A MOTHER’S DAY MEMORY
On Mother’s Day I arranged for our family to have a meal with Clare, a meal where she did not have to cook and clean up the kitchen afterwards. I took those who could attend out to eat at a local restaurant. Clare brought individual notebooks and crayons for the grandchildren to enjoy while we waited for our orders to arrive. It was a happy occasion.
During our time together I shared a story that is a favorite family memory, one I heard many times from my dad about his mother.
When my grandparents moved to Spartanburg in 1923, they had six children. My grandfather, who had just opened a lumberyard on West Henry Street, 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.
As the home on West Main Street approached completion, my grandfather decided to sell one of the two smaller homes. Soon, a buyer made an offer, but he wanted to purchase the one occupied by the Neely family, not the house that was vacant.
Pappy agreed and offered to pay the man three months’ rent until the Neely family could move.
That proposal did not suit my grandmother. Mammy asked Pappy to send Charlie Norman, a driver from the lumberyard, to help her with chores early one morning. He and Old Dan, a trusted horse, pulled up in a lumber wagon. Charlie had a knack for being able to maneuver Old Dan and the wagon into precise positions.
Mammy instructed Charlie to park at the back door and then to load the icebox off the back porch, the stove from the kitchen, and several heavier items from the house into the wagon. Charlie drove next door and moved the items into the vacant house. Charlie and Old Dan then returned to the lumberyard.
My grandmother took command of her many children, as was her custom. Though tiny in stature, she was a woman of strong will. She supervised the four older boys, my dad included, as they moved the remaining family belongings, one piece at a time, from one house to the other.
By mid-morning, Mammy was settled into her new kitchen, cooking a hot meal, another of her customs. When Pappy came home at noon for dinner, he walked up on the porch of the home he had left that morning.
Mammy, on the porch next door, called out, “What are you doing over there? We live over here now.”
Pappy responded, “My goodness, woman! Did you move the entire house in half a day?” She had done just that and also put a hot meal on the table by noon.
One characteristic that stands out in my memories about Mammy is her hard work. A second strong trait was her faith in the good Lord’s provision. Coupled with her force of will, that faith sustained the family through the Great Depression.
During those difficult years Pappy lost the lumberyard and the beautiful home on the Greenville Highway. The family moved to a rented house in Cedar Springs. Pappy bought a run-down mule off of the chain gang, nursed the mule to good health. He planted a large garden to feed the family. He raised sweet potatoes and turkeys to sell. During the Depression their ninth child was born. With grit and determination and strong faith the family made it through those difficult years. My dad would later remember, “We always had a roof over our heads and enough to eat but nothing extra.”
As the economy recovered, my grandparents needed a home that would more comfortably accommodate their nine children. Pappy bought a tract of land on Union Road with no collateral except his word of honor. In 1937, he and my Uncle Asbury built a lumber shed on one end of the land and a home for the family on the other. The house had few luxuries, but it was solidly built. Clare and I live there now. We have reared our family in that home.
Mammy wanted a parlor in their new home, a throwback to the plantation she knew as a child in Lena, South Carolina. This small room on the front of the house contained a fireplace framed by an oak mantel. My grandparents furnished the room simply with two chairs, a small table, a settee, and a family Bible.
The family gathered in Mammy’s small parlor each night before bedtime. After Pappy read a chapter from the Bible, my grandparents knelt with their children, and later grandchildren, to pray. Blessings for families, churches, this country, and the world permeate those walls. Throughout the duration of World War II, my grandparents prayed for four specific soldiers: three sons and a future son-in-law. All four survived the war.
That is the Mother’s Day story I told my children and grandchildren.
Mother’s Day is a time for all of us to remember the good and strong women who have shaped our lives through hard work and deep faith. Clare is that kind of woman, as are our daughter and our daughters-in-law.
The final chapter of the book of Proverbs describes women like this.
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.
If there are women like this in your memory or in your life now, you, too, have reason to be grateful. Share their stories with your family. Those memories will be treasured.