My mother was born during a time when dresses were made out of fertilizer sacks and she could see the chickens pecking under the floor of their home. She was one of six children, one passed away at an early age, and one just this past year. She shared her bed with her sisters because no one had their own room. They slept under utilitarian quilts made lovingly by and with her mother from those same fertilizer sack cloth already mentioned. Her mother would rise early in the morning and cook for the entire family, beginning with homemade biscuits that somehow always turned out even and perfect as though they were turned out by a machine. She recalls her mother soaking her hands in warm water to be able to use them each day, but never a complaint would anyone hear. She then made the other meals of the day as well, every day.
Her mother taught her to sew and make her own clothes. My mother became an accomplished seamstress quickly and made very stylish clothes often with her sisters’ help. She also made her own children’s clothes many times through the years, just as her mother had, except she always used her trusty electric machine. A couple years ago my mother pulled out four quilt tops that have never been finished. She washed them and because of how trusty that fertilizer sack material is, they held up pretty well to be approximately 60 year old quilt tops. She gave them to me to work on for my sisters, myself and her. One of these days I hope to get them finished. I am halfway through the first, but hand quilting is not so easy on my psoriasis laden thumbs…I will post pics when I finish the first one…
My mother recalls special church services as all day events including dinner on the ground. They had old time music with the banjo and similar instruments playing along with the congregation. To this day, she loves the sound of bluegrass gospel because it sounds much like the old time music of her childhood church days.
My mother played on and along dirt roads as a child in her bare feet. Cotton fields were part of everyday life. Everyone in the family did their part, youngest to oldest. Her brother joined the military and went off to service. Somehow although they had no phone, the very day he would be on his way home on leave, her mother somehow sensed it and prepared the house and meal for his homecoming every time.
As time went on, my mother graduated from high school. At this time, her two older sisters and brother had already married and had children. Her sister Marie’s husband left her with two children, one with disability, so my mother packed her bags at age 18 and left the only home she ever knew in Alabama and moved to Tennessee. She moved in with her sister, got a job and helped take care of her niece and nephew. They came to know her as a second mother.
It was during this time of her life that my mother met my father. They worked near each other. They got married and proceeded in having a family together. Life was not always easy with many layoffs from jobs due to economic turns many times, but they managed to buy 20 acres of land at one point and always had at least one large garden, and often times two. Some years I recall also having strawberry plots as a special treat. Canning and storing food was a way of life for their growing family just as it was for them as children. My father also hunted on a regular basis and we ate the wild game, usually rabbit. I often recall meals of pinto beans, fried rabbit and cornbread. As a matter of fact, the story of my birth starts out with my mother and her mother-in-law (my Granny) canned tomatoes all dayl Dad picked corn when he got home from work. BUT I surprised them and decided to come a little early. At least mom did not have to put up corn the next day as they had planned to do! :O)
My mother and father let me join the 4-H club when I was old enough and I proceeded in raising blue ribbon chickens. My dad added to my flock and we had laying chickens and meat chickens. We also had miniature game roosters strutting around our property like they owned the place. They were great to help control the bug population, especially ticks given that my dad raised beagles and both hunted with and field trialed his dogs.
My parents are now retired, but even though my dad is 72 years old, he still raises a garden every year and has enough yield to feed every neighbor in walking distance. My mother and dad can salsas, vegetable soup, chow chow, cans and freezes tomatoes, okra, and green beans. They have fresh peppers of many varieties all summer, as well as cooking herbs and squash of all types and sizes, including butternut squash (yummy pies!).
One of my mother’s absolute favorite things to do is to cook Sunday dinners after church for the extended family of 30 plus members. She cooks fried chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and whatever vegetables are in season or in her freezer and handy. The extended family has often included family that is not even related by blood, just by fried chicken! These dinners have brought many a folk to my parents’ door.
My parents often go to Hardee’s restaurant, especially my dad. They bring buckets of vegetables with them and pass them out to their friends. Nothing goes to waste if my dad can keep it from happening. My dad also has a compost pile going to help assure nothing is wasted.
Did I mention my dad has as many flowers as he does vegetables? My parents both LOVE birds and butterflies. Their flowerbeds cater to hummingbirds and butterflies in the area. I think word has gotten out about the place because more birds arrive every year. They feed the birds sunflower seeds and also put up suete blocks for woodpeckers.
Frugality was engrained in me from an early age. My tiny garden is MUCH smaller than my dad’s garden. It really does not have to be very large because I can enjoy the fruit of my dad’s labor just like many other folks, but I like to be able to do it myself, to know that I can and to have that satisfaction that I grew it myself. I do not turn his okra away, do not get me wrong! HA…I would not kick a gifthorse in the mouth! I am so thankful, though that both my parents passed on to me how they were raised and instilled the importance of doing as much myself as possible.
My mother taught me to sew when I was very young. She also taught me to crochet. The ladies at my church taught me to quilt, but I have made quilt projects with my mother, as well. She has often helped me piece through the early years or fix my mistakes when I was perplexed as I learned the art. I recall the good feeling I had when I was able to give my parents a quilt for their 40th wedding anniversary approximately 8 years ago. I was finally able to give something back to them. They are primarily givers, not takers. Since then, we have worked on a few projects together again, like when I was growing up. My dad is a precision cutter, so we let him do that. I like to design and lay out quilts while my mother prefers to run the machine, so we make a good team.
I am so blessed to be close to my parents and to have learned such important life lessons from them about how to treat the earth God put in our care. I thought Mother’s Day would be an appropriate time to write a little about it.
Happy Mother’s Day from our little plot to yours!