Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #45

Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #45

swing set

My father and I on Easter (1957) with friends Karen and Pat Sisson (they are the daughters of Mama’s best friend Willie Mae Sisson)

October 17, 2017: I told Mama about a quiz I took on Facebook as to which character I’d be in a Nancy Drew book… and Yay… I got Nancy Drew! Mama said, “yes I always wanted to be a detective like Nancy Drew. Me and Willie Mae both wanted to do that. I didn’t go to the center… too cold this morning, maybe tomorrow morning. I might go back to FISH and see if there are any more Nancy Drew books. I gave you all the ones I had here. Maybe you can bring me some next time you come and I’ll read them again.”

October 19, 2017: While talking, Mama said…. “I don’t care if snuff went to a dollar a dip because I don’t dip… no way. My mother loved her snuff…she never spit, so you never even knew she had it in her mouth. My mother-in-law, Evelyn Bryan, dipped snuff and kept that spit can by her chair and toted it around everywhere. Daddy had a spit bucket in his room, it sat by the stove… Mama changed it every day and put fresh dirt on the bottom. I tried snuff one day, me and my girlfriend Willie Mae. We were so sick the next day… throwing up and never did it again. My mother used to say “it was company.” “I never understood that, but I guess it was something to do.”

“Daddy chewed tobacco while he plowed, and even rolled his own cigarettes with Prince Albert. Your Grandfather Paul Bryan chewed the end of his cigars all the time. I don’t even like to chew gum, I don’t want nothing in my mouth.”

October 21, 2017: When I called tonight… “I’m not doing anything, it’s been like summer here today. I know I don’t want to clean my house… it might hurt my feelings”, she said after I told her that sometimes you just have to force yourself to do those things!

Mama talked about Aunt Lena (McKinley) and all the antique furniture she had. “I can close my eyes and still see it all. She had beautiful furniture in her living room and never liked anyone to walk in there, especially children. She didn’t care if I went in there, but she’d pull you out by your ears!”

October 25, 2017: After asking Mama what she was eating, she shook the can of peanuts for me to hear… and then Boo came running to see what she had. “Boo left after he saw I had nothing for him.”

In talking about phones… “We never had a phone even when I married in 1947. Your daddy would call Mr. Johnson’s store in Siloam, and if I was in town, someone would come and get me at Ulma’s store. On the farm, if anything bad happened, they’d just ring the farm bell for help; Daddy finally got a phone after I married.”

I mentioned that I was going to repair the old Zenith radio I took from the farm. “After Paul and Evelyn (Bryan) finally bought a TV, your father brought their radio over here to keep. I think we even had it in our house for awhile.” I’m glad it was saved, now I can’t wait to have it working again and especially since I know it came from my grandparents.

October 31, 2017: I called to ask Mama what she was doing on Halloween? “Walking around naked!” Well Ok!

November 14, 2017: Somehow Mama began talking about growing up… “When I grew up it was rough and tough. Daddy would take me to Slip Rock and let me slide down on the hot afternoons. Kids don’t get to do things like that today. Leroy used to make flips and he’d kill birds with them. I only followed Daddy and Leroy around… I didn’t like to follow Mama, she’d make me sweep and I didn’t want to sweep! Kids now don’t know what its like to live on a farm and play in the dirt, or climb trees.”

“I’m tough, I followed behind daddy every step he took. One time someone told him Helen’s up at the barn cussing… “well is she hurting anyone? Well then leave her alone! If I wasn’t following Daddy, I’d be reading Nancy Drew books in the back room where I slept.”

November 25, 2017: Mama walked through the living room headed to get a chocolate drink, and I mentioned I was watching a woman on TV sew… and that I needed to learn how to sew a zipper in… Mama said. “I know how, and I can still tell you how to do it.“Well, I have an idea how to, I’m just intimidated to actually do it, I said.” Mama said, “never be intimidated to do anything and never let anyone intimidate you… just ball up your fist!” (I was in GA. at Mama’s)

I was typing a story on my laptop… as Mama walked back, said, “Aunt Lena would love knowing you and reading all you write. She was very smart, you inherited all that from her.”

While watching TV with Mama we chatted… We were watching a sewing show and… “Do you still have grandaddy’s sewing needle?I do have it” I said! “You know he used to sew the burlap into bags for picking cotton with. He probably had several of those handmade needles. There is probably some of them laying underneath the smokehouse today… they probably fell through the cracks. He built that smokehouse after he bought the farm. Unless they tear it down, it’ll be standing when Gable blows his horn. He creosoted every plank of wood… Daddy creosoted everything. I think he would have done the house if they’d have let him.” (It was nice to have our nightly conversations in person, instead of the phone)

I was watching a craft show where they were painting mason jars… Mama said, “those type jars were everywhere in the smokehouse and filled with all Mama’s vegetables. She canned everything in them.”

