My grandmother, fondly called "Mama" would be having a birthday this week. She died in the 1980's when she was 85. I'm not an overly sentimental person but memories of my childhood came flooding in this morning and I thought I would share.
In the 1950's and 1960's when Mama lived in the "old house" my sisters and I spent most Saturday nights there. She had two beds in her bedroom and two of us would sleep in one bed and one of us got to sleep with Mama. She smelled of Dove soap. The covers were so heavy in the winter time that you couldn't move.
My granddaddy slept in a bed in another part of the house. The front of the old house had two doors opening out to the porch and one of the doors opened from Mama's bedroom. But we didn't use this door. I don't know why....we just never used it.
She kept her clothes and personal things in a chifferobe .....that was locked. The key was attached to a handkerchief or little rag that she kept tucked on her somewhere.
The doorsteps were made of concrete but were not the kind of steps that one of our neighbors had. The concrete on the sides of their steps had marbles embedded in the concrete. I always wished Mama's steps had been like that.
The front porch had some old wooden rockers, but I don't recall us actually sitting on the front porch very much. I do remember moving the chairs out under a big Mimosa tree in the yard and sitting and playing there. I think daddy had made those chairs for her a long time ago. The Mimosa tree was great for climbing, and hanging upside down which would always get us hollered at......"get down out of that tree before you break your neck....you're going to turn your liver over!"
Mama always gave me pieces of leftover biscuit dough to play with. I tried to help make biscuits sometimes, but it didn't work out too good. I must have been in my 30's before I really learned how to make biscuits.
Mama's biscuits could be made early in the morning, sit on top of the stove the rest of the day covered by a dish cloth, and still be soft and edible at nighttime. My biscuits for the first 10 years of my marriage....could have doubled for lethal weapons once they cooled off.
Mama had a dough bowl that stayed in a cabinet drawer filled with flour. She used this same bowl each time she made of biscuits by adding milk and shortening. She made a little well in the flour, put in the shortening which she scooped out of the can with her hand (Crisco......she swore by Crisco) and started working it into a little flour....adding a little milk......forming it into a round ball of dough.....it would be sitting right in the middle of the rest of the flour......then she would pinch off the dough into balls and make the biscuits. When she finished.....the remaining flour would be nice and clean .....and left in the bowl, covered with a dishtowel (feed sack dishtowel) and placed back in the drawer for the next biscuit making.
The same blackened pan was used each time for baking the biscuits......you had your biscuit pan.....and your pan for cornbread......don't get them confused.....and she had this little half moon shaped battered pan that was used for one thing only.....warming up the sorghum molasses which we ate on buttered biscuits. I have that pan)))
The only time I can recall seeing Mama roll out dough was for pie crust, cookies or strips of dough to go on top of a blackberry cobbler. That dough was rolled out with a whiskey bottle. I have that bottle too))) Don't ask me how I came by it.....and not sure my siblings even know.....so....shhhhhhhhh.
Speaking of blackberry cobbler.....I do remember picking blackberries with Mama. Hot summertime and chiggers! We would go to the pasture or sometimes my grandaddy would take us to someone else's open field. Blackberry vines would grow along side the road or fences. It was okay to just stop anywhere or at neighbor's property to pick berries. If we saw them, they would just say...."we're picking some berries." Guess there were plenty go go around.
You had to have the proper attire to pick blackberries.....a bonnet which you cannot imagine how suffocating hot they can be. Mama would try to make me wear one of hers.....and I would beg out of it and get away with it most of the time saying it was too big. Imagine how I felt when she had cut out a new bonnet, making it smaller.....just for me. My very own, nice fitting, bonnet. What can you say.......I wore it, prayed no one saw me in it and don't really remember what happened to it. My mother wouldn't make me wear it......I think she understood.......she didn't wear one either)))) Come to think of it......I think I can remember her giving me a tongue in cheek smile the day I came home and said "Mama made me a bonnet."
But around my Mama, sometimes I would wear it for her. Sort of wish I had it now.
She worried about me getting freckles......and I had a few anyway.....but she was always wanting me to protect my skin. Course I just wanted to be cool in the summertime, no long sleeve shirt for me. She wore a long sleeve shirt, pants and a bonnet. When I was young, Mama was always in a dress with an apron, unless we were doing something like berry picking. It wasn't until many years later that pant suits were the rage.
We picked the blackberries and put in them in a white water bucket. She always carried a hoe in case we ran upon a snake. And almost always, someone would get stung by a red wasp.
She would fuss if we ate any before they were washed, but we did anyway. As soon as we got back to the house, we had to take those clothes off and jump in the bathtub for a bath. She added Clorox to the bathwater to kill the chiggers. I don't know if it helped or not. We always had chiggers.....what misery.
The back porch of the house was a screened in room that opened to the outside. We were always cautioned about falling out the back door. There was a dipper for drinking water.....that really goes way back. For the most part I can remember my grandparents having running water and a bathroom in the house, we did at home. But I do remember the deep water well and outhouse. I remember drinking water out of that dipper.....seems like there was a water bucket that sat on the back porch for drinking water....probably when we worked in the field.
A lot of work was done on the back porch. Anything gathered from the garden was brought to the back porch....beans for snapping...peas for shelling...apples for peeling. But corn.....corn was shucked and silked outside.
