Last week was hazy and dimmed. I reminded myself, that wonderful things were happening . . .somewhere. I watched folks taking walks, or driving along and it actually stunned me. My own world was so hushed and lacked the content of the week before it. . .such lovely content, too. Oh how I longed, to cook supper and read or watch T.V. Maybe, I am an awful patient, for on top of everything else, I became grumpy. Thank Goodness, my family took it in stride. It is good to write that, at long last, I feel good enough now to repent. . .and have the chance.
I suppose that if many were to examine my very simple life , most might find it dull. It certainly is not. Frills and fanfare are a plenty. They just show up in ways less recognized in the current state of frenzy, of most lives. A closer look, may be warranted -at any rate, I missed everything, that week.
I returned to work on Tuesday. I had missed a full week and was actually nervous about finding my rhythm again. It ended up being a productive day and went along quite smoothly. Tuesday was also, “Mama Hodges'” birthday.
Mama Hodges was my great grandmother. She lived to see my first child, Brant. Mama Hodges was old when I was growing up or so she seemed. Mama, Grandmama and Delores and I made weekly visits to Mama Hodges’ two story house, surrounded by flowers. Inside the place was “hot enough to cure tobacco”, for Mama Hodges had a huge warm morning stove, that was on year round. We sat in the pristine living room. The adults talked, the children did not, except to greet Mama Hodges and respond, that we were fine, when asked. Delores and I sat as still as “church mice” on those long week day mornings. Looking back, it was like going to Church. Children were to be clean and quiet and abandon their natural inclination to move and giggle.
Once in a great while, Delores and I were allowed to sit on the front porch. I suspect now, this depended on the content of a conservation the adults needed. In those days, children were not privy to any adult business-and that included most things from “light bills” to someone selling an acre of a farm. The only other thing that got us out of the house, was to eat a piece of pound cake. Mama Hodges mostly always had one, on top of the refrigerator, secured in a tin cake dish. Her kitchen always smelled like, she had just cooked a pound cake and dumped a generous amount of vanilla in the concoction.
Children were not allowed to ask for food at anybodys’ house. It was considered rude to ask someone for their food. In fact, if we were offered something, we were expected to glance at Mama, as to know whether we could accept. This was not a harsh rule. It made me think about the the needs of others and to recognize acts of generosity. The way, Mama explained the value of manners, in a nutshell, was two fold. Firat, it let other folks know, that you were thinking about them and showing respect for them. Second it let every one know that you someone loved you enough to teach you how to conduct yourself. She was right, for I declare that practicing good manners does make you think bout others til it becomes a habit. Mama did not concentrate on which fork to use, but instead on conversing (Do not interrupt whoever is talking, watch your tone and facial expressions), how to respect my elders. (We were taught to give our chair to any standing adult, they were served first at gatherings and so on), respecting the property of others(Do not ever run in a house, jump in a house, shout in a house . . .etc.) Looking back, I guess I learned a lot of good manners from visiting Mama Hodges . . .and going to church.
Thankfully, Delores and I were never denied a slice of that golden pound cake-but the minute it was in our hand, we were banished to the porch, for not a single crumb was allowed on Mama Hodges’ kitchen floor. . . at least not on our account. . . .If a crumb did fall, It was immediately picked up, by Delores or I. (A child always picked up anything dropped by anybody}
You can believe we said “thank you”, before we took off to that porch too.
To this day-and especially now, I am glad to have been loved in this way. Now, Mama Hodges was not a harsh person. I do not remember her ever raising her voice. She did not coddle us as if we were fragile , and liable to break at any given moment, though. I really learned more about my great grandmother, after she died.
She was considered the Belle of five counties. A few very old photographs are proof of that. She bore four children and was widowed early in life. My great grandfather, Joseph, had a heart attack, when he was just forty years old. Mama Hodges wore black and white gingham house dresses, every day , but Sundays for the rest of her life. On Sundays, or special occasions, she wore black dresses with white collars.
A story, that I have told before, bears repeating. Joseph and Carrie Hodges were farmers. After his death, Mama Hodges must have found herself in dire circumstances, for not long after, the farm was to be auctioned off to “the highest bidder”. This would have been sometime in the 1930’s. I can not imagine her predicament – heartbreak, shock and becoming a widow, suddenly, and with four children. I did not know this story as a child and so do not have an account of her state and as I said . . I truly can not imagine how she bore it.
On the day of the auction, the local farmers showed up. To their credit, not a one would bid. Mama Hodges bought her farm back . . for one dollar. I can not tell or write this story without crying. It is too beautiful, too noble and too inspiring, not to.
Greatness may not be as rare as we think and not reserved for only a few. This winter, I have heard several stories of greatness that showed up in people this world would never recognize as anything other than ordinary. Plenty of people sacrifice their desires for others . They put the needs or wishes of others, before themselves. This is a great act of benevolence. Many people work in a service of some sort. They are not in it for the money. I met an older woman, living in a shelter, due to a series of unfortunate events. I met her because, she could not stay in the shelter from 7am to 7pm. My house was on her routine walk. She used a walker as she went along. After a few weeks, we were in the habit of conversing. She taught me a lot about bravery, gratitude and fortitude. What wealth she doled out to me.
Over a hundred years ago, when life lacked prosperity, a congregation of farmers assembled to protect, serve and give what they could, to a neighbor. Foregoing a chance to profit, they would not bid on Mama Hodges’ farm. The “golden silence” of those men, must have been deafening.
.Mama Hodges raised my grandmother and her siblings on that farm . . . and some of her descendants still call it “home”, today-almost a century later.