After I mentioned the farmhouse, Mama said… “If those old walls could talk… boy would they entertain us.” Then I mentioned Lavender and… “I used to catch bumblebees and tie strings around their legs. I’d  put them under a glass and keep working them around until I got a leg out, then I’d tie a string on their leg. Daddy often told me... “I hope they sting the shit out of you.” I didn’t do things girls did, I did boy things!

“Down the road from our farm lived Aunt Lou… I remember she had rows and fields of Zinnia’s. She always planted them in rows every year like you’d plant fields of corn. At the end of the year, she’d clean out the flower rows and throw them down in the field. In the spring I’d find Zinnia seedling coming up, and I’d pull them up taking to our farm and plant. I used to go down and play with their daughter Maddie, but if I didn’t behave, Aunt Lou would send me home. Their daughter had a baby one time… and her parents didn’t even know that she was pregnant. When they called Dr. Lewis, he told them, “there’s nothing wrong with this girl except she’s going to have a parlor baby. They had never let her go out on a date, but she did have a boyfriend who’d come and sit in the parlor… that’s why he called it a parlor baby.”

Seeing a farm on TV, mama said… “being a farmer meant you worked hard, from sun-up to sundown… it’d often be dark when Daddy came in for supper. He’d sit on the back stoop to take off his shoes and I’d bring out a pan of water and wash his feet… I did that every night. My father worked hard.”

The show was about a blueberry farm, and… “We used to have a blueberry bush on the road going to granddaddy McKinley’s. I always stopped to eat them off the bush when I walked to granddaddy’s house.”

“There were goats living just below our farm, daddy would never have any part in having a goat or even eating them; he’d always say how they’d ruin everything and could jump any fence. He owned horses for riding, mules for plowing and cows for milk. Leroy had a horse named Pat and he could outrun the train, he was super fast. Usually Pat came home without Leroy, as he’d throw him off when he wanted to come home. I can still see Pat, as he’d come flying into the yard and head for the water trough. Later on, Leroy would come dragging in the yard.”

I asked if Granddaddy baled hay… “Yes he baled hay, but it was all done by hand and called “shocking; he’d stacked peanuts in the same way. Everyone back then did it all by hand, they had no equipment like they do today.”

When the Test Kitchen show came on I asked Mama if she used to make her own broth. “Yes I made my own broth for the chicken and dumplings I made. Aunt Chris made the best ones though. She’d make up biscuit dough, then roll it out a few times until it was really thin. Then she cut the dough into long strips and lay them across her hand… slowly letting them slide off into the chicken broth. By letting them slide in slow, it helped them not to stick together. She made the best dumplings, but I still know how to make them!” So I said, “go make me a pot.” She laughed and said, “well that’s not going to happen, I don’t cook anymore, but I can still tell you how.”

Next on Test Kitchen was a testing of splatter screens… “I never used one of those, I just wiped off the stove after I finished frying chicken. If it popped out, it just popped out, that’s how it was.” I use a splatter screen when I fry… I don’t like getting popped with hot grease.”

December 1, 2017: In asking Mama what she was watching on TV, the conversation turned to TV from years ago… “Your daddy gave my parents their first Television, it was a small round screen; we had one of those small round screen ones also.He got it from Mr. English’s TV store where he worked as a repairman. They kept it until they bought a new one and then gave it back to him. (Oh I so wish they had kept that round screen one) There were always TV’s playing in Mr. English’s store… to encourage people to buy one. He never gave one to his parents as his mother only wanted a new one! Your father worked for Mr. English and next door was Rusy Morgan’s furniture store, also with TV’s… and he worked there too.

December 4, 2017: Mama called me tonight before I had a chance…. Telling me how sunny it was there today. “Boo is really missing Steve, he’s still looking for him every day. I’m finally feeling better, maybe I’ll go to the center tomorrow. I just didn’t feel good when you were here… all I wanted to do was sleep, but I’m finally starting to feel more like myself.”

In telling Mama about me writing about Nancy Drew… “you inherited all that writing from Aunt Lena, she was the smart one in the family. She would have enjoyed to see all that you do and read your writings.”

December 5, 2017: I see Steve left some stuff on the porch, did he forget them? He needs to take that barn down and take some barn wood home. You could take the barn doors, they are in good shape.” I told mama that Frank wasn’t coming next April when Melissa comes with the girls. “My Frank isn’t coming, I love my Frank. He can come down here, I have a lot of work he can do… and I’ll pay him… I’ll take him out to eat at Charlie’s.”

