FAMILIES AND MEMORIES
Family ties of love, like bonds of friendship, must be nurtured if they are to reach their fullest potential. Long before the current hullabaloo caused by the political focus on family value issues, I began to plan this article for Seasons based on my own feelings and on thoughts brought to mind by reading and by experiences with our family.
During the summer we had an enjoyable visit with Don's nephew Phil Wade and his family, who now live in Virginia. All the family who could joined us for Sunday dinner — at noon, of course, as we in the country know is the proper time for this meal. After we ate, Phil and our son Andy entertained us with many tales as they relived escapades of their youth — many shared with Lynn Hewlett, Steve Crowe, and their cousin Bill Waller Jr. Little boys and the country seem made for each other—grapevines for swinging, creeks for swimming, gullies for climbing— and these boys took full advantage of all these plus the added bonus of the salvage yard of Lynn’s grandfather, Mr. Gayle Hewlett. Phil and Andy reminded Aunt Annie B. Waller, who was also with us that day, that they knew a stop to see her and Uncle Young Waller during the day would always include the offer of cold refreshing cokes and special choices from a candy bowl. As they told of their adventures, I thought perhaps I should have been even more worried about the boys’ welfare during those times.
Before we scattered for afternoon activities to be followed by a later gathering that evening, we made pictures of the whole group and pictures by generations. I had already gotten many pictures inside at the tables, but the outside pictures seem more in keeping with past traditions in times before modern cameras and video cameras were available to us.
We were sorry that the Wallers from Jackson and Phil’s parents and his sister were unable to join us that day, however, they were all together at still another family gathering in Jackson. I was pleased when Don, as he helped arrange extra tables that Saturday night, asked if my sister Ava and her family were coming. I was so happy that he felt they were a part of the Waller family too.
Our reunions are less frequent now than in the days when Grandmother Waller, who was the oldest in a family of ten children, often had all her family and their families together here for reunions. Now that all the generation of Grandmother Waller are gone, some of their children are beginning to gather for weekends in Jackson, usually ending with homecoming at the church where the Catewoods attended, Mt. Olivet Church, at Lillian in Scott County.
Through the years I have not developed a regular hobby as many people do— the closest I have come is my enjoyment of people, and my grandchildren have greatly enhanced this pleasure. Noticing sometime ago that at family gatherings when both children and grandchildren were present I seemed to have little special interaction with the grandchildren, I began to make special plans to spend time with the grandchildren alone. We have "grandmother luncheons" — with the children as special guests — no parents allowed. Also I plan a special day with the children every year — my "Spring Break." On this day during the children’s spring break we get together for special activities, repeating many of the same activities each year and, as the children mature, I try to add meaningful insight into their roots. This year we began our tour at the south door of the county courthouse. I pointed out the hole in the left side of the door, put there by a bayonet on the morning of September 4,1962, a day many of you also remember. On that date, the first Monday of the month, the Board of Supervisors were scheduled to have their regular monthly meeting. Daddy, Chancery Clerk at the time, and I, a deputy clerk, were among those gathered in the hallway of the courthouse unable to believe the scenes around the square as federal forces brought integration to Ole Miss. On this day Daddy just could not accept the fact that he could not walk out the door and down to Grande’s for a cup of coffee. As he opened the door, a uniformed young man pushed his bayonet into the door. Needless to say, the children’s great-grandfather did not pursue the cup of coffee. When the courthouse was renovated in recent years I wondered if this door would be replaced; it was not.
I took the children into the Chancery Clerk’s office and into the vault there. I told them about the records and proudly showed them the record books with their Great-grandfather Hardin’s name and those with my name too. They had not known of this part of the life of "Pat Pat" (their name for me). I had asked one of the deputies to prepare certified copies of the deed for the property on which each of them live. These pieces of paper, with the seal, were important to them and helped them to understand about acquiring land for their homes. We then saw the will of their Great-grandfather Hardin recorded as written so painstakingly with his left hand, and they were fascinated that he could do so well having been right-handed before the accident in which he lost his right arm.
I explained to the children how fortunate our county is that when the courthouse was burned during the Civil War all records were taken by wagon to an obscure building anti stored for safekeeping. They seemed to understand that, though the building was important, the books were even more valuable.
From here we went up the stairs to the Circuit Clerk’s office. Again I had called ahead and requested copies of the marriage licenses of their parents. Since Miss Emma ("Mi Mi" to the children), their 86-year-old step-great-grandmother, was with us, I had also asked for a copy of the marriage license of her and the children’s Great-grandfather Waller. The huge record books in both offices were awesome!
