She walked through the mansion, passing people taking out furniture, carefully covered, and being placed gently in a long line of moving trucks.
Last plush step on the curved staircase, not touching the smooth wood railing with her hand, her foot gently placed on the second floor.
People were hovering around, looking at the empty floors and walls. Slowly swiveling their heels on the polished floors, they watched her reach the upstairs landing. Waiting for her direction, she pretended they were not there.
As if ghosts were removing the face of a painting, like peeling a thin layer of glue from the palm of one’s hand, she turned in disgust. Like see-through skin that they tossed to the side, as if throwing away someone’s soul. The search for his wealth continued as they destroyed painting after painting.
The master of the house had died just the night before, and his family of leaches wanted to find the most prized possession. His will. They had hired her to dismantle the premises, not stopping till the treasure was found.
Looking around at the empty halls and bleak rooms and bare windows, she noticed the clock. Very old and rather plain. Small compared to all the other clocks. Not centered, easy to reach, and had at one time had pictures around it. Full of it’s own beauty, as carved on it was a handful of roses. But, only left on the wall to tell his greedy family the time, as it chimed that their lunch would be arriving. It resonated through the dreary place, searching for someone who cared.
As everyone left for the dining room, to the only table left for spreading out food, she remained by the clock. Slowly running her hand over the wood, lovingly appreciating the intricate rose design, her finger caught on the slightest of a rose. The rose was raised just slightly more than the others and upon pushing it, a small door opened under the face. Reaching inside, she saw stacks of paper. She had found their goldmine. She would watch as their horrid dark eyes searched over the words, grabbing at the money listed by their names, barely dismissing her. They would pay her for her work and send her on her way.
Driving down the long drive, she felt the papers burning in her pocket. To her, the treasure was the papers she had kept.
Arriving home, she spread them on the floor as the sun’s mid-afternoon rays touched the gentle words. Letters written in love from this man to his wife. Letters those greedy bastards would have discarded as being worthless.
After her death, he kept writing to her. He kept her alive as his pen kept moving. Reminiscing of seeing her for the first time. Her beauty on the outside, her gentle heart on the inside.
When he became ill, he moved their love letters and the will to the only place he knew none of them would look.
Smiling, she gathered the letters in her arms. They had the money, she had the treasure.
The first time I saw the house, I noticed a little girl on the side, touching the snap dragons. She was as thin as a splinter, reminding me of a praying mantis with her long skinny arms and legs.
Rechecking the address for the all men’s boarding house on the slip of paper, I opened the gate. Walking up the slight path to three steps, I knocked on the door. Pleasant smells filled the air. Baked goods, stew on the stove, and fresh laundry brought back a time that I wish I could walk back in to. When the little girl in the yard was mine, and the pleasing aromas where my wife’s love for her family, carefully displayed, as I entered our home.
Trying to make a better life for us had resulted in paying for my wrong decisions. Losing everything, but this could not be dwelt on at the moment. If I was to move on in life, then I would spend my time doing whatever was asked of me at my new address. My new life.
My first step out in the real world again, I felt like finding some lunch. As I looked at the ads in the Indy Star, I felt like someone was watching me. Casually, tucking the paper under my arm, I began to walk the streets. The hot dog now feeling like a rock in my gut.
Whoever, or how many there were following me, they would soon make themselves know. Forever beholden to them to carry out their deeds. Entering an alley would make their job easier if they wanted to rough me up a bit.
Each step I took became louder, and sweat began to form in my hair, and slide down my back. Alone, then a man was beside me. I stopped, expecting to see more. He handed me the slip of paper, and said this woman needed help. “All men’s boarding house. Live there till you here otherwise. Keep the place in order. Get rid of any trash.”
My knuckles barely rapped on the door, when she answered. Average height, large build, heading out of her 60’s. Mamaw to the tiny girl, who was calling for her. As she ran around the side of the house, she stopped, hands on hips, eyeing me up and down.
The aroma of food drifted pleasantly around the fresh, clean, modest home. She asked for the slip of paper. Her request was direct as she stood squarely in front of me. She took the paper, looked at the handwriting, then studied my face. She stared right in my eyes for a long fifteen seconds. Being a grown man, I still squirmed under her brief scrutiny. “Follow me, Wayne.” Never having given her my name, I stumbled across the words, “Yes, ma’am.”
She lead me to my room. Two single beds were on opposite sides of each other, sharing a single window in the middle, with a side table for each. “Unpack. Met my daughter and granddaughter. You’ll meet all the men at supper tonight.”
Her daughter was an unruly, pirate of a woman. Foul language seeped out, an one could see the insanity in her gaze. She was loud and mean and large and I never wanted to cross her. She had had the tiny praying mantis much older in life and showed no sign of being loving and motherly to her.
The pirate woman loved her mother, though. And, the mamaw loved her granddaughter. I would soon find out she would be there daily, helping her prepare the large nightly meal for the men. Cleaning up what dishes were dirtied during the baking and cooking, then taking her daughter and walking home.