December 6, 2017: When I called, Mama immediately said“, It just doesn’t feel like Christmas… only thing I ever remember doing to celebrate was getting lit and going out dancing.” I told her, “well maybe you should go get lit and go dancing!”

“I didn’t go to the center yet, I just don’t want to… it’s boring down there. I woke up, and rolled back over, hugged my pillow and went back to sleep. I’d rather stay here and watch TV and be with Boo.”

When mama asked what Steve was doing… “he’s downstairs working on the Coca-Cola cooler he brought home.” “I can’t believe he’s redoing that, I didn’t think it was even any good. He should just come knock down that barn and take all the wood… he could build birdhouses or something with it.”

“Steve would have loved it if I still had the farm, two barns, chicken coop and car shed to ramble through. He would have needed a big U-Haul to bring it all home with. But I don’t have it anymore, just the money in the bank.”

In talking about knitting me a pair of mittens, mama asked… “Did you ever learn how to tat? I never learned how, neither did my mother. I do remember seeing older women back then tatting, their hands would be going really fast. I don’t think anyone in our family ever tatted. My thing was sewing, I loved making my clothes and all yours, you had the prettiest little dresses. When you outgrew them, my girlfriend’s daughter wore them. I wish I had kept just one, but who even thought to do that… but wish I did!”

 December 8, 2017: As soon as I called Mama tonight she said… “I went down to the center today.” So I said, “so that’s why it snowed in Georgia today.” “Yep, and good thing I went as I found two pairs of winter shoes in the clothes closet. I didn’t really have any good shoes for the winter.” Steve says you must have over two hundred pairs of shoes in your house! “Those are my summer shoes! Now I’m all set for the winter with those shoes… for when I feel like going out! Boo was just up here on the bed with me laying on his back with all four legs open… sound asleep.”

“I didn’t feel like eating down there, didn’t like what it looked like. Some people down there will eat and eat, just shove it down. I’m too picky! I gave my dish away… it must have not been too good, as I don’t even remember what it was.”

“Boo hasn’t come back on the bed with me yet, he’s like the 500 lb gorilla… he sleeps wherever he wants. He’ll creep back up here in awhile and snuggle back up next to me.”

As I stopped my TV on a channel showing a rodeo, I told mama that I’d like to go to one when I come down. “They always have one down in Greene County in Union Point, we’ll have to go when you come back.” “Can you remind me next year, I said? “Oh yeah, I’m gonna remind you, I’m lucky I can remind myself to go to the bathroom. I’d like to go, as I’d probably see some people I went to school with. I don’t think I’ve changed much, I bet they’d recognize me.”

 I told Mama I was sitting here sewing felt ornaments… don’t they say, idle hands are the work of the devil? “I’ll tell the devil to just move on, I don’t’ want my hands busy anymore. I did my share of crafting… I used to make the prettiest roses out of pantyhose. You’d have thought they were real, and some people did… but I don’t want to anymore.”

When I mentioned Nancy Drew books… “you were a reader when you were young. Once you began reading Nancy Drew, you enjoyed reading. You didn’t let anyone mess up your room either, especially your books. I bought you new Nancy Drew books, but I had to borrow mine when I read them in the 1940’s.”

“After I left the center today I wanted to go to Fish and see if they had any Nancy Drew books, but it was so drizzly out, I just came home. All I wanted to do was snuggle in my bed with Boo.”

December 9, 2017: Mama called me tonight just as I was just sitting down with my coffee and… actually I was running to answer my phone when hubby said it was Mama. “Jeanne, how bad is it up there?” Me… “well it’s snowing, probably about 2 or 3 inches out there right now.” “Well, I was watching the weather channel and they were talking about how bad it is there.” Me… laughing… “I’m safe at home.” “Well as long as you’re ok, and how about the kids.” Me still laughing… “everyone is home and ok, so let it snow.” “Ok, as long as I know you’re safe… go drink your coffee and have a piece of cake for me.”

I called Mama back later… after my coffee cake and the movie ended, and the first thing she said was… “Is it still snowing up there? I wish it would snow some here, but I’d never drive in it.”

Dec. 10, 2017: When I told Mama I was sewing while we talked… “I’m allergic to do those kinds of things now; I’ve retired from making things.” And how this came about, I don’t remember, but she told me… “One Sunday Willie Mae and I stopped at a small store as we really wanted a beer. The guy told us he couldn’t as it was Sunday, and I told him “bet you can.” We left with two beers, but we didn’t drink them until we got home.”