Putting up corn for the freezer is messy. It was usually done outside under a tree unless the flies were too bad and if they were, we moved to the back porch. My job was to help shuck and silk. I wanted to cut corn off but I wasn't good at it. You see little gadgets for cutting corn off the cob, but that wasn't how Mama did it. The corn was shucked, silked and washed. The ends were cut off and then she would take an ear of corn and set it in the center of a metal dishpan. She would hold the corn with one hand, and slice down through the kernels with a sharp knife. It had to be just right......too shallow a cut was wasting the corn, too deep a cut would go into the cob.
Once all the kernels had been sheared off, she took the knife and scraped the cob which yielded milky stuff....I'm trying to think of the right word here, but it fails me))) As I said, cutting off corn was messy work.....it splattered everywhere.....thus the reason for doing it outside when you could.
The window of pulling corn at the right time was very short. Planning to put up corn was a serious matter.....the corn had to be checked daily while it was on the stalk. You would hear them say things like....."corn will be ready come Thursday." And, on Thursday.......you would work in the corn. Wanna go fishing? No...."we're putting up corn." Need to go to town? That will have to wait....."we're putting up the corn"...... Your corn ready yet? "no....will be ready bout middle of the week." So and so's corn was ready on Tuesday.
You couldn't wait, you might do it a little earlier than Thursday....but if you waited....the corn would be too hard and the window would be closed.
Mama was my first Sunday School teacher. We had a small Sunday School room and a low table that Bro. Henry made special for us. We had small chairs to sit in. Mama taught us songs that we sang every Sunday.
Jesus loves the little children
All the Children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
(That's me on the first row, kneeling down on the right and one of my sisters on the back row, first on left. And my grandmother)
Sometimes we played "Thimble." I don't remember playing this on Sunday mornings, but seems like we did play it on Sunday night at Training Union. Guess Sunday's nights were a little more laid back. But we played "Who's got the Thimble."
Me and Mama, either before or after church.
This was our house, looks like a sack of apples left to dry out on the doorsteps.
During the summertime, sometimes we went outside for Sunday School, probably because of the heat. We didn't get air conditioning in the church until I was a teenager and then it was a couple of window units......but most of the time, one of the men would have to turn the air conditioners off before the service was over because the old women would complain of being too cold.
Outside we would play drop the handkerchief. Mama always had a handkerchief, a clean one, in her purse. Her purse smelled of Doublemint chewing gum. She was always good for a piece of gum......not a whole one mind you, you would get a half a stick. She liked Doublemint, but Juicy Fruit was my favorite.
If my grands wanted to play drop the handkerchief......they would have to play drop the dish rag or something....I don't even own a handkerchief......doubt Kleenexes would fall just right.
Church was also a big part of our life and we attended the church were my granddaddy taught Sunday School for 50 years. I learned how to play the piano because the church needed a pianist after the one we had grew up and got married. I learned how to play one song. Every Sunday, the song leader would say "come up and play your song Jeannie Dale" and I pounded away "Nothing But the Blood." Every Sunday.....same song.
I finally started taking piano lessons from Mrs. Papasan at Pinedale and she was so eager to have me as a student. As she pulled out the sheet music for me to learn, I had to tell her.....I need church songs....and I pulled out my hymnal and those were the songs I learned first. She still had me work on classical pieces.....but it wasn't for me....I did continue to learn the songs that we were accustomed to singing on Sundays. If at any time the song leader called out a song that I couldn't play.....I just leaned over and told him....."I can't play that." Then would call out something else ....there were no bulletins or anything like that.....
I'm chasing rabbits.....back to my grandmother.
My two older sisters, me and our little brother with Mama....must have been Easter.
Mama was fat. Don't send me hate mail. This is family.....we don't have to be politically correct. Her lap was soft like a marshmallow and always available. I don't ever recall turning away an opportunity to climb on to it because she was a "plus size."
There were trips to the Memphis Zoo, looks like I must have been 5 in this photo. A trip to the zoo always meant a picnic lunch on the grounds under the trees before entering the zoo, don't recall eating out at a restaurant on those trips. And look.....we all had on dresses......going to the zoo....
She made us work.....not like hard work....it was fun work. One of my jobs would be to wash the Mason jars when she was ready to can tomatoes or put up something from the garden. The Mason jars or fruit jars as they were called, when emptied up were stored in the well house where they got very dusty and dirty. Dirt dobbers would build nest in them. We would fill up a big metal tub with water, add some washing powder and start washing on the jars. We used rags and had limbs from a peach tree or pecan tree to use to swab down in the jars....course my hands fit right down in the jars with ease so this could be why this was my job... This wasn't the finished washing, that was done in the house.
Mama let us make sweets any time we wanted to. My granddaddy had a sweet tooth so there was always ingredients for chocolate oatmeal cookies (her recipe called them Warhurst Cookies), sugar cookies, fudge or jello.
Borden's Vanilla ice was always in her freezer and grape, strawberry or orange Kool Aid in the cabinet.......to be sweetened with real sugar and made in a half gallon jug.
I don't remember birthday presents or parties but most of the time after she and my granddaddy made a trip to town, there would be a little sack of something....candy...sometimes a sun suit or swimsuit.....nothing much and not toys, but at Christmas, always a little something special. One year she gave me my first pair of real leather gloves, the smooth dressy kind. One year my granddaddy gave us what he thought was a little bottle of perfume.....turned out it was a tiny little bottle of shampoo....my, she had a good laugh at that one after she chastised him to no end.
I don't remember her yelling or shouting at us. Surely she must have....could it be that I just don't remember it because it was over shadowed by the unconditional love she showered on us.........I think the latter.
Wish my daughter and grandchildren could have known her like I did.
Happy Birthday Mama