Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Mustard Jar

When I was young and visited my Kentucky cousin, whose name just happens to rhyme with my own, one of our favorite places to go was her mother’s grocery store. It was in the heart of one of those little villages so common in western Kentucky. We could run across the road from her house to the store, up the steps and be inside quick as a flash.

Having a place of importance just inside the door was the big open-from-the-top cold drink cooler containing glass bottles of Nehi Orange and Grape, 7 Up and Coca Cola, which was never called anything but Co-Cola. We drank them straight from the bottles, never needing a glass. Sometimes we would scoop up a handful of ice to rub on our faces to cool down. No air conditioning in those days, you know. The bottle opener was on the side of the cooler and you dropped your money for the cold drink on the counter.

My aunt’s store had a special feature. She made sandwiches at lunch time. Two slices of bread, a slice of bologna or olive loaf, maybe a slice of cheese and you were in business. Adding a little zip to the sandwich was mustard, which was kept in a jar under the counter. Extra straws were under the counter too. (Do you see where I am going with this?)

Well, let me tell you, two little girls, knobby knees and all, could slither down behind the counter and squeeze up close to the shelf holding the mustard and straws. It takes no imagination to predict what we did. Yep, we stuck the straws in the mustard jar, sluuurrp! And then stuck the straw back in the jar for another slurp. Now, this was plain old yellow mustard - none of today’s fancy Dijon or honey mustard, and it was lip puckering at its best. And giggle - oh my, did we giggle!

When lunch time customers started to come into the store and my aunt got the sandwich fixings out, my cousin and I would top off our mustard meal with a cold bottle of pop. Then we would wander off to my cousin’s house and play house or school in the side yard.

I never told my aunt about our antics with the mustard until just recently and she claims to have known nothing about our slurping. I certainly hope none of her customers knew either. We thought we were just having fun, but, in reality, I guess we were making memories.

Published 28 February 2009, Rambling Thoughts ... Out of My Mind by Brenda Joyce Jerome.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chicken Every Sunday

As far back as I can remember, my family had chicken every Sunday. Mother would get up early, fry a couple of chickens, and get the rest of our mid-day dinner ready to eat as soon as we got home from church. Many times, we would arrive home just in time to greet relatives or friends who had come to share our Sunday meal. Mother set a fine table and always seemed pleased to add a couple of places at the table or sit up a card table for the little ones.

Our big meal was always in the middle of the day. After cleaning off the table and putting away the leftovers , it was time to relax. That meant sitting on the porch in a chair, or if you were lucky, in the porch swing, waving to passers-by or calling out a “How are you doing?” to friends and neighbors. The young ones played board games on the steps or whispered secrets under the big old tree in the front yard. All in all, it was a relaxing day - a good way to start the week.

People don’t just drop in to visit the way they did years ago. If you wanted to see your relatives, you simply got the family together and went. If you had some extra vegetables from your garden or a pie, you took them to share. I know it isn’t considered “polite” to visit uninvited today, but it was acceptable when I was a kid. People didn’t worry so much about what was politically correct and just enjoyed visiting - invited or not. Unless you were terribly obnoxious, no one complained about your uninvited appearance.

Life was simpler then. I don’t remember that we ever locked our doors except when we planned to be out of town over night. If we went out to do errands during the daytime, the doors were closed, but not locked. We didn’t have anything worth stealing and, if anyone had wanted to take something from the house, he would have had to face the neighbors before he got the door closed on his way out. Interested neighbors were better than any burglar alarm.

As soon as the word was out that there had been a death in the family, neighbor ladies began preparing their food specialities for the decedent’s family. Offerings might include ham, the always popular fried chicken, fresh vegetables and a wide variety of desserts. There was usually enough food for not just the family, but also for anyone who might stop by the house to offer condolences to the family of the deceased. Mourning and eating have always been connected in my memories.

If this sounds like life in the 1950s, it was and a fairly typical life in small towns across the country. Sometimes when life gets hectic and I feel the need to slow down, it is good to remember life as it was.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Along the Way ...

