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Memory Monday-Helping in the Garden

Memory Monday-Helping in the Garden

Memory Monday-It’s a thing…

Growing up on a farm, I remember Grandpa had a garden behind our house and I remember riding on the tractor with him. You know right up on top of the wheel well which is without a doubt the safest place ever to put a kid. I also remember helping pick beans, tomatoes, and other stuff. I helped in the garden when I wanted to and as I pleased.

Yet, according to Mom, Grandpa was not always so easy going about his gardening help.

She said the fields I had always known as hayfields were cornfields when she was young. The corn was planted by hand at that time. She and her brothers and sisters would make holes in the ground for the corn seed. Once they made the hole and seeded it, they had to cover it and water it. All by hand. The fields are big and there were at least three if you count the area around Aunt Bessie’s house. I imagine it would have taken days to sow the fields.

Once the corn grew a couple feet tall, they had to go back through the pants and thin them out. This meant going back over the huge fields to pull up some of the plants planted few weeks prior. Mom said Grandpa told her and her siblings to pull up two stalks, skip one, and pull up two more. My mom, being the stubborn person she is, pulled all the stalks out of her row. When she told me this story, she laughed even though she got spanked for her efforts. She also had to replant the row she destroyed.

Gardening isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. This was especially true for my mom and her brothers and sisters when they were growing up. On another occasion, the family hoed weeds out of the smaller vegetable garden. Mom said Grandpa criticized the way my uncle Grady hoed. She remembered Grandpa saying something like: “If I couldn’t hoe weeds any better than that, I’d just go in the house.” Mom said Grady dropped the hoe where he stood, turned around, and went in the house. Uncle Grady refused to go help in the garden from then on.

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Memory Monday-Smoking in the Outhouse

Memory Monday-Smoking in the Outhouse

Memory Monday-It’s a thing…

I think I’ve mentioned I used to use an outhouse when I was a little girl. We had running water in our house, but no bathroom. Grandpa and his friends remodeled the house in the early 1980s and added a bathroom. Until the remodel, we used an outhouse near the edge of the back yard. In case you don’t know what an outhouse is: it’s a permanent Port-a-Potty built over a deep hole in the ground where you do your business. Ours had a tall seat for the adults and a smaller, lower seat for the kids. We had a detached building we called the “pump house” where we took showers. The pump house got the name because it’s where our water pump is.

Going to the bathroom at night could be an adventure. Plus, I don’t even want to talk about the spiders! While I remember using the outhouse, other members of my family have better memories of the outhouse. Here’s a story told to me by my Aunt Sue:

“We used to go out to the outhouse and smoke. We thought we were hiding, but the smoke would roll out of the cracks between the boards. Grandma gave me a coffee can full of water one day when some of the other kids were in there smoking. I don’t even remember who was in there, but she gave me the can of water and told me to go throw it on the outhouse. She told me to pretend like I thought it was on fire. I did and as soon as I threw the can of water on the outhouse, I ran back to Grandma so they wouldn’t whip me. I knew Grandma would save me.”

I asked Sue if she knew the smoke came out of the cracks why she went out there to smoke when she was older. She laughed and said, “Well, I don’t know. We just did.”

I talked a little about not being able to tell if a memory is a true memory or built on hearing a story over and over in Kurt’s Motorcycle.  This is another great example. I remember hearing this story as a kid, but always thought it was my mother who threw the water on the outbuilding. I would have written this as my mother tossing the water on the outhouse if I hadn’t talked to Aunt Sue. Still, I enjoy hearing stories about my great grandparents since I never knew them. The “grandma” Aunt Sue was referring to would be my great-grandmother Nora Adkins.

Memory Monday-Kurt’s Motorcycle

Memory Monday-It’s a thing…

Memories are such funny things. With my family being so close, sometimes it is hard to know if I remember these things. Or if I think I remember because I heard the story so many times I’ve created the visual in my mind.

Mom tells a story about me going with Kurt for a motorcycle ride. She says she let me go with him because he promised to go slow. In her version of the story, she watched us from a window. She says all she could see was a blur going up the holler (hollow, if you’re into proper speech). Mom claims he was going so fast, my ponytail flying straight back behind me.

I have this image in my head of Kurt and I flying through the hayfield on a dirt bike as fast as it would go. In my mind, it’s a bright, sunny day and I’m throwing my head back and laughing. I imagine shouting at him to go faster. 

I don’t know if that happened the way I see it in my mind. I can’t remember getting on or off the motorcycle or where we even went. It’s like a snapshot in my mind of much younger versions of us sitting on a dirt bike in the middle of the hayfield. I assume it could have happened. Kurt and his brother David always had some sort of motorcycle or four-wheeler. I just can’t say for sure I remember that particular motorcycle ride.  It is just as possible I invented the memory based on hearing Mom tell the story.

The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla

The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla

The Patron Saint of Ugly

An unlikely and unwilling saint? Aren’t they always? This story of a young girl growing up with a curse and a blessing who wanted nothing more than her privacy and the love of her family.

Why I read this book? Marie Manilla is a local author. Her work came highly recommended by mutual friends and acquaintances. The things that made this particular work stand out to me was the cover art and the West Virginia setting. While reading the book, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop given by Manilla called Monster Theory that explored the use of Southern Gothic and Magical Realism in literature.

