A Few More Things About My Mother

Here are some more things I remember about Mother.  As I wrote last week, I wrote these in a notebook as I rode the Metro North train home from Manhattan a few years ago.  It 360px-Kosaciec_bezlistny_Iris_aphylla_RB2[1]was a sad time in my life, and writing seemed to help.  I only wish I had written more while the memories were fresher.

14.  When we lived in town, Mother had flower beds with four o’clocks in back of the house.  The blossoms only opened in the evening and closed at dark.  She had huge beds of tiger lilies in the back yard in summer, and every color of iris in the spring.

15.  She kept every drawing or story I ever gave her.  She kept every letter my brother wrote from the Air Force.  She kept the ugly pottery owl with a flat head that I made in 7th grade art class.  She kept boxes and boxes of photos and an old family Bible.

16.  She liked to talk on the phone a lot.  When she lived in town she spent hours on the phone every day, it seemed.  It was a sad day when my sister Glenda had to take the phone out of Mother’s room in the nursing home. Mother couldn’t hear it anymore and had forgotten how to dial.  She and Aunt Elsie always talked every day until Mother moved to be near Glenda.  Then they talked once a week, until Mother couldn’t hear anymore.  That was one of the first things the strokes took away.

17.  Mother was a good, old-fashioned Southern cook:  fried chicken, boiled country ham, vegetables cooked down with fat meat, creamed corn (a little bit stuck to the skillet, the way Daddy liked it), stewed tomatoes, cornbread.  Her biscuits were not reliable.  She made wonderful pies:  chocolate (no meringue, because my sister Juanita didn’t like it), chess, pecan.  Cakes were chancy things and might or might not fall.  She also liked recipes from her Sunday school class members or Good Housekeeping, especially Jello salads.  When Daddy had his first heart attack her cooking changed completely.  No more sausage and biscuits or fatback—only as a treat.

I was thinking of Mother’s fried chicken recipe this week.  It turns out her method was just featured in Southern Living recently, and they increased the minutes you cook it because chickens are so much larger now.  Her recipe is in this blog’s archives.

Enjoy the week, and enjoy Memorial Day weekend!

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Remembering Mother on Mother’s Day

Fronie Bowers Jones
Fronie Bowers Jones
I still miss Mother a lot. We made each other crazy when I was growing up, and I got as far away from her as I reasonably could. But I never left for good and I always came back. Following are some excerpts from a story I wrote for a writing class. It wasn’t really a story; it was a list of recollections. So here are some random memories of Mother, for Mother’s Day.

1. Her eyes used to be dark brown, very big. Uncle Hoy said she was the prettiest girl in the community where they grew up, which was Blooming Grove, Tennessee. In her old age, they faded to almost tan-colored.

2. She wore print cotton dresses in cheerful flower patterns. She didn’t wear pants until after Daddy died in 1977, I don’t think.

3. She fell and cracked her kneecap chasing my dog Whitey around the yard when I was 8 or 9. She was trying to throw away sticks blown off the trees by a storm. He kept fetching them back, and she yelled, “You stupid dog!” and chased him with a stick. I laughed and laughed, until she slipped on the wet grass and fell.

4. The only time she ever went to Florida, I took her. I drove from Atlanta in September 1981 and picked her up. We drove to St. Augustine and Daytona Beach. It was the coolest September on record. But she finally saw the ocean, the red and orange sunrises and sunsets, walked in the edge of the surf, and sat in a beach chair on the boardwalk with some other people, who seemed elderly to me. We went to Marineland, and she was too tired to walk from one show to another. That’s when I knew she was sick, not just getting older. She was sick ever after that. Mother must have been about 62 years old.

5. She stayed with me in the hospital for a week when I fractured a vertebra in my back. I was 10 years old, and had been thrown out of a swing when the chain broke on my side–six kids in a porch-type swing in a frame, trying to see how high we could go. I was so bored, because the hospitals didn’t have TVs then (1965?), and she couldn’t drive, so she couldn’t get to the library. She bought me every children’s book in the hospital gift shop, all the ancient paperbacks—Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Elsie Dinsmore. I read them all. I hated Elsie Dinsmore. What a little priss!

6. When I was in high school, she made a trade with Aunt Eunice Settle (Daddy’s sister). We would can a bushel of Kentucky Wonder beans for her, and Aunt Eunice would slipcover our couch. It took both of us an entire day. Aunt Eunice’s work was done in about three hours. Aunt Eunice always got the best of any bargain going.

7. Mother’s hands were always big and knobby-jointed. She said they were like Papa’s (her father, Herman Bowers), while mine were long-fingered and thin like Mama’s (her mother, Blanche Collier Bowers). Papa and Mama both died before I was born.

8. Mother never learned to drive, ride a bike, or roller-skate. She liked to play Rook, a sort of Southern Baptist card game with no “face cards.” Good Christians didn’t play cards when she was a child.

9. Aunt Elsie was Mother’s best friend from the time they were five years old. One day when they were children Mother had a new dress, a rare occurance, and Aunt Elsie wanted to wear it. They switched dresses on the way to school so Aunt Elsie could wear it. That’s how much Mother loved her, that she would do that. Aunt Elsie was an aunt by marriage. She and Mother married brothers; Mother married George, Aunt Elsie married Jesse. Aunt Elsie’s brother, Uncle Floyd, married Mother’s sister, Aunt Mattie Lou.

The entire “story” is “50 Things About My Mother.” I wrote them in a notebook as I commuted by train to Manhattan. I’m glad I got them written down. Happy Mother’s Day to all my family, friends and readers!

Earliest Memories

Reading will carry us through
Reading will carry us through

My book group read a fascinating book this month–not an easy read, but it led to a lot of questions and a great discussion. “Austerlitz” by W. G. Sebald was the book, a novel ultimately about a man searching for his origins and his lost family, a child of the Kindertransport.

We talked about a number of themes in the novel and how it was structured and narrated. It had a dreamlike quality, but also conveyed the destructiveness of buried memory and lost history.

One of the members of our group raised the question–what is your earliest memory? She is a psychotherapist, and she said the stories people tell about their earliest memory often encapsulate all the issues they deal with throughout their lives.

I thought this was amazing. One of our group members had clear memories of being in the hospital at age three, and how frightened and abandoned she felt. Most of us had no clear memories before age four or five.

I started thinking about it, and realized I just had an impression of emotions before I was four or five (and a clear memory of the family’s cocker spaniel, Janie, who died before I was five years old.) Between four and five I learned to read, and I clearly remember the moment when I was sitting on Daddy’s lap, looking at the Sunday comics. He was reading them to me, and I suddenly realized I knew what the words meant. It was like being struck by happy lightning! I started reading to him, and he was so proud.

Hence my lifelong love of words and books. I felt warm, safe, happy and loved, and my brain was totally charged up. I ruled the world! What could be better?

What do you remember? What is your earliest memory? I hope it is warm and happy.