I’m not going to tell you how old I am, so don’t ask, but I’ve lived long enough to learn a few things during this journey called life. Being a list maker, I kept track of what I’ve learned. You could probably add to this list. Here's mine:

  • Don’t spit into the wind and don’t repeat gossip in a small town. Both will come back to hit you in the face.

  • Never try to spank a cat. They won’t understand, but they do know how to take revenge like barfing on the kitchen counter or on that antique quilt made by great-great grandmother Smith.

  • Always be kind to animals and old people. Doing so is a reflection of your upbringing.

  • Never pretend to be something your aren’t. A fool is easy to spot.

  • Life is full of bumps in the road. Time will resolve most bumps so don’t sweat the small stuff.

  • Honor your mother and father and one day your children will honor you.

  • If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.

  • Every child experiments with something. Pray that your child makes wise choices. Be there to pat him on the back if he does and be there to lift him up if he doesn’t. Most importantly, just be there.

  • Stay on speaking terms with all of your relatives. You never know who will be asked to speak at your funeral.

  • Listen more, talk less and do not give advice. You will appear more intelligent than you really are.

  • If you are wrong, admit it and apologize. Failing to do so is tacky and your mama will never forgive you for being tacky.

  • Smile often. It confuses your enemies and they will wonder what you are up to.

  • Love many, laugh often, cry when needed. Never be afraid to show your feelings; it proves you are still alive.

    There’s only one chance to take this journey. Step lively and smile!
  • Saturday, February 21, 2009

    I Wish I Was Single Again ...

    I love music, but I can not sing. Most of the time there is music playing while I work and almost always there is music running through my head - a tune stuck on replay often for days until replaced by another one. A song I’ve been hearing over and over is one I associate with my mother. I have no idea how old I was when I first heard this song, but it is among my earliest childhood memories.

    My mother had a good singing voice, but she confined her singing mainly to church. The one song that I remember her singing was “I Wish I Was Single Again. If I was Single, My Pockets Would Jingle.” After hearing the music in my mind for days on end, I did a Google search to learn more about the song.

    It appears variations of the lyrics have been around since the early 1900s and it has been recorded by many different artists. One version of the song goes like this:

    When I was single, oh then, oh then,
    When I was single, oh then.
    When I was single, my pockets would jingle,
    And I wisht I was single again.

    I married me a wife, oh then, oh then.
    I married me a wife, oh then.
    I married me a wife, and she’s joy of my life,
    And I wisht I was single again.

    My wife died, oh then, oh then.
    My wife died, oh then.
    My wife died, and I laughed and I cried
    To think I was single again.

    I married me another, oh then, oh then.
    I married me another, oh then.
    I married me another, and she’s the Devil’s grandmother,
    And I wisht I was single again.

    She beat me, she banged me, oh then, oh then.
    She beat me, she banged me, oh then.
    She beat me, she banged me, and threatened to hang me,
    And I wisht I was single again.

    The last verse is a bit violent and if Mother sang it, I don't remember it.

    Mother may have heard the song when she was growing up, but I suspect she also heard it during the 1930s and 1940s, when it was made popular by Frank Luther. Although known mainly for his recordings for children, he was known also as an American cowboy music singer. I talked to my mother’s sister, who also knew part of the verses and remembers hearing it on the radio.

    So, a little mystery has been solved. Now maybe that song in my head will be replaced with another one.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    I Would If I Could ...

    I would if I could ... eliminate rain on Mondays. There is nothing drearier than a rainy Monday.

    I would if I could ... make it mandatory for parents to teach - and require - their children to say the magic words, “please,” “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” Think what a kinder world it would be if we all spoke those words regularly.

    I would if I could ... require all adult children to call their mamas every day - well, maybe not every day ‘cause their mamas might not want to interrupt their yoga class or meditation experience just to hear junior tell how much he hates his job. Erase this one.

    I would if I could ... do away with greens. Who wants to eat things dogs have walked on and who knows what else they have done on those green leaves. Even a good bath in hot water isn’t going to eliminate those mental pictures of Fido on his walk.