Next came the courtroom. What is it that always brings a hushed reaction when entering this room for the first time! After explaining the jury box, the witness box, and the judge’s bench, I swore them in as if they were witnesses. I was delighted to watch their various expressions. We all knew we were simply playacting, but nevertheless it was obvious each was impressed with this particular position. This room probably prompted more questions than any other. Television has provided them with a background for courtrooms.
On other days we had eaten at Smitty’s — and I had already told them how this was a popular place, once known as Grundy’s, for coffee breaks and lunches. I had told them on our first visit, how all the waitresses had known just how "Mr. Jesse," as their Great-grandfather Hardin was familiarly called, liked his milk— part buttermilk and part (in his words) "sweet milk."
In the past we have also had cokes and cookies on the balcony of Square Books. I have helped them try to visualize the square with double-parking; grocery stores; drug stores and "dime stores," some with lunch counters and/or ice cream tables; dry goods stores; and hardware stores — much different from today’s square. We talked more about the "dime stores," because Mi Mi had owned one of these — Winters, home of the famous Winters hamburger. I shared with them some of my fond memories of coming to town on Saturday afternoons, sitting with Mother on the courtyard benches as she and other ladies visited for hours.
The grandchildren, Mi Mi, and I also stopped by the bank on our excursion because it occurred to me that they might never had been into a bank vault. I talked with them and tried to answer their many questions as I got out our safe deposit box.
Throughout all these stops and conversations I tried to instill in them a sense of being a part of, of belonging to, a certain place — trying to strengthen their feelings of security. They were thoughtful and attentive to the facts and also to Mi Mi and me, offering their youthful assistance as we climbed stairs and crossed streets.
By this time we were ready for lunch. Unusual though it may seem, one of our favorite picnic spots is a vacant, cleared area at the end of Kingdom Cemetery. None of our spring excursions would be complete without this stop. Here they gulped down lunch, eager to walk among familiar graves. We had brought silk flowers, single stems, to place around the granite slabs on my parents’ graves, and we had brought one small cluster of blue flowers for the grave of little baby Matt, the little brother who, as they all knew, I had lost in an automobile accident. As the only boy, Brett was allowed to place these flowers. As they are older now, I encouraged the children to listen as I read the wording on the markers of Mother and Daddy. After Daddy’s death Ava and I had these markers erected there, including biographical information and listing names and birth dates of Mother’s children on her marker. Each of the markers includes personal data. At some point the children had gotten my camera and they proceeded to make many pictures. Mary Beth was our video camera operator from the beginning of the day. The children were eager to move on to plots which they remembered by special markings. Miss Emma commented she thought she would take a look at her grandmother’s grave. The children stopped, looked at Mi Mi and said, "Mi Mi, you had a grandmother?" They somehow thought it unusual that Mi Mi, age 86, could remember her own grandmother!
In recounting to a friend the day with the children she questioned my taking them to the cemetery as if she thought this might be inappropriate for the children. I think not. I do not myself go there often. I have not found this important to me as I have worked my way through times of grief at the deaths of family members. However, I do want the grandchildren to know and remember that there have been others in my life whom I loved anti cherished and who would have been special in their lives if their times had coincided.
An article in the Commercial Appeal, March 5, 1982, by Linell Smith of the Baltimore Evening Star, entitled "Cemeteries Often Provide a Reminder of Family Members’ Living Memories," came to mind, and I later looked it up to read again. It is a beautifully written account of the importance of knowing about family relationships. It also discusses changing trends in cemeteries from the days when many plots were purchased for the use of an entire family. It says, "The fact is, people who aren’t together in life are not getting together in the cemetery either."
Our last stop on the "Break Day" was in Delay with my Aunt May Denton, the children’s great-great aunt. They usually see her only on these occasions. Last year each of them took greeting cards they had made, and Mary Beth had played the piano and they sang familiar hymns with Aunt May joining in. Aunt May has always loved children and I feel they sense that. Aunt May’s daughter, Mary Johnson, was expecting us this day, and Aunt May was sitting up awaiting our arrival. Happily each child wanted to stand by her chair. One of them patted her arm. They shared little gifts which they had brought and then, before leaving, one by one each went to hug her and say "Good-bye."
