Snow Days

We had a snow day here in New York on Thursday.  The city that never sleeps rarely shuts down, but the kids did get a day off from school.  I took a PTO day from work and avoided a snowy, icy commute.  It was nice to have a day at home, but I don’t have the enthusiasm for snow days that I did as a child.

Snow days were rare where we lived in Tennessee.  We usually got ice storms and just a little snow, maybe twice in the winter.  The state of the roads decided whether the schoolsnow-day buses could run.  Every time the weather forecast called for sleet or snow, I did a “snow dance” in the living room in front of the TV. Waiting for the school bus on a country road in the dark and cold of winter was not my idea of fun, and I was thrilled whenever we didn’t have to go to school.

Snow days were actually cozy as long as the power didn’t go out.  Ice on the trees often meant broken branches and downed power lines.  We had a wood-burning stove in the garage for emergencies like that.  Daddy made sure we always had a stack of wood split before winter came so we were prepared.  Snow days were a little bit of a break for him when he was a school bus driver, although he always had to feed the cows in the winter, no matter what the weather.

I remember one storm where we were out of school for two or three days on account of the ice.  When the roads began to clear, Daddy drove Mother and me up to my aunt and uncle’s house on the main road.  Aunt Eunice had made her version of spaghetti for lunch.  Friends of Italian descent, make sure you’re sitting down when you read this!  It involved ground beef and canned tomatoes, and was cooked in a crock pot.  That was the only spaghetti and meat sauce I ever had before I went to college.  It was a little greasy–I guess that was the ground beef!

After lunch, the adults played Rook, a card game that doesn’t have face cards.  They were brought up that normal playing cards were sinful, so Rook was the game of choice.  They would laugh and joke, and I read a book.

Daddy had an inspiration one snow day when I was in high school.  He took the hood off an old car which was no longer working, turned it upside down, and fixed it to the back of his tractor with a chain.  “Baby doll, you want to ride?” he asked me.  I enthusiastically jumped in, and he hauled me up and down the road on that car hood sled.  My cousins Dale and Don asked to borrow it when we were done, and Daddy unhooked it from the tractor.  They pushed it off a hill in their yard and jumped on board.  It was impossible to steer, so they ran straight into a tree.  One of them broke his arm–I think it was Don.

Share some memories of your snow days!


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!

Ice Storm

This winter has been very mild so far, except for a weird October snowstorm.  I’m not sure why I’ve been remembering the ice storms of my Tennesee childhood.  Maybe my sister Sherrie sparked the memories with her account of a storm a few weeks ago on their farm.

Snow was rare where I grew up, and always the occasion for celebration.  I got out my sled, and Daddy played with me as the runners sank into wet slush.  Ice storms were more common.  Rain would begin to freeze, then coat trees, roads and the ground with a glittering layer.  When the sun came out the next day, everything sparkled.  The reflected light was almost blinding.

Often the ice on the road would cause school to be cancelled, since the school buses couldn’t run safely on their long routes through the country.  There weren’t any snowplows or salt trucks, so we had to wait for the ice to melt before school could resume.

Sometimes the ice would be heavy enough that tree branches would break and fall on the power lines.  If the power was out in many places it could be days before it was restored.  The poor folks who went through this after the October snowstorm here know what that is like.  We had resources on the farm, however, that made a couple of days of ice storm aftermath seem like a holiday to me.

Daddy hooked up a generator to the freezer so our frozen food wouldn’t spoil.  We had a wood-burning stove in the garage, which never had a car in it, so the garage functioned as a den.  Mother cooked on top of the stove, which can’t have been fun for her, but I thought it was great.  She even allowed my dog to come into the garage, when normally he was banished to his doghouse.  Often my aunts and uncles on the main road would get their power back faster, so we were invited for lunches and dinners with them.  Afterwards they would all play Rook, the only card game they were allowed as young people and still their favorite, and laugh and talk.

Two days was about my limit, however.  After that I really wanted to be back in school with my friends since none of them lived nearby.  But a couple of days off with my aunts and uncles, and time to read all I wanted to, was a real treat.

Recipe: Aunt Geneva’s Coconut Pie

Aunt Geneva was my mother’s youngest sister.  She was feisty and funny.  In her young days, she pushed the boundaries of behavior in their country community before World War II.  Aunt Geneva smoked, and drank when she got the chance.  She and their brother, Uncle Jesse (known as Fatty because he was so thin), played harmonica and guitar and sang at parties, which was expressly forbidden by their hard-core Baptist church.   Mother told me it was permissible to sing, but not to play instruments at a “play-party.”  They also were not allowed to play cards except for Rook and Old Maid.

Aunt Geneva was the only one of the sisters to learn to drive a car, work outside the home, and marry someone outside of the community.  She continued to work at a plant that manufactured shoe soles while raising two boys.  I was always happy when she came down to visit Aunt Lou because Uncle Fatty would come over with his guitar, and they would play and sing the old songs, as well as “Little Brown Jug,” “Froggy Went A-Courtin'” and “In the Pines.”

Here is the recipe for Aunt Geneva’s coconut pie.  It is not a coconut cream pie, but a dense, sweet, custard pie, and very easy to make.

Geneva’s Coconut Pie

1 cup sugar

1 cup milk

5 tablespoons flour

dash salt

2 or 3 eggs (2 large, or 3 smaller)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 can coconut (or 1 cup flaked coconut)

1/2 stick butter

Mix all ingredients.  Bake in unbaked pie shell at 350 degrees about 45 minutes.

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