Winter is coming again and as I look out the windows here in Idaho and see the first little dusting of snow, I think of the differences where I was raised up here and my husband’s family being raised in Alabama. Many things will be the same, but with kids having more outdoor time during the year in the south, I think they managed to get into a little more mischief once in a while. I know some of you will disagree with me on that point, and that is fine.
My reason for coming to that conclusion is in a story his mother told me one time, years ago. The photo below is my mother-in-law, Katie – or Big Mama as she was more affectionately referred to. The photo was taken at our home in Columbus, Georgia a few years before she passed away. The one beneath it is a picture of her mother and father.
After Big Mama got to the point the doctors wanted her to be under twenty-four supervision, I would go down and sit with her while my husband’s youngest sister was at work. There was a nurse there in the morning, and then I would take over around noon, and then his sister would be there at night.
Big Mama and I would talk about the latest cross-stitch project I was working on or the flowers in my gardens at home, or I would listen to her recount stories about her raising my husband and his brother and sisters. Now Big Mama loved working in the flower beds, but had gotten to the point she was unable to get up or down and was in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, so she did not get out and enjoy them like she had.
Every year at Thanksgiving when the family got together they would draw names to see who would get Christmas presents for whom. It was a lot easier than everybody trying to buy something for everyone else. One year they decided not to draw names and money was a little tight so my husband’s sister and I decided to finish off some quilt tops we had found stashed away in one of Big Mama’s hall closets. We thought it would be more personal and something special since Big Mama had originally pieced them. This way it would be something from all of us to the other members of the family.
So for a couple of months I would go down to stay with Big Mama and I would stretch these quilts in the dining room at her house and she would talk to me and help me by cutting the the lengths of yarn to tie the quilts with. Arthritis had gotten to her fingers and it was hard for her to hang on to things real tight; this kept her busy and allowed her to help with the quilts. One day she told me a story about her and one of her brothers when she was just a little girl.
It seems her mother had her quilting frame set up so when it was time for dinner she just hoisted the quilt, frame and all, up to the ceiling. (I wish my mother had done that! We just climbed under the quilt while it took up the whole living room!) One day Big Mama and her brother were playing choo-choo train. They had found something – probably her mother’s broom – and had set it on fire to mimic the smoke from a trains smoke stack and went running through the house holding this flaming thing above their heads. Everything was fine until they reached the quilt! Whatever they were using for the trains smoke stack was tall enough that as they ran under the quilt, they set it on fire while it was hooked to the ceiling!
If I had set anything on fire, whether I was playing trains with my brother, or not, my hiney would have been set on fire with a kindling stick! My mother was not a mean woman at all, but she believed in children behaving themselves. Setting anything on fire, except the wood in the heating stove, was a definite taboo. You did not play with fire!! The end. I imagine her mother and father were none too happy with her and her brother, either. She didn’t mention if their behinds had a meeting with a kindling stick or not, but that may have been one instance where the Alzheimer’s conveniently kicked in. Or she just didn’t feel it was an important end to the tale. Either way, I thought it was a cute little tale of two kids letting their imaginations getting the better of them.
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