As we rode throughout the day, I, as always, explained certain landmarks, among these were New Prospect Church, where "Daddy Don" (their name for their granddaddy) and I were married, and the house where my family had lived when Daddy Don and I were married. I knew Mary Beth had the video camera but did not know she was recording the speedometer over my shoulder to the delight of them all! I was glad on this day that I had stopped Don when he was about to sell "my" station wagon. Although son-in-law Bob has used it for several years, I still consider it mine. I’ve always enjoyed it and used it as my pickup truck, and I need it for Grandchildren Times.
The Sunday following our big outing Don and Miss Emma and the children went to Clear Creek Cemetery. There they again made pictures at Granddaddy and Grandmother Waller’s graves. Mary Beth — the oldest — remembers Granddaddy only slightly. The grandchildren do not remember — and most of their parents hardly remember — Grandmother Waller, who died in 1961. Everyone is grateful there is a place by Granddaddy for Mi Mi — her marker is already there. She has been an important part of our family since December 30, 1962.
Each summer Don and I also plan a weekend in Memphis with the grandchildren. This year we met Don on a Friday afternoon as he returned from a business trip. We saw a movie and had supper, and Don and the children were playing in the pool at 10 p.m. Don must surely have been exhausted but fell in gladly with the fun. The three younger children were climbing onto his shoulders and diving off. Of all the things we plan for them on these trips, the children seem to enjoy Don and the pool most. I often rest a bit during the pool time. Once while we were at the Peabody I commented to Don that no one else seemed to come to the pool. Don replied, "Oh, others come — they usually don’t stay too long." I could easily understand this! During our Memphis weekends we break the rules! Junk food, which I shop for very carefully, is available at all hours. We claim grandparents’ privilege, and we have a blast.
It concerns Don that we are away from worship services on these Sundays, so he leads us in a brief time of scripture reading, prayer and singing of favorite hymns there in the hotel room. This is a priceless experience, and I have cassette tapes made (secretly) during these trips. Before we had a video camera, I often made audio tapes at home. One I prize highly is Granddaddy Waller’s saying the blessing before the meal on Andy’s 21st birthday.
We want the children to visit us in Jackson too. Granddaughter Joanna and her friend Katie Beard visited us there for several days recently. When I first met Katie the girls were surprised when I told them that their great-grandparents had been first cousins. While Joanna and Katie were in Jackson we toured the Governor’s Mansion, and I told them of the night the Waller family spent there while "Uncle Bill" was governor. I told them how we had sat and visited in the Rose Parlor. I made notes that night of conversations, and we have many, many pictures. Those with Granddaddy Waller are special ones. Another day on their recent visit we took Joanna and Katie to the capitol. They were impressed especially with the beauty of the rotunda. An excellent guide for walking tours is available, and we found our senator’s and representative’s seats in the chambers. In the Hall of Governors I made the girls’ picture standing beneath "Uncle Bill’s" portrait.
I regret that we no longer have Homecomings at Clear Creek Church. I wish so very much the children had these memories too. Through the years I got many pictures of the Homecomings— some with a movie camera, which Ava tells me I can have put on video tape. How grand!
I am making notes for a family history. I shall probably include biographical information, but largely I want to record how people lived, recounting anecdotes which have been passed along from one to another. I have written of family gatherings, including names of those who attended, food we served, antics of little ones (some of these are so choice!), and other activities of the days. Although my history may never be in orderly fashion, my movies, pictures, funeral home newsletters, Christmas letters, and other notes and memorabilia tell much about our family life.
Recent articles I have read have reinforced my feelings of the importance of family memories. In the July 8, 1992, issues of The Commercial Appeal, there was an article, "Family Rituals," which quotes from Rituals of Our Times, a book by Janine Roberts, a family therapist at the University of Massachusetts, which will be published by Harper Collins this year. The article stresses the importance of establishing family rituals, giving evidence that children fare better emotionally when family rituals are observed.
Since I am now 60 and the latest grandchild, Andy and Linda’s Charles Andreth ("Chase"), is not yet six months old (born March 20, 1992), I may not get to be with him as I have the others. My best solution is to write him letters and send him cards, which I hope his parents will share with him when he is older. I just visit with him on paper about how we rejoice that God has given him to us, what a good mother and father he has, how much fun he will have with his four cats and two dogs, how he has so many trees in woods nearby where he and his friends can play; and I tell him about his daddy’s childhood. When I told Ava about these letters, she looked a little puzzled, but, after I explained and she gave it some thought, she suggested I might do the same for my great-nephew, Cody Hill, her grandchild.
We are so happy with Chase — all quite taken by his every move. Our family needed a baby. Sally Kate, the youngest of the other four, will be 9 on December 7. Mary Beth, the oldest, became 15 on August 21, and I’m filled with dread that all will too soon outgrow Pat Pat’s specially planned grandchildren events.