The rules of the house would be given to me later. Stepping back out on the front steps, a plan was forming to follow them to their home. Protecting this older woman and her granddaughter would become my every thought. My life.
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Last night, I was staring at people, but only one that I knew.
I felt like I was drifting in and out my dreams, and in and out of rooms.
Seems I was carefully writing down their life stories. The one person I knew stopped and gave me a curt look.
I thought I was reciting some of it in my head, but I must have been talking out loud, instead.
I backed out of the door, my feelings slightly hurt. Then someone came and said in my head, “You’ve done this before. Don’t do it anymore.
Then he took my book and pen and said again,you do this all the time. You’ve written it all down. You know they’re all dead.
I was the skinny little girl stepping out of the car looking up at the two-story farmhouse. We had arrived at Aunt Sandy and Uncle Heck’s farm.
I wondered what would happen during this visit that would stay in my mind for a long time. So, I was already planning to sit in the closet at home, among the coats, boots, and shoes and remember each word, each look, each spanking with the razor strap, from these few days.
Aunt Sandy and Uncle Heck had a farm in Indiana back in the late 1940’s. My parents and I lived in Indianapolis. We would pack one suitcase between us, and drive for a little over an hour, to Bainbridge, to visit my mom’s youngest sister. Most times, when we arrived, the house was unkept, no one was around, and always unlocked.
Listening to every word my mom said to daddy, I would watch as she dissected each room. The bed was unmade. The sitting room was not swept, the couch littered with newspaper. Dishes in the sink. Who leaves the house this early and does not clean? Who leaves this house knowing company is coming?
Mom would begin cleaning, as daddy went out to the barn. But, I tried to be quiet, and invisible, as her personality surfaced. Obscenities seeping through her lips, as her anger mounted, mixed in with the words, lazy and filthy. She was crude enough to make sailors blush. For that matter, she was mean enough to scare them away.
The farm had an outhouse, but no bathroom inside. I refused to use the outhouse, so daddy would spank me with the razor strap. When we would first arrive, I would tell him he could beat me if he wanted. I was not going anywhere near that outhouse.
Aunt Sandy did not care because she would not let me poop on her property. Being adopted, she said I was not a blood relative and I would have to poop on paper. The paper would be destroyed. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom in the field where the cows shit.
They did not mow their front yard, which seemed strange to me. Daddy always kept our yard nicely mowed at home. I remember hearing the swish, swish of the reel mower at home, wishing it could lull me in to a nice daydream.
Gabby was their dog. She loved me, even though I only saw her once a year. She would follow me through the tall grass, always by my side. One memory was me pulling grass and putting it in my pants. I pretended to be a hula dancer, except I had the grass held by my waistband, sticking up towards my face.
They raised bee’s. I can remember chewing on the honeycomb. The sweetest, most natural flavor. I wish to be a little girl for just a moment to chew on the honeycomb. Stand there chewing,and watch the cows swing their tails patiently at the flies. Their bodies were so big and moved slowly, their brown eyes watching me lazily.
All three mornings, because we only stayed three days a year, I would be standing at the window upstairs, wide awake. I would be waiting for Uncle Heck to walk out of the house around 4 a.m. He would go to milk the cows in the barn. When I was allowed to go out, Uncle Heck showed me where he put the milk cans. He placed them in a cement trough with an actual spring running through it till the milk truck came and bought the milk.
She made her own soap. Lye soap. It was so strong, my skin should have come off. One night of my stay, I was bathing. No bubbles. No sitting in warm water, relaxing. I stood in a galvanized tub as pump water was poured over me, quickly rinsing the lye soap away. Lye, grainy, soap. Running hand over it,felt like it had sand in it.
These are true stories I gather from family. Do you have memories of how you were raised? Places you went for a few days or weeks out of a month? Please share your memories or those memories from a family member!
A long time ago, my dad told me of a special recipe called Float that had been passed down from his grandma to his mom. I believe he drank it from a glass? She would only make this when my dad was sick to his stomach. He never knew what the ingredients were and he never asked. He just knew he loved the flavor.
Even today, if I ask him about it, you can see in his eyes he is back home with his sweet mom…..
I wish I would have know my grandparents but sadly, they died right before I was born. My dad was a young man in his late 20’s, married to my mom and they had my brother who was physically handicapped.
My grandma died of breast cancer and my dad and mom cared for her till her last day in her old bedroom of one of the family farm houses. My grandpa had passed away a month before from grieving, watching her suffer.
My dad was so devastated with the loss of his parents, that he wanted nothing to do with any material items from the farm houses, the barns, and he even gave back the farm truck he would drive around the farm with the keys in it.
Thus, I have no hand written recipes from my grandma.
I have a lot of beautiful cut glass that the family brought over from Germany and Scotland, and my grandma had given to my mom and the memories of the food that was loving prepared and served in them.
I have stories of the farm table being so full with food to feed them as they worked hard each day and overflowing for Christmas and Thanksgiving. I have the memories that have been passed down.
I do not know any ingredient for Float and whenever I have an upset stomach, I wish I knew what she had made for my dad.
