2017 – A to Z… X: 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.
X… Conversations with Mama – The Best of!
X is for Christmas, aka Xmas and…
“I kept calling Mama after I sent her Xmas present this year (2008) and finally it arrived, but she seemed madder at me for sending her something, than happy about what she received. I thought she’d be excited to open her present and find a jewelry armoire, as she had talked non-stop about the one she wanted to win in a raffle at FISH. She first told me she couldn’t put it together – and that’s from a woman who builds birdhouses and knows how to use a saw and hammer, and someone I thought could put anything together. I told her that I only thought she had to put the legs on and that there were doors on both sides to hang her necklaces on. She immediately told me that there were no doors on the sides! After looking online again at the piece, I asked her to try and see if she could open the doors on the side, as the picture showed them being there. I didn’t want an argument, so I calmly persuaded her to try again – this time she quietly said, “oh, yes there are doors.” After she filled it up, her dilemma now was that she didn’t know where to put it. I told her, well, you’ll have to get rid of something, but she quickly told me, “Oh no, I’m not getting rid of anything, I’ll find a place.”
I asked Mama tonight if she remembered when the Easy-Bake Oven came out in the early 60’s, and why didn’t I have one? Her reply… “I do remember the toy oven, but I don’t really remember you ever asking for one. I bought you pretty much whatever you asked for, but you didn’t really ask for a lot. You weren’t as interested in girl things when you were young, you were more of a tomboy. When we lived in Union Point, you didn’t really play with dolls, you wanted a stick horse, and you rode it until the bottom of the stick turned into a point. You played with Barbie a lot after we moved to Perry, but I don’t remember you or any of your friends ever having an Easy Bake Oven. The one thing you really pestered me for was a typewriter. I bought it for you at Xmas and put Daddy’s name on it because you used to unwrap your gifts and wrap them back up. After you opened your gifts that year, I handed it to you. (I bought Melissa an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas this year (2009) and gave it to Frank to put under their tree. I signed a note from Santa apologizing that he had forgotten to bring it to her in 1989.)”
“You didn’t like Santa or even Xmas morning. It’d be days before you’d go in and actually see what was under the tree. When you were small and if Santa came near you, you’d scream and run away and hide. I used to put you in your playpen out in the yard during the day, but I’d come back to find you gone. Someone who knew you had come by and taken you off with them. I didn’t have to worry back then about someone stealing you, I just didn’t actually know always who had you.”
I’ve taken a little creative license with the letter “x” on these…
“One day after I got off the bus and began walking home, a sawmill truck came by and stopped in the middle of the road to let the local young men off who worked for them. They yelled out something to me as they jumped off and began walking toward me. I didn’t wait around to see what they were saying or thought they were going to do – I dropped my school books right there on the road and took off running through the fields toward home. By the time I got there, my legs were cut up and bleeding, and I was crying uncontrollably; I was about thirteen at the time. After I told Daddy what happened. and identified one of the men, he took the ax handle and waited by the edge of the road. The one I knew was the preacher’s son, Luther Goss, and he lived just down the road from us. Mama was crying and crying as she just knew that Daddy was going to kill him. When he walked by, Daddy grabbed him by the collar and dragged him down to his house, to tell his father, Preacher Goss, what his son had done. Preacher Goss never allowed Luther to go anywhere alone again without him after that; Luther continued to go everywhere with his father until he passed away. After that incident, I never had to walk to the bus stop at Bryson’s again – the bus came right to the house to pick me up every morning. I’m sure daddy had something to do with that.”
I always ask Mama what’s new at the senior center and today she told me about the potato candy they made. “A woman came to the center today and taught everyone about making a simple dessert that you wouldn’t have to go to the store and buy a lot of ingredients for. It was interesting as we watched her make it using only 4 ingredients. You take 1 medium potato and bake until it’s really soft – scoop out the potato pulp for 1/2 cup… add to a bowl, mix in the confectionery sugar, and maybe 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until it forms a firm dough that you can roll out. Roll it out on wax paper, and spread peanut butter on top and roll it up jelly-roll style and cut into bite-size pieces; it was pretty tasty. I never made much candy, but I remember making Divinity once and sending it to your father when he was in the Navy. I didn’t have a recipe, someone just told me how to make it. It came really good, and that was the only time it ever came out right. When I was a beautician in Perry, one of my customers used to always bring me home-made Divinity at Christmas, and it was the best.”
“My father grew popcorn in the cotton patch, on the other side of his regular cornfield. You couldn’t grow it near regular corn or it would mix together on the corn ear. He cut the dried corn kernels off with the corn sheller in the barn after they dried, and we popped the kernels either over an open fire outside or in the fireplace; mama had a cast-iron pot that had a lid and a long handle.”
I don’t know how the conversation turned to Tide tonight, but… “ I remember Tide washing powder running a contest when we lived in Union Point. The question was, “who was the female vocalist whose name sounds like the ocean?” I immediately knew the answer, it was Dinah Shore; she was very popular in the 50’s. I never did send in my answer, and always regretted that. I don’t even remember what the prize was, but I do remember always wishing I had sent in my answer – I think I was just so excited that I knew the answer.”
As soon as I called Mama tonight, she said. “You know what I’m doing right now? I’m shelling pecans, and I hate it! It makes my hands feel dirty.” I laughed and told her, you’re sending them to me, right? “You know I’m sending most of them and I’ll put the extra in the freezer and you can take home. I bought a brick inside and cracked most of them, but I used a nutcracker too. When I get through, I’m going to take the shells and throw them in my garden. I should have really rich dirt this year from all the banana peelings, coffee grounds and garbage I throw in the garden. I bury everything in there, even the torn up junk mail. I sit at night and tear it into small pieces and when I go to the garden, I dig a hole and bury it; it will decompose and rot in the earth.”
This was a new photo gifted to me by my cousin Lynn – mama had no memory of it!
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