    I would if I could ... insist that every home have flowers planted around it. Got a black thumb? Get some of those always-perfect bunches of pretties from the Dollar Store and stick them in the ground. That’s what my neighbor does - can’t beat red poinsettias still blooming on the 4th of July!

    I would if I could ... arrange the school schedule of every male student to include a cooking class and every female student to have a car repair class. Knowing the simple basics will make us all appreciate what we can’t do.

    I would if I could ... arrange it so every person on this earth has one day when they feel free enough to laugh and dance to their heart’s content without being weighed down with worries. Just one day.

    I could if I would ... be happier by not dwelling on the hurtful things that happen and remember the good deeds done every day.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    Rest In Peace, Uncle Joe

    Back in the early 1990s, I was part of a three-person research team working on a project for the local Civil War Roundtable. Our project was to trace the path of an autograph book originally owned by John S. Chapman of Union County, Kentucky. In the course of the research, we became acquainted with Chapman’s grandson, Joe Chapman. “Uncle Joe,” as he was called by his great nephew, Tom Chapman, who introduced us, was a slight man, but tall with courtliness and kindness. He showed us his grandfather’s dress sword, the family Bible, and a photograph of his grandfather. He was the perfect example of a southern gentleman, anxious to please and to put us at ease. At that time, Uncle Joe, who must have been in his early 80s, was still hauling cattle to market.

    This morning’s newspaper contains the obituary of Joe Chapman, age 96, who died Friday at a nursing home in Providence, Kentucky. Services will be today at Sacred Heart Church. Rest in peace, Uncle Joe.

    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Wordless Again!

    Would you believe it - I am completely wordless today. I'll return when those words are available again.

    Saturday, February 14, 2009

    Memories - May Day

    Once upon a time, ‘way back about 1950, there lived a little girl with her family in small town America - actually in southern Illinois. One of the most anticipated events to herald the coming of spring was May Day, a day of light-hearted weaving and winding around the tether ball pole on the school playground. A select few of the students, including the little girl, were chosen to dress in bright, homemade costumes to lead the May Day event.

    The little girl’s mother, an excellent seamstress, made the little girl’s dress of bright yellow crepe paper. Crepe paper could be used to quickly fashion costumes and it was very inexpensive. Gathered at the shoulders and stitched just so at the sides to allow room for the arms, it hung free to the knees. What a sight it was! The little girl was so proud of this extraordinary costume that she persuaded her mother to let her walk home from school so that all the neighbors along the way could see how pretty she looked.

    Being a normal little girl, it wasn’t possible to walk sedately along the sidewalk. No, that wouldn’t do. So, at every mud puddle, the little girl skipped and splattered right through and did a hop and skip on the other side. Unfortunately, crepe paper does not retain its color when wet. It streaks and runs onto everything with which it comes in contact. Unfortunately, too, crepe paper tears easily. With all that skipping and hopping, the beautiful yellow crepe paper dress was soon just a few strips of a sodden mess and the little girl had lovely yellow stripes running down her legs, staining her knees, socks and shoes.

    News travels faster than the speed of sound in small towns. The mother received several calls, accompanied by snickering, from well-meaning neighbors about the condition of the little girl’s attire. Needless to say, that was the end of crepe paper costumes for the little girl.

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Salad Time!

    It’s that time of year when I want - no, I crave - what I can’t have - fresh, home grown tomatoes. Never has the thought of biting into a red, juicy tomato sounded so good and so far away. It’s true that tomatoes are available from other places even in the cold, dreary days of winter, but they aren’t real tomatoes. I think they are really made out of cardboard. Real tomatoes are grown in the ground, nurtured by the sun and caressed by warm breezes.

    The best tomatoes come from John’s Island, South Carolina - down near Charleston. John’s Island is the largest producer of tomatoes in this country. I am fortunate that my favorite daughter lives there and, if I can visit during tomato season, she has a bagful waiting for me when I arrive. There is nothing better than a tomato sandwich for breakfast, tomatoes on a salad for lunch and sliced tomatoes for dinner. Yummmm - combine those tomatoes with fresh corn on the cob and a big glass of sweet tea and you have a real, finger-licking meal - no meat needed, thank you.

