The rabbit patch is wet and full of mud. The air is damp and the garden is not fit for man nor beast-On these kind of days, I like to remember.
I talked to my cousin, Faith, last night. I don’t have much of any memory before Faith. She is just a bit older than me and so has been there all of my life. Faith grew up in a full house-a house full of my cousins. My favorite childhood memories include the big fancy farmhouse with the huge kitchen she grew up in. Her mom, my great Aunt Agnes was always in that kitchen. The kitchen table was huge and the folks around it were loud . Aunt Agnes had made a name for herself as a fine cook. Her recipes are still used today and we declare they are the best every time we have them. She made the pickles in the family each July. Her house would smell like vinegar for days. There would be huge vats sitting around with concoctions known only to her. I was always glad when she was through with that. She wore perfume and played the piano like she was born knowing how-ragtime music and hymns. Faith can too, though she wouldn’t admit it.
Mama Hodges, was Aunt Agnes’s mom, and my mother’s grandmama. Mama Hodges was old when I was born, and lived til i had my first child. She was old a long time. She lost her husband as a young woman and wore black dresses or black and white gingham, every day til she died about forty years later. Her house stayed “hot enough to cure tobacco” year round. She made pound cakes on a regular basis-the kitchen always smelled like one. She raised her four children and a grand daughter too. None of us kids acted up in her sight. We did not “disturb the peace” at her house as we were prone to do when we got home. My sister Delores and I sat in that heat on Tuesday mornings without interrupting the adults nor getting up til we were told we could sit on the porch. Mama had told us that elves lived there and she had seen them, so that helped us out on those long mornings.
There was a brother and sister that lived right by Mama Hodges, John and Dephie. John made homemade wine . He gave me my first violin. Miss Delphie crocheted things for babies and could make flower arrangements from things growing on a ditchbank. Faith talked back to her once and got in big trouble.
Sometimes, Cousin Tillie would send a letter full of details about her travels. She had quite a bit of status because she was seeing the world . It didn’t bother me one bit, that my world was just a few miles wide. There was the Church, the A&P and people like Faith, so I was content.
We had stories too. It turns out my own Grandmama had saved the lives of all her siblings once. They were on their way to school, when the horse pulling the buggy got spooked and ran like the devil was after him past the school and only God knows where else. Grandmama was a little girl-but she climbed on to that horse and changed his mind! That’s a story! It made me fearful of making her mad when I heard it.
My own mama had a story. Once when she was little, she snatched on my grandma’s china cabinet door and ended up pulling the whole thing over! The precious china must have made an awful racket, shattering and breaking up in the little house-and at just that moment, God sent the preacher in the back door. I am sure he saved her life. Thank goodness he had the good sense to stay awhile til things settled down. That must have been mighty hard on Grandmama.
I remember these things now on days like today. This is where I came from. These are people I remember . They had dreams when they were young too. I could not imagine that as a child. Now I wonder how Mama Hodges felt, becoming a young widow -suddenly, and left with four children and a farm. I wonder what Aunt Agnes thought about when she was washing dishes all afternoon. I think about miss Delphie making baby clothes for everybody but herself. When i consider all of it, then I have a sense of pride and courage. I knew these people. They were real and they all had a story-and I vow all over again, that I will remember.