Come sit on the porch awhile. Enjoy a glass of sweet iced tea as you peruse my thoughts, memories, dreams and images of family and friends - things trivial and not so trivial - past, present and future. I write and post for the simple pleasure of doing so. If you reap some small amount of pleasure from what you find here please come back again soon.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Back on the Porch, Wishing To Be A Little Girl Again

Wanda Reed is a very special new friend who has given me the greatest gifts of all...inspiration, hope and kindness. We met at the health center where she works and where I have been going, trying to regain some of the strength I have lost during the past year. Wanda has shared with me kind conversation as well as her very special talent. She is a country gospel singer/songwriter and has just released a compact disc featuring songs written by herself and her mother. This spirit filled music reminds me of the songs I heard during my childhood while attending old fashioned gospel Baptist churches with my mother and grandmother. I love singing along with her songs when riding in my car...while all alone of course...Wanda has a much greater talent than I do, thank you Lord!

In her own words:
"This CD has a very special place in my heart because it comes from the heart. Nine of the eleven songs on this CD were written by me, with the strong inspiration of Jesus Christ. Without Him, I could do nothing. The other two songs were written by my Mother, Elizabeth Keck, and Dorothy Keck Davenport, and were arranged by me. I hope you can find some inspiration in some part of this work." Wanda Reed

To hear a sampling of Wanda's talent go to:

*The CD cover photo features Wanda now and as a little girl. It is published here with Wanda's consent.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Grandpa’s Honey, Grandma’s Biscuits, Delicious Memories For One Scared Little Girl

Ada & Larkin were "Grandpa & Grandma" to me

When I was a little girl I sometimes spent the summer months with my mother's parents in Madisonville, Tennessee.

Grandpa and Grandma lived a hard life in a modest two-bedroom, gray-shingled house with front and back porches. They had eleven children, made a living farming and had very few modern conveniences. Their water came from a rain-filled cistern well near the back porch. There was no running water in the house and no indoor ceramic tubs or sinks or anything like that. Baths were taken in a galvanized tub which was also used for rinsing laundry along side of the ringer washing machine. Clothes were hung on a closeline to dry in the wind. Their toilet was an outdoor wooden structure – a "two-hole outhouse" they called it – 60 feet or so from the back porch and down a slight hill to the right, as I remember.

On the rare occasions when they were not busy around the house and farm they were rocking – on the front porch on sunny afternoons and in the living room in the cool of the evenings. Grandpa always wore a fedora hat and smoked cherry flavored tobacco in a crooked pipe as he rocked. Grandma always wore a cotton dress and thick nylon stockings rolled just below the knees. Only on Sunday mornings going to church was she seen without a cotton apron over her dress. As they quietly sat and rocked, they both seemed very old to me, when I was only five.

Grandma's house was clean and tidy. The room where she and grandpa slept was cozy and inviting. The bed was made up with a lovely chenille spread and pretty ceramic whatnots adorned the night stand and dresser. A yellow bulb in the bedside lamp gave the room a warm glow. There was a radio that played in the evenings but no television.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table watching grandma kneading biscuit dough in a big round aluminum dishpan and wiping her floured hands on her ever present apron. It seemed she was all the time elbow-deep in some kind of bread makings, while her delicious meals simmered on the stove.

Grandma came from an era when families ate three home cooked meals each and every day. She never adapted from cooking for a family of twelve to preparing a meal for just the two of them. There were always leftovers to snack on between meals and perhaps that's how I came to appreciate a good cold biscuit. On occasions when family visited she was still right comfortable making huge trays of piping hot "cat-head" biscuits to go along with crispy fried chicken and creamy mashed potatoes. ("Cat-head" biscuits were so named because they were hand formed and as big around as a cat's head.)

Grandpa was a skilled beekeeper and sweet succulent honey with comb was always available in a covered glass dish on the table. One of Grandma's hot buttered biscuits smothered in Grandpa's clover honey was the best treat in the whole world and nothing has ever been more delicious. And I loved chewing on the honeycomb, it was the closest thing we had to chewing gum.

Grandpa and Grandma are many years gone from this earth now but I still have that covered glass dish. Instead of honey it now holds many precious memories from my childhood visits with them. Although their life was difficult and filled with hardships they remained kind and generous and never did I hear them complain. And they always managed to make a visiting little granddaughter, who was scared to death of being so far from home, feel safe and loved.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Grandma’s egg basket and cornflakes from the big red rolling store

There was an handmade, split white oak egg basket that always sat on my Grandma's ironing board in the spare bedroom where I slept during childhood visits to her and Grandpa's Monroe County home in the mid-1950's.

Each morning Grandma and I gathered fresh eggs from the chicken house nests then washed and dried them and carefully placed them in the basket, which was lined with a worn dish towel softened by many washings.

The eggs stayed nestled in the basket – except for the ones used in her own cooking – and grew in number until once a week when the man with the rolling store came around. Grandma traded the valuable eggs for staples such as flour, sugar, salt and coffee.

One time I was allowed to pick something in the trade and chose a big box of Kellogg's corn flakes. I remember clutching the brightly colored cereal box, with the big crowing rooster on the front, to my chest as I climbed down from the big red truck. (Everything is "big" when you are five years old.) Our breakfast meals usually consisted of bacon, sausage, eggs, gravy, biscuits and milk. Cereal – even plain ole' corn flakes – was a very rare treat.

Rolling stores were common during those days and served the basic grocery shopping needs for folks who had no convenient means of transportation for quick shopping trips in town. I suppose today's convenience stores are the equivalent of yesteryear's rolling stores only now we feel the need for soft drinks and assorted other junk foods. I wonder if they even sell plain ole' corn flakes these days? Most of today's cereals are sugar coated and pastel colored. And it's a safe bet there are no stores around that take eggs in trade.

Grandma's egg basket and one of her cotton aprons came into my guardianship when my mom passed away a few years ago. I treasure these simple homespun items and the memories they keep close to my heart.