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A Mother’s Day Memory

May 4, 2009

When my grandparents moved to Spartanburg in 1924, they had six children. My grandfather had just started a lumber yard on West Henry Street and was building a new house for his family on West Main Street, all the way out to where the pavement ended. 

While the new house was being built, Pappy purchased two smaller houses next door to each other on Edwards Avenue. The family would live in one. He would rent the other. 

The Abernathy family lived in the same neighborhood across the street.  Both families were large and growing.  Among the Abernathys were Horace and Warren.  A lifelong friendship developed between the two families.

As the home on West Main Street approached completion, my grandfather decided to sell one of the two homes on Edwards Avenue.  Soon, a man made an offer. The house that he wanted to purchase was the one where the Neely family was already living instead of the second house that was vacant. 

Since the West Main Street home was expected to be completed within three months, Pappy agreed to sell the man the Edwards Street house. Pappy offered to pay him three months’ rent until the Neely family could move.

Paying rent for a house when there was a perfectly good house next door did not suit my grandmother.  Mammy asked my grandfather if he could send a driver to help her with chores early one morning.  Charley Norman was the driver.  He drove a lumber wagon pulled by a trusted horse, Old Dan.  Charley had a knack for being able to maneuver Old Dan and the wagon into precise positions. 

Mammy instructed Charley to put the wagon at the back door of the house.  He loaded the icebox off the backporch and the stove from the kitchen into the wagon, along with a few of the heavier items from the house.  Charley drove next door to the vacant house and moved them in. 

My grandmother took command of her many children, as was her custom.  She was a tiny in stature, but a woman of strong will.  Her four older boys, my dad included, moved the rest of the family belongings, one piece at a time, to the house next door.

By mid-morning, Mammy was in her new kitchen cooking a hot meal, another of her customs.  The children finished moving all the items from one house to the other. Charley and Old Dan returned to the lumber yard. 

When my grandfather came home at noon for dinner, he walked up on the porch of the home he had left that morning when he went to work. 

Mammy, on the porch of the house next door, called out, “What are you doing over there?  This is where we live now.” 

Pappy’s response was, “My goodness, woman, did you move the whole house in a half a day?”  She had done just that and put a hot meal on the table by noon.

Hard work is one of the two charteristics of Mammy that stand out in my memories of her. The other strong trait was her faith.

Mammy and Pappy survived The Great Depression by raising sweet potatoes and turkeys.  As the economy recovered, they needed a place to live that would more comfortably accommodate their nine children.

The house had few luxuries, but it was solidly built. It is the home where Clare and I have reared our family and where we live now.

Mammy wanted a parlor in their new home, a throwback to the plantation home she knew as a child in Lena, South Carolina.  The parlor was a small room on the front of the house with a large window on one end.  An oak mantel framed the fireplace, originally intended to burn coal.  When my grandparents lived in the house, the room was furnished simply with two chairs, a small table, a settee, and a family Bible.

Mammy’s parlor was a place to pray.  The family gathered in this room each night before bedtime.  In the small room, Pappy read a chapter from the Bible.  Then, following the scripture reading, Mammy and Pappy knelt with children, and later grandchildren, to pray. They offered prayers for their children and grandchildren.  They interceded for missionaries and pastors. 

In that parlor, Mammy and Pappy prayed for four specific soldiers, three of their sons and a future son-in-law, throughout the duration of World War II.  Prayers of blessing for families, for churches, for this country, and for the world permeate the walls of the small room, Mammy’s parlor.

The final chapter of the book of Proverbs reminds me of my grandmother.

She works with willing hands….
and does not eat the bread of idleness….
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also….
a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

On this Mother’s Day,  let us all remember the good and strong women who have shaped our lives through hard work and deep faith.

Kirk H. Neely
© May 2009
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