I don’t want to make life on the Creek seem so hard. Yes, I guess it was but I, along with most of the other kids on that street, learned lessons that are invaluable.
Our life changed abruptly when Daddy died. There was no leftover insurance after Momma paid the funeral cost. Momma had developed a heart problem and diabetes so she had to quit her job at the canning plant. Her face was so sad and is forever etched in my heart the day she came home and told me.
We sat at the dining table eating our supper of watered down tomato soup, that Momma had canned the previous summer, and a pone of cornbread. I felt like I would choke with every bite because I knew whatever I was about to hear could not be good. She patted my hand then broke the news.
She finally stopped talking as she fought the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes, patted my hand and sighed deeply. “Now don’t you go worrying ‘cause we’ll get by. God has always provided for us and He ain’t about to quit now.”
I thought I had an idea and a bright smile spread across my face. “Momma we can do like the Barbersons down the street. Susie says they don’t have to watch their food because they get some kind of stamps from the county and Momma they even get money!”
She shook her head sadly and sighed deeply as she put her hands on the table, pushed to standing then walked to the sink. Her back was to me as she turned on the faucet and filled the big canning pot. Our hot water heater had quit shortly after Daddy died so we had to heat all our water on the stove. “No.” She hefted the big pot and carried it to the stove. “No Caroline, that’s charity and we don’t do charity. Honey, your Daddy would turn over in his grave.”
I was shocked. “He can do that! He can turn over in that tight casket?”
She turned back facing me and smiled, “No, that is just a silly thing folks say when they mean someone wouldn’t like something. But your Daddy was dead set against any kind of charity.”
“But isn’t Social Security charity? Peggy Ann said we’re poor and live on charity.”
“Your cousin has a big mouth and she doesn’t know what she is talking about. The Social Security we get is money me and your Daddy worked for. Now go wash up and get ready for bed.”
I lay in my bed that night and thought about charity and wondered what we were going to do. I already got stomach aches in school every day because I was afraid when I got home someone would tell me Momma had died like Daddy and I would be all alone.
I wondered where were all the aunts, uncles and cousins who used to visit us at the farm. When they came Momma would cook big meals of ham or chicken or roast and all kinds of vegetables. Everybody raved about her hot biscuits. They usually came on Saturdays because everyone knew we were in church on Sunday and our dinner and supper was leftovers from what Momma had prepared the day before. Daddy said Sunday was a day of worship and rest. Even old Hay-Burner didn’t work on Sunday. The only things that kept doing their job were the chickens and I guess they just didn’t care to rest because all they did anyway was eat, scratch the ground, eat some more and lay eggs. So if we had company it was always on Saturday. Momma and Daddy loved those visits.
After we were all full of good food and cold iced tea the men would head to the front porch to smoke or chew. Even though Daddy raised tobacco he didn’t allow one tiny bit in our house. After the women finished the dishes and cleaning the kitchen they would refill their glasses with tea and everyone went to the porch. The rocking chairs and swing were reserved for the ladies. The men would break out their fiddles, banjos and guitars from the trunks of their cars. Then they took sat on the faded gray steps or around the edge of the porch with their feet dangling over the edge. Daddy played the guitar and I thought he was the best but I wasn’t allowed to say so. If there were babies in the crowd the women would rock them to sleep and back awake. We’d sit there and sing until the sky was gray with pale streaks of pink. When they left Daddy would load them down with ham, bacon, sausage and other meats from our smokehouse. He gave them bushels of potatoes and vegetables from the garden. Momma would ease in a basket of eggs. The people left promising to come back soon. Momma and Daddy would stand side by side smiling and waving until the car was down the lane and out of sight.
One time I asked “Why do y’all always want them to come back ‘cause all they do is eat our food and take the rest with’em?”
Daddy frowned and shook his head and anger flashed in Momma’s eyes, the first and only time I ever saw it. “Girl, that ain’t no way to talk.” Daddy stated in a subdued voice. “The Good Lord has blessed us with plenty and it’s only right to share with friends and family. People get greedy and don’t share the Lord could take what they have.”
So now I figured it might be my fault that we were having hard times but I didn’t want to tell Momma because I didn’t want to see that anger in her eyes ever again.
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Creek Life II