So, on one of the snow days, I asked posed some questions to my mother, Sarah Ford, about her childhood. I recorded some of her stories. The idea came to me because of the recent death of a longtime family friend. He, his wife, and their parents have been acquainted with my mother’s family for more than 100 years. Back then, they all lived near Wedowee in the Morrison’s Crossroads area -- a place back then that was extremely rural. “Nobody had much of anything,” Mother has always said, referring to the lack of material goods.
Two years ago, Mother and I visited in the Saks home of our friend and his wife. At that time, I wrote down the stories they told me. I learned that my grandparents, Robert and Claudia Cole, were tall and attractive. They both liked to sing at church. He sang in a quartet, and she played the piano at Jordan Chapel Methodist Church. Our friend said he remembered the first time he saw my mother. She and her sister, Gaye, were little girls riding in the back of someone’s pickup truck.
One story our friend told was about a walk he took with my great-grandfather, Sam Bowen. They came to a certain rock and turned it over. “Pick up that Prince Albert can,” said my great-grandfather. “Open it up and give me the cash.” Our friend reached into the tobacco can, pulled out three hundred dollar bills, and handed them over.
Also, he told us stories about how my great-grandfather would sell a plug of chewing tobacco to anyone who asked. He would charge that person one or two pennies. I also heard stories about a great-uncle who liked to drink too much. One day he drove by our friend’s house in a Model T car and saw him coaxing bees from a wooden box. My great-uncle, in spite of being drunk, got out of his car, lifted out the hive, and then went on his way. He left several astonished onlookers behind.
Our friend knew a lot about my grandfather, and his wife contributed to the stories, too. Neither one of them, however, remembered much about my grandmother. So, during a recent snow day, I asked Mother to tell me stories about her mother who died from an illness when Mother was a teen-ager.
I learned that my grandmother was part of a home-demonstration club that taught women to can, sew, quilt, and do other domestic activities. I learned that one time, when my grandmother was at a meeting, she left mother, my aunt, and a girl cousin in charge of her baby boy. My great-grandmother stayed behind but was busy in the house. Mother said she and the other two girls decided they would get the horse-drawn buggy (minus the horse) out of the barn and give the baby a ride down a hill. “Of course, we were the ones wanting to ride,” Mother said.
My aunt climbed aboard the buggy and held the baby in her arms. Mother and her cousin pulled on the shafts until the buggy went too fast. They jumped aside and watched as the buggy crashed and catapulted my aunt and the baby into the air. Both survived but were bloody and bruised. Mother said her mother’s reaction was of consternation. “She was always calm and reserved,” Mother said. “She never spanked us, but we knew we had let her down. That was worse than a spanking.”
Such stories from the friends and my mother gave me knowledge of family members I never met or knew only when they were older. As I imagined the scenes the stories created in my mind, I gained insight into the personality and character of my mother and me. I was determined and adventurous, like my mother apparently was, and I was always penitent whenever I let her down. My mother, like her mother, was usually calm and reserved even when angry. I, like my mother, am usually calm and reserved even when angry.
I can’t wait to hear more stories, but I must make some time to write them down rather than waiting on the weather to give me opportunity. One day it will be too late.
Email Sherry at email@example.com.