like a Thanksgiving dinner with some cranberry sauce.” I told her she’d better get in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans… she laughed! “I’m all over that! It was a little cold today… I had no desire to even go outside. I’d prefer to just lay in the bed today and watch TV. I did enough out in the yard yesterday!”