    Since it isn’t tomato season in South Carolina yet, I have to make do with a box of those Santa Sweet tomatoes from the grocery store. Not high on taste, they are still better than the hot house variety from other countries that are stacked waist high in the display cases.

    Wishing for spring made me think of tomatoes, which made me almost drool thinking of a good pasta salad. So what if it’s still technically winter! I am going to have pasta salad for dinner - multi-color rotini tossed with Italian dressing (fat free, of course) and chopped Santa Sweet tomatoes, green peppers, onions and a few dried cranberries. It’s not the same as an in-season salad, but it will do until spring comes.

    Friday, February 6, 2009

    I Swanee!

    People up north think folks in this area talk funny. They don’t have a clue what we are talking about. To my way of thinking, they have some learning to do.

    They don’t know what we mean when we say we are “fixing” to go to town. Why, any fool should know it means we are getting ready and will go “dereckly.” What’s so hard to understand about that?

    If I said “It’s coming up a cloud,” do you think they would know that means it’s time to shut the winders and bring in the cushions from the rocking chears on the front porch? Not on your life! They’d probably stand there with their necks all crinked up looking at the sky until rain hits them full in the face.

    And if I told them that the young couple down the street “ate supper before saying grace,” do you think they would know it means the unmarried young woman is going to have a baby? No siree!

    And they sure as shooting wouldn’t know what my old Grandma meant when she said her next door neighbor wore her blouse “hind part before” yesterday. Why, everybody knows that means she had it on backwards.

    I bet if I told them to “Come on back” as they were getting their coats on to go home, they would think I meant to come back right now. Now, you and I know that means to "come on back and see us sometime." Didn’t their mamas teach them good manners?

    I swanee! There’s no accounting for some people. They just don’t understand polite English.

    Tuesday, February 3, 2009

    "Play Like ..."

    I have another cousin besides the one who helped me torment our grandmother. This one was on the other side of the family. As almost all of Mother's kinfolks lived in western Kentucky, we spent a fair amount of time there when I was growing up and there was a cousin near my age who had a name that rhymed with my own.

    Having vivid imaginations, my Kentucky cousin and I created many scenarios in her side yard. We used chopped wood to outline a square and called it our house or our school. We would point to a corner to indicate where the chair was or the bed or the school desk. We didn't need actual props; our imagination supplied them.

    We didn't use words as grand as "Let's pretend" or "Make believe" It was always "Play like ..." "Play like this is our house and you're the mother and I'm the daughter." Or "Play like this is our classroom and I'm the teacher and you're the student." That's all we needed - a few words and our minds were off and running - creating entire scenes we pulled from our memories or imagination.

    I haven't heard the words "Play like ..." for a long time, but today I am saying them out loud. "Play like the snow and ice are all gone and everyone has had their electricity restored. Play like it's spring and the flowers are starting to bloom." See what your imagination can do!

    Monday, February 2, 2009

    Five by Five

    TwigTalk chose to give me a blog award last week. Because of all the snow and ice we have had, I neglected to acknowledge the award. The compliment is appreciated. Thank you, Sheri.

    In accepting this award, I am to list five things I am addicted to. Guess what is Number 1? Yep!

    1. Genealogy. My pride, my passion, my profession.

    2. Sweet tea. Enjoyed winter or summer; it can't be beat.

    3. Road trips. I love visiting courthouses, especially in Kentucky.

    4. Facebook. Chatting with friends and relatives, some I have never met face to face.

    5. Computers. Could not live without them.

    I am supposed to list five blogs I enjoy. This is a difficult task and certainly does not represent all of the ones I enjoy.

    1. Genealogy, Middle Age & Life

    2. Taneya's Genealogy Blog

    3. Genea-Musings

    4. Building Blocks

    5. Old Salem, Kentucky