Dec. 11, 2017: I mentioned Grandmama’s quilting frame, and… “Everything daddy wanted to save, he’d put under the house or the smokehouse. After mama stopped quilting, her frame he made her… went under the house. I guess that was his storage bin when he didn’t know what to do with it, and he never threw anything away. I remember her quilting frame was hung from the ceiling in the back shed room. As it was suspended from the ceiling, you could work all around it.”

Dec. 12, 2017: In talking about Boo, mama said… “It’s good luck in England to own a black cat… Larry told me that… he was from England. You know, if I die, you have to take Boo. He wants to lay everywhere, except up here with me tonight. If he ticks me off, I’ll put his butt out on the porch and see if he likes being cold. I wonder what he thinks?” I said, “Well maybe when you die, you’ll come back as a cat and then you’ll know what he’s thinking,I said. “You’ll have to take me in if I come back as a cat,” Mama said. “How will I know it’s you?” “Oh, I’ll be black and just show up on your doorstep.” (Instead of seeing a butterfly and thinking its Mama, I’ll be seeing black cats and thinking it’s her!)

“No I didn’t go to the center this morning, it was too cold… I just rolled over and pulled up those warm flannel sheets you gave me up and went back to sleep.”

You know most people in town always called my parents Mr. Ed and Miss Ola. I always hated her name, why did they name her Ola?” I’ve always thought maybe her name was really Viola and the nickname became just Ola, but no one to ask about that now.”

As I had seen deer earlier on the way home, I asked Mama if deer ever came around the farm. “Oh yea, they came up close to the farm. One time while I was sunbathing, a deer just walked right up close to me… he stood there looking at me, then he turned and slowly walked back into the woods. I guess he went back to tell the others “she’s ok, she won’t bother us.” I could never shoot one, they have the saddest looking eyes and face.”

“I remember hitting one on the road coming down to the farm one night. He just jumped right out in front of me. I didn’t see it on the road or the ditch, so I went down to Ben’s house, just below mine and told him. He went and looked, probably took it home for meat if he found it… I never asked and he never said anything.”

Dec. 13, 2017: I told Mama about going over to Melissa’s today and helping her make cookies. Grace and I were unwrapping the Kisses, but Grace was biting off the tips on them until I caught her! Then she helped me put the Kisses on top of the warm peanut butter cookies. After smooshing one, I cut it in half and gave to Grace telling her to be quiet…. Melissa looked over and saw Grace chewing and asked, “what are you eating?” Grace looked at me and said, “Gigi gave me a cookie.” (Boy it’s hard to get the kids to keep a secret!)

It took about 8 tries tonight to even get Mama on the phone… finally after messaging a neighbor to see if the lights were on… she answered! The next step would have been the police knocking on her door! When I asked her, didn’t you hear the “call waiting” sound on the phone… “Oh, I had just called Carolyn to see how the Christmas party went. Now I’m looking to see what I want to eat, I need to go to the store tomorrow.”

When I told her about Grace and the cookies… “I would have eaten the entire Kiss, those are my favorites. I remember Daddy bringing me a bag of “silver tops” from town. That’s what we called them then.”

Dec. 15, 2017: Somehow the topic of her grandfather’s family came up, and… “they came along like doorsteps, just one after another. My father took care of many of his brothers and sisters when he was an adult and married… they always needed help at one time or another. He even built a small house on our farm, up on the hill; several of them lived in it through the years. I think Aunt Lena helped him with the money to build it; it was always him and Lena who helped their siblings. His father had two families, there were about 14 children between the two families.”

Dec. 21, 2017:  Mama called me tonight as the weather channel kept talking about all the snow we were getting in Ct. It was news to me… the sun was out bright.

I went to the center today for the holiday meal. Everyone came… they come out of the woodwork when there’s going to be a lot of food. Some people are just gluttons, eating everything in sight. I don’t care about food like that and I just piddled around with my plate… I don’t care about food anymore.”

In talking about knitting a hat for a cousins Chihuahua, I told her I might need to try it on my cat to see if it fits. She laughed and said, “I used to dress up the cats on the farm in doll clothes, but as soon as I put them down, they took off like a bullet.”

Dec. 24, 2017: I called Mama before we headed over to Steve’s for our Xmas Eve meal, she asked what were we eating… Tonight we will have seafood sauce over pasta (made with blue crabs), stuffed shrimp, fried shrimp, fried calamari, and other different fried seafood. I made manicotti for my Irish son-in-law as he’s not a fan of all the Italian seafood dishes. When I realized he didn’t like our dishes, I began making one especially for him. Everyone should have a favorite food to eat on Xmas Eve! Mama said, “I’ll pass on all that, I’m like Frank, I don’t want any of those dishes either. I don’t know what I’d eat if I was there, guess I’d just get me an Ensure and call it a night.”