If you have any ideas or recipes, please please please share! 🙂 Jen
These are stories that my husband’s dad, mom, uncle,and grandpa recorded as they must have sat at a kitchen table somewhere in Kentucky. Thank you for family that takes the time traveling, searching for people, cemeteries, maps, books, money, patience, and hard work to preserve and record the life of our ancestors. Do not let their memories fade. Pass their stories along.
Thank you to Virginia (Jenny Rose) who sat with them and told her memories. She had such a love for a grandmother she only knew for 7 years. Brings tears down my cheeks to think of what a short but precious time they had together.
After my mother-in-law passed away, these typed pages were with some books. I thought they might be enjoyable to learn how people gather from the land for food and medicine and how they lived.
I am sharing them a bit at a time because just this short amount tells so much and made me ponder the sweetness of their relationship.
My grandmother, Martha Ann, probably wasn’t 5 feet tall, and married my grandfather who was approximately about 6′ and 4 inches tall. Whereby, I thought they looked like Mutt and Jeff together. (Mutt and Jeff was a long-running 1907-1983 and widely popular American newspaper comic strip).
She died when I was about 7 years old, but her death brings tears to my eye even to this day. She was an “Irish Example” of how they were taught to work hard and smile as if you were rich. Even on her dying bed she asked someone to get crackers for her grandchildren to eat.
I still can see her carrying a sack of greens to cook, and on our farm, going to the wood and gathering greens, tree roots, bark, mayapple and yellow roots for food, for medicine. Grandfather depended on her always to make the living, which she did by cleaning, baby sitting, making quilts, gardening for the more “elites” until a few weeks before her death. She had a daughter named Frona, who was almost deaf, but she taught her how to survive in this world.
Grandmother always gave me a flower to take home when the flowers were blooming and taught me how to peel and dice fruits.
She gave me a “thimble” (maybe not thimbles as we know them today). She was making a comforter, therefore, all the grandchildren wishing to, could sit in on it with their thimbles. She helped them thread the needles and taught them how to insert the needle and thread and how to tie the knots. I doubt if I put the thread where she wanted them, but she was happy because it was difficult for her to accomplish. She had to do housekeeping work for people to support the family since my grandfather seldom work. (arthritis)
I only knew one grandmother and this is the only one I personally saw and knew. It is nice to have a memory of my grandmother that I cherish and could relate to. When Dr. Dollen told me that my Grandmother Martha Ann prepared medication for him for some of his patients that were sick. She gathered bark, roots, and herbs. She also cleaned his house and office and he gave her his shirts and this is how grandmother had the material to make quilts. She also made him a quilt.
When I stand near her grave, I see a great lady that never got a “Neon Light” on earth, but to me she is glowing. Every memorial day I put some flowers on her grave because she gave me a thimble, fruits, flowers and taught me how to tie knots when I was young. And she put her arms around me to comfort me once.
By Virginia a.k.a. Jenny Rose
Last night, my husband and I, took my parents out…
This past week was full of tears and family and sweet memories. My mother-in-law passed away. Standing by her kitchen table, looking out to the screened-in patio and her yard, I thought of corn-on-the-cob. She loved when the corn was ready for eating. Indiana Sweet Corn.
I remember from as early as 4 years old, my parents coming home with bushels of corn. It was gorgeous and ready for shucking. They would sit outside in lawn chairs or card-table chairs and shuck. I helped, even if I only got 4 or 5 done, I tried my best. I loved to pull back the husk to see if a worm was fat and happy, chewing away.
The stove would have a big boiling pot of water. My mom would be lifting the cobs out with little metal tongs (I wish I had a pair) (Memories) laying the corn to cool. Then the electric knife would start up. I loved that sound and still do. It meant corn was falling off the cob, laying there beautifully. Then the corn was placed in bags and put in our huge freezer chest in the garage. But, that night we ate fresh corn-on-the-cob and big slices of tomatoes!
To the first sentence about us taking my parents out. We all needed to talk and laugh. We wanted to just love on them. Getting older is a given. It is not easy to adjust to changes, but it is easy to remember fond memories filled with love. We want to keep making sweet memories.
I thought it was fitting that this morning I opened up one of my mom’s old recipe books.
The Vegetables Cookbook A Southern Living Book 1975 and only one page had a piece of paper to hold its place:Page 112 with corn recipes!
We love our great big wonderful family full of love and memories! And I love having a special memory and then being reminded several times about it and in different ways.
Just when you think the tears are dried, a song, or a gentle smile, brings back a sweet memory.
We miss a strong woman who fought skin cancer so hard to be able to enjoy life with her family. She was a wife, mom,sister,sister-in-law,mom-in-law,daughter,aunt, and friend who laughed, played, loved life, family, and friends to the fullest. She loved the Lord, personal prayer time, and daily reading her bible. We will all miss hearing her voice on the phone. Her cute ways of talking and her beautiful smile. Her laughter fill the air.
Joy fills our hearts knowing she was taken to heaven. She walks with family and feels no pain.
We miss you.
We love you so.