By Bill Shepard
There is never a Mother’s Day that I do not write about mama and seldom a day that I do not trunk of her.
Mama has been gone a long time. I miss mv mama. I miss her voice, her touch, her advice and her understanding, when I needed it.
I miss Mama with her big bonnet on, to keep her hair dry from the early morning dew and her face shaded from the bright morning sun. At times, I think I hear her calling to me just as she did when I was a little boy and I would be out of her sight.
In my mind’s eye, I see her standing between the long rows of butter bean vines that covered the trellis, which was built for them to climb. If Marna was not in the kitchen when I awoke in the early mornings, I knew where to find her. Mama let me sleep late on days when school was out. In the early summer, if I didn’t see Mama in the kitchen, I would head for the garden and find Mama standing between the rows of beans. The large pocket on the front of her apron would hold all the beans she would need for our dinner meal. Dad would have already eaten his early morning breakfast and left to begin his twelve-hour work day at the mill. Mama always said that this was the best time of the day to get some of her chores taken care of. Mama was always looking ahead and being conservative with everything. She had to be; times were hard during the time of the Great Depression!
Mama saved every small piece of cloth that was left over from sewing small garments that her family needed. ‘They will come in good use for sewing quilt tops to be used later,” she would say. She had a scrap-bag (she called it that) where she kept the pieces of cloth. Come the fall of the year, I knew there would be a “quilting” at our house. Close-by neighbors would come over to our house and take a seat by the quilting frames that Dad had put up. Sometimes their husbands would come too. While the women folk stitched on the quilt, the men folk would sit on the front porch and talk. The men folk talked about their work at the mill, while the women folk talked about sewing, church happenings and the latest family to move to the village. I would move back and forth from the porch to the quilting room. When it was time to stop for the day, the folk would leave while promising to return the next evening. Come winter, I would lie underneath the new quilt and feel all warm inside and outside.
Mama was always looking ahead! She was sewing on missing buttons from my shirts or those belonging to my dad or brothers. She would examine our garments for small tears or places that needed patching. Mama stayed busy all of the time. How she found the time to do all the things she did is a wonder. Washing, by hand, the family’s clothes-no washing machine in those days! No electric iron with which to iron the wrinkles from our shirts. Wash and Wear cloth had not been heard of at that time.
Somehow, Mama found the time to do all those things and yet cook three meals every day of the week, gather the eggs from the chicken yard, hoe in the garden, sweep the yards and bake a cake for the Sunday meal! When blackberries ripened in the pasture, she found time to make blackberry jam.
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.
His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C. 29673.