What I liked about this book? Hands down: the characters. Everyone of them seemed to come off the page no matter how small their part or scene. The story is told mostly from Garnett’s point of view through a series of recordings for an archbishop interviewing her for possible sainthood. I found a set of reading group questions for this book and one of the questions suggested Garnett may be lying to the archbishop or an otherwise unreliable narrator. She isn’t lying or unreliable. Garnett tells her truth. Her truth may not be “THE” truth, but it how she perceived the things in her life. She maintains she is not a saint and not responsible for the healings attributed to her. She suspects her Nonna is actually responsible and also entertains the thought that the healings are because of environmental factors. Throughout the stories she records, she explains how she isn’t, and couldn’t be, the saint they claim she is. There is a universal quality to the characters that had me thinking thing like “I know this man.”

What I didn’t like about this book? The concept of Garnett narrating the story on a series of tapes took a chapter or two to get used to when I first started reading the book. Aside from that, the male characters seemed to be the most flawed and imperfect. The men in the story were completely overshadowed by the females even the grandfather who acted more like an impetuous brat than the patriarch of a family. While I don’t mind the feminist undertones of the book, I found myself hoping Garnett would have one positive male figure in her life. The closest she gets is a couple of butler types she meets and the bartender her aunt has a flirtation with at the end of the book.

Memory Monday-Are You My Mother

Memory Monday-Are You My Mother

Memory Monday-It’s a thing…

During our trip to the beach this year, Julie and I found a copy of Are You My Mother? and immediately began harassing Mom to read it to us. Mom dislikes that book and says it is because she used to have to read it to Julie multiple times a day. I don’t remember Mom reading it to me, but I do remember the day Mom changed her name and refused to tell me what her name was until I guessed it.

As a child, I used to follow my mother around saying “Mommy” over and over. At least according to her. I have no memory of this. She said the conversation would go something like this:

  • Me: Mommy.
  • Me: Mommy.
  • Me: Mommy.
  • Me: Mommy.
  • Me: Mommy. (All of these in rapid succession without giving her time to respond.)
  • Mom: What, Marsha?
  • Me: I don’t know.
  • Me: Mommy…

What I do remember is at one point, after nearly driving her insane I guess, the conversation changed. This is how I remember it:

  • Me: Mommy?
  • Mom: You say that so much I’m going to change my name and not tell you what it is.
  • Me: Mommy?
  • Mom: That’s it. I’ve changed my name and until you guess it, I’m not going to tell you what it is.
  • Me: Mae.
  • Mom: That is not my name.

I continued rattling off names and her replying “that is not my name.” I’m not sure how many names I went through before I remembered her reading Rumpelstiltskin to me. I guessed that name and that was exactly what her new name was.

I don’t think I ever followed her around saying “Mommy” after that.

A River Runs Through It

This post isn’t about writing. It isn’t about the process of writing or anything I’m writing or have written. It’s about the dang river that appears in front of my house every time it rains. At least every time we have heavy rains. If you’ve read my Memory Monday posts, you know I grew up […]

Memory Monday-At the Movies with Olivia

Memory Monday-It’s a thing…

In the summer of 1984, I was spending some time with my favorite aunt and cousins from my Dad’s side of the family. Aunt Vicki took Olivia, Christopher, and I to see a movie. We went to see The NeverEnding Story. It was awesome! In case you’ve never watched the movie, I’ll tell you now the rest of this post contains spoilers. You’re welcome.

That movie has long been one of my favorite, go to, will watch it again and again movies. I own my own copy to watch when and if I please. It never grows old for me. It has books, imagination, an awesome luck dragon, trolls, danger, and so much more. As a child with a wild imagination there couldn’t have been a more perfect movie.

The movie has one very sad scene. Atreyu has a beautiful white horse for a best friend. He and Artax start the journey together and nothing could be more precious than a boy on a quest with a white horse. Then the duo encounter The Swamp of Sorrows. As they cross The Swamp of Sorrows, they have to keep their spirits high or they will be pulled into the gross, yucky depths of the swamp. Things go alright for a little while, but then Artax has a few issues. Then poor Artax stops walking and sinks. Atreyu pulls on the reins and tries his best to keep his buddy from sinking into a murky death. The horse sinks up to about his neck, the screen fades to black, and comes back to Atreyu sitting on the edge of the swamp crying.

Now, if you’ve followed my Memory Monday stories, you may know my family (Mom’s side) are firm believers in tough love. If we had a family motto it would be something like: Life’s Not Fair, Suck It Up. As a child and well into adulthood, I didn’t cry during movies. Afterall, they were just movies. So I’m sitting there thinking about how much it will suck for Atreyu to have to walk everywhere now. I was probably still munching on my popcorn too. Then out of nowhere, Olivia reaches over and pokes me in the eye.

“Ouch! What’d you do that for?” I whisper to her.

“I wanted to see if you were crying and it’s dark in here.”

I wasn’t crying until she poked me in the eye!

I will say that as I’ve watched this movie as an adult, I’ve often wondered how the heck Atreyu made it out of the swamp. Surely if he watched his best friend and beloved horse sink and die, wouldn’t he also feel some sadness. In The Swamp of Sorrows, sadness and giving up are what kills you so just how did he make it out? Maybe he didn’t like that horse so much after all?

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