August 30 will be another important family milestone when Chase is christened at the Tula Methodist Church, where his parents were married in November 1987. I have asked permission to place flowers in the church for this occasion. The arrangement will include some small flowers which dry well to be later arranged in a shadow box and become a keepsake for Chase.
Holidays are wonderful times to make memories — and I could fill pages with my own memories of these times past. But I will relate only our last Thanksgiving Day, which was one of our most memorable. Everyone gathered at 5:30 for our meal together. Included were our children and grandchildren; Ava, Ed, and all their family (Cody Hill, too); Aunt Annie B. Waller; Miss Emma; and Aubrey Briscoe (Granddaddy Waller’s first cousin lovingly known as "Mr. Biggun"). The grands came on Wednesday, and, with Mary Beth’s supervision, did the tables. They made Indian teepees (from cone paper cups), place mats from brown paper bags (each one different and a masterpiece). They also arranged centerpieces. Sally Kate thought one autumn leaf in each plate was a nice touch. They have all learned to lay the tables with plates, flatware, and napkins.
After we ate, the younger ones did selected Thanksgiving readings. Brett led a responsive reading. Joanna gave a Thanksgiving poem. Sally Kate recited Bible verses. Later I found a small crumpled piece of paper on which 5K. had made notes. Of course this will be in her file of my keepsakes. By each plate three corn kernels had been place(l to signify the sharing of three things for which we each were thankful. We all joined in singing the Doxology as closing. It was a beautiful, sacred time!
One of the most delightful and inspiring books I have found recently is Fat hero! My Heart, by Janette Oke. It contains selected readings from Seasons of the Heart for meditation and inspiration. The meditations are thoughts and actions of young Josh as he is reared by grandparents following the deaths of his parents. ,Josh sits listening to his great-grandfather, Gramps. Gramps talks about his "family". "Sure we were a family. You didn’t have to be a ma and pa and four kids to be a family. All you needed was people livin’ together and lovin’ and helpin’ one another. That’s what made a family — blood-ties and love-bonds. I [Josh] straightened up taller in my chair. I was right proud to be a member of this family."
Josh’s grandpa speaks on memories:
"Memories are beautiful things, Boy. When the person ya love is gone, when the happy time is over, ya still have yer memories. Thank God for this special gift of His. Ain’t no price one would settle on fer the worth of memories."
While sharing with you these very special times with my family as we have made memories, I have thought of many of you who will be reading these words who are personally a very important part of my recollections, and I agree with "Gramps":
"Ain’t no price one would settle on for the worth of memories."
We dedicate this issue of Seasons to those who have died and whose families we have served from June 1, 1992, to August 30, 1992.
Mrs. Rita Miller Hartin / June 1
Mr. Edward Russell Blair, Jr. / June 4
Mr. Harless Earl Hudson / June 7
Dr. Louise Byrum Burnette / June 14
Mr. Joseph Therman McCain / June 16
Mrs. Helen Hathorn Baker / June 17
Mrs. Catherine Mae Fernandez / June 24
Mrs. Jessie Hudson Tidwell / June 27
Mrs. Ruby Howell Montes / June 29
Mrs. Shirley Coleman Crockett / July 1
Mr. Chester Allen Heaves / July 2
Mrs. Nona East Woodward / July 5
Miss Mary Kate Black / July 6
Mr. Franklin Hay Gibson / July 7
Mrs. Barbara Boyll Thorne / July 8
Mrs. Sara Harlan Morrison / July 9
Mr. William Whitman Rowland, Sr. / July 10
Mrs. Louise Gallegly Shaw / July 11
Mr. John Edwin Dunlap / July 15
Mrs. Edith Neal Davis / July 20
Mrs. Beatrice M. Heston / July 25
Mr. Robert Clarence Brown / August 2
Gregory Kyle McChesney / August 3
Mrs. Dora Long Tarver / August 5
Mrs. Mildred H. Cooke / August 6
Mr. Lonnie Wayne Weaver / August 8
Mr. James Curtis Spence / August 10
Mrs. Louise Higdon Gregory / August 12
Mrs. Marjorie Tankersley Lewis / August 15
Mr. Jesse Davis Barton, Sr. / August 22
Mr. Leonard Richard Bray, Sr. / August 23
Mr. Alvis J. Percell / August 26
Mr. Chesley Watson / August 27
Mr. James Buron Pickens / August 28
Mrs. Mamie Houston McNeely / August 29