Dec. 25, 2017: I called Mama on the way over to Melissa’s for Xmas dinner. “Well Merry Christmas, what did you get?” No matter how many times I told her that we don’t really exchange or buy for each other anymore, she insisted I should have gotten Xmas presents. I did buy Steve and me the Echo from Amazon. I don’t know how much he’ll like it but it will be a new toy to play with. Just wait till the kids see it! “I liked my candy and cookies Melissa sent me.”

Dec. 26, 2017: “You know, if I was young, I’d be going out to the dance about now. I don’t even know if I could still dance, but I’d give it a try. Yep, Willie Mae and I would be in old Fliz headed to the dance at the VFW.”

When I asked Mama if she went to the mailbox today, she said… “No, no one wants to pay my bills, I’m not worried about what’s in there.”

Somehow the topic went to milking… “I should have been born a boy, as while Leroy was milking the cows, I’d be sliding down the tin roof on the barn or trying to ride the calves. I’d be doing anything else but trying to help.”

Dec. 31, 2017: In answering Mama about what I was knitting, she said… “I remember making the cats some booties at the farm when I was young… made out of something, maybe even paper. When I let go of that cat, he was “high walking” as he stepped around trying to get out of them. I can still remember that… sitting out on the front porch. Those cats were my babies… I even put bonnets on them. The cats around the house were tame, they’d come up on the porch. We called them the house cats. I would have let them sleep with me, but daddy wouldn’t have any part of them coming into the house; probably loaded with fleas. Then there were the barn cats… they’d come down to eat, then go back to the barn… to catch more mice. My favorite cat was Kitty Ken…. he’d come in until daddy saw him. I named him from a book that Mama often read to me about a cat during the Civil War. He was there even after I married and left. One day when I asked daddy about him, he said, “Kitty Ken went up to the mailbox and tried to hitch a ride.” I guess in a nice way, it meant that he’d been run over.”

From cats, mama turned to the family dogs… “We had a lot of dogs through the years on the farm. There was Fancy… I can’t remember her color, she was just a hound dog, but very smart. We had Fancy over at the log cabin, before moving to the farm. I remember sitting out on the back steps there at the cabin feeding her. Daddy had told me to stop feeding her bread, that she was going to bite me. I didn’t believe it, so I stuck my fingers in the bread and offered it to her… and she bit me. It wasn’t her fault as I had my fingers inside the bread when I offered it to her.  Daddy just probably told me… “well you deserved that, I told you she’d bite you.” Fancy was good at sniffing out snakes and killing them. She always came with us when we went blackberry picking. She would first go under the bushes and let us know if it was ok to pick them. Snakes love blackberries! Funny though, she died from getting bit one day.”

“Then there was a dog daddy got from someone in Atlanta, he was a small white dog with brown spots, and I named her Spot. I don’t know who gave him to daddy and I don’t remember how he died, but I do remember that daddy buried both Fancy and Spot on the pathway up toward the barns. The last dog I remember was Brownie… she was a small solid light brown dog. I have no memory of how we got her.”

“I was a real tomboy in school, and so was my girlfriend Willie Mae. She was raised around boys, so she learned to fight; guess that’s why we got along so well! I remember when Willie blooded this girls nose one time; she could fight just like a boy. Some girl picked a fight with her, and once that girl got in Willie’s face… she took her down and she left with her nose bleeding. We were at her daddy’s City Hotel in Union Point; he told her that the cops were going to come get her… she did get scared!”

 “I didn’t take anything from anyone either… Willie Mae and I even tumbled with each other… usually over boys and clothes! I grew up next door to Kendrick Lewis and we were more like brothers and sisters through the years. One time he snatched your daddy’s letters out of my hand, I was about 17. When he wouldn’t give them back, I threw a book at him and hit him where it hurt the most… and he then gave me back my letters… apologizing. We grew up together ever since we could walk. I’d like to see and talk to him again. He’s probably an old man like I’m an old woman now. Maybe when you come home we’ll see if you can find him.”

“I keep thinking I should go start my car every day since I haven’t been going to the center… but that thought escapes me as quick as it comes. I’ll probably have to get the boy across the street to start it or call Johnny. I’m not worried about it!”

“Well, I’ll talk to you in the New Year… Happy New Year and I love you more than anything in the world. You know I love you, and I love my Steve too.”

To be continued… in 2018….. Happy New Years!


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About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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