By Frances Lowery Garner
I would like to give teenagers today some of the same advice my parents passed on to me. Learn to work and always be honest. If you are willing to work you will always manage to earn your keep and being honest will keep you out of trouble.
Home remedies were a necessity due to lack of available medical attention in the rural area. When my mother sprained her ankle severely, it was packed in wet red clay which would harden, then wrapped tightly, and she had to stay in bed for several days until it was well.
For bad colds, the remedy was always the awful Castor Oil warmed by the fireplace and followed with orange juice if possible. It was a long time before I liked orange juice even after I became an adult.
For a bad cough, a Vicks salve plaster was placed on your chest at bedtime. This would be a white rag saturated with the thick salve, warmed over the fire and put underneath your pajama top as you were tucked in under a mountain of quilts.
On very cold nights, my mother would heat one of the irons used for ironing the clothes and wrap it in a blanket to place at our feet to get them warm.
My favorite remembrance of the “good ole days” was being a part of a big family, living a simple but happy childhood. Experience has taught me that being poor even has its advantages.
You learn to work together, play hard when you have the opportunity, and appreciate the small but important things in life. We ate, played, and worshipped together.
The front porch was the place to relate stories, share your problems (which were few), and visit with the neighbors or the kin folks.
My most prized possession is a handmade quilt called the “Cathedral Window.” My mother made many beautiful quilts but this one was outstanding. It is hundreds of little pieces all put together by hand of various colors and each little piece (probably 1” x 1” resembles a cathedral window.
The quilt is very special to me because my mother made it after having suffered a stroke which paralyzed her left side. After many agonizing hours of physical therapy and with a lot of determination, she was able to regain partial use of her left hand.
It took many painstaking hours but she accomplished her goal and finished the beautiful quilt which hangs in my home today.
It is something that will be treasured by my children and grandchildren. It represents what can be done through hard work, perseverance, and a strong faith to rise above the obstacles of life.
We began having family reunions (my siblings and their families) after the death of my parents.
The family had grown considerably and was scattered so that we could not get together anymore for the holidays. So every five years beginning in 1992, we rent a place, cater a meal, have a program, and kin arrive from all over.
In the afternoon, pictures and memories are shared by the older group while the teenagers play softball or other diversions. A piñata is always a hit with the younger ones.
All the local kin bring door prizes and the drawing of the prizes is always a fun time.
Even with 75-100 in attendance, almost everyone manages to receive something to take home.
My favorite reunion was the first one we had.
Being the youngest daughter and living closer to my parents, I had managed to keep the old tin family trunk which contained a lot of memories.
Since my mother was an avid crochet fan, there were many beautiful pieces of her crochet in the trunk. Enough for over 30 grandchildren to each have a piece.
Postal cards received from my brothers during World War II were displayed and shared. There were other collectibles like an antique baby hair brush and comb, a baby ring, and bootees.
The first reunion was dedicated to “Big Mama” and “Big Daddy” as lovingly called by their grandchildren.
A lot of planning goes into this day since our Yankee relatives take this opportunity to come and visit so we try to make it special.
We even though boiled peanuts was a good idea for an afternoon snack and could not believe the Northerners did not like them!
One of the granddaughters suggested a family cookbook and this was a fun thing to do. Everyone sent in their favorite recipes and we actually had some that were written by “Big Mama.”
The directions might read a pinch of salt or soda, a dab of butter, or shortening about the size of your fist. Anyway she was a great cook and always set a bountiful table.
A family favorite was her pound cake (actually made with a pound of everything that went into it), cooked in a slow burning wood stove, not to mention the fresh blackberry cobbler made with real dumplings with a golden brown crust swimming in real cow butter.
All my childhood memories are good except maybe for a time when World War II cast a shadow over our home.
My four older brothers all went off to war and it was sad to watch my mother go to the mailbox, sometimes to receive a letter or postcard and many times not. These were some of the few times I would see her cry.
It was also during this time that we had to take in boarder to help my daddy with the crops because his help had gone to work for Uncle Sam.
It has been said that what you have not had, you do not miss, so I guess we never realized we did not have very much in material goods. Many of the things we had, money would not have bought.
My mother and daddy celebrated 50 years of marriage and the pictures they painted for our growing up years were worth more than a thousand words.
I believe I was fortunate!