If You Don't Laugh, You'll Cry - Laughing's Better!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Memorable Mother's Days

I have a lot of wonderful memories of Mother's Day celebrations throughout my life. 

As long as my mother’s mother, Beulah Phillips Butler, lived, Mothers’ Day was spent with her.

Beulah [“Granny” to her grandchildren] was born in 1870 and married in 1888. She went to, what back then, was called Belmont "finishing school,” in Nashville, Tn. She was an exceedingly well educated person and strong in every way. She was about four or five inches taller than me so about 5’8” or 9, I suppose.

 Most often in my memory, the day was at my Aunt Hazel and Uncle Gan  [Orlando] Awtry’s home in Acworth, Ga. Aunt Hazel was my mother’s older sister. Mother also had a brother, Carl Butler and his wife, Aunt Fannie Mae, who lived in Acworth so sometimes we went to their house.

Mother and her siblings, six sisters and three living brothers, and all their families got together for almost all holidays and most birthdays. My grandfather died when I was about four as did my other grandfather, within about two weeks of each other. My   Grandmother Hasty died before I was born but we’d have visited her had she been living. My mother was quite fond of her.

So the seven sisters and three sisters in law had a well practiced routine when it came to get togethers. There was no pussyfooting around when it came to what they were to bring either. One aunt was a sorry cook so she most often was told to bring something “bought” or paper products etc. When you count it up, there were twenty adults and about seventeen kids. Also, Granny had two unmarried sisters who lived in Acworth and they often joined us. It was quite a crowd and we ate at the big, round dining room table plus the very big kitchen table and the men often carried their food out to the porches – front, side, and back. Granny had the place of honor at the dining room table and the women sat with her. Sometimes, my aunt’s cook, Oradee, was there and she mostly stayed in the kitchen, riding herd on all the kids. Oradee was lots stricter than the aunts and we had to mind our manners when she was supervising and wielding her long handled wooden spoon.

So as long as Granny lived, Mothers’ Day was mainly about her. After the midday meal, the table would be cleared and all her presents would be piled in front of her and it was fun to watch her open them.

 Granny and her children and grandchildren around 1921.

Me and Dee, about 1962.

Mother’s Day at our house was a far less grand occasion. We gave my mother whatever little presents she received at breakfast before packing up the car and driving to Acworth.

I have several fun memories of Mother’s Days with my own children.

One Mothers Day I especially remember was when my Bruce and Dee, small at the time, decided to make me breakfast in bed. They got up early, slipped downstairs, and made my meal. I seem to remember scrambled eggs and toast and awful, pale beige, cold  coffee. They were about four and six years old and I don’t know how they carried the food up the stairs. Then they watched every single bite I put into my mouth so I couldn’t fudge. The problem was that the eggs were full of shells and I finally just swallowed the entire bites without chewing. By then, my teeth were full of shell anyway!

A few years after that, when my parents arrived on Friday before Mothers’ Day, Tony met them at their car and suggested they just bring their night clothes and toothbrushes inside as he had a surprise for Mother and me. He had made reservations at a beach new to us over in South Carolina. It was a place called Hilton Head Island and our reservation was at a rather new, raw looking motel on the beach. We traveled to the island over a rickety, wood, draw bridge .We had Saturday night dinner at the rather prissy dining room in our motel, the Adventurer. Tony lived in suits and ties all week but hadn’t thought to bring a suit to the beach. So he had to borrow a suit coat from my dad who was 4 or 5 inches taller and lots bigger. It didn’t bother Tony at all and he and Daddy joked  about that.

The South Carolina beaches truly are the widest, prettiest, I’ve ever seen. We used to go to Kiawah Island every summer with Tony’s brothers and their families. We rented a house there way before Kiawah became so upscale and fancy. Good memories!

Another year, a day or so before Mothers’ Day, Tony came home and said he hadn’t yet bought my present. He proposed a trip to beautiful Highlands, North Carolina and wondered what I’d think of that? Of course, I was delighted. Like all Hastys, I love to “hit the road”. “Well,” he said, ”See if you can get reservations somewhere……… and oh, by the way, one of my Brigham cousins who is /was there, died . So be sure to take church type clothes for everyone!” Oh, OK, a funeral for Mothers’ Day, how original! Actually, we laughed about that one, years later. I’d never even met the lady and her family who had a beautiful, summer home in the mountains.

The first Mothers’ Day, after I married, we went to Atlanta to be with my mother. I’d gone to Rich’s and bought nightgowns for both our mothers’ presents. I’d never seen my mother in law in her night gown but I was fairly certain that she wouldn’t be caught dead in a filmy, sexy gown! On Sunday evening, we drove from Atlanta to her house, in Hephzibah, Ga. To say she was startled to receive her gown is an understatement. “Why,” she said, “No one has ever bought anything personal for me like this before.” She had all sons so I guess they bought things like cooking pots etc. Two years later, on the Thursday before Mothers’ Day, she died holding my hand. I am so very grateful for the time I did have with her.

My own mother taught me that any excuse for a small, family celebration is very welcome. We celebrated every holiday; made Valentines, colored Easter Eggs, made pinecone turkeys, cakes for everything. Why, one Halloween, Mother and a neighbor friend, Mrs. Cook, went Trick or Treating with our three and the Cooks’ four kids. The moms dressed like tramps in men’s clothes and did all kinds of nutty things. One thing they did was drag a fat, heavy rope across the sidewalk, in front of walkers, then yell, snake. Of course, we were hiding in the bushes laughing like everything! I could not have been over six years old but remember it vividly.

I have often thought Dee got her acting ability from my mother. She was a character.

I firmly believe that building happy memories and experiences is valuable for the good growth of children. All the electronic devices cannot take the place of a family sharing gentle, good times together. I tried to do this with my children, growing up and now Dee continues the tradition.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Firsts Again

Several people asked me to continue the First Time Blog  so I’ll give it a try.

Here in our ol’ rambling house, my bedroom- sitting room-bath, is next to a fairly large laundry room.  Actually, we think this wing was added well after the house was built. Normally it is peaceful and quiet, except when someone is doing laundry [most of the waking hours] Really, thinking of a nice big room with large washer, dryer, built in ironing board, cabinets etc and outside door to the patio, is a far cry from the laundry of long ago.

My first memory of laundry was that we had a “washwoman,” maybe called “laundress” in the north. She seemed ancient but I was small so she was at least over forty! Her name was Hattie. Mother gathered the dirty clothes on to a bed sheet and listed every single item, often along with size and color. ie, two dozen, white linen napkins, nine dish towels, ten pairs little girl’s panties, twelve men’s shirts, fourteen pairs boys’ cords etc. and maybe six  sheets and twelve pillow cases. Hattie washed all of it by hand and boiled the white items in a big, black, iron, pot, over a wood fire, in her back yard. She most likely used homemade lye soap unless Mother furnished her own, which she usually did.. Everyone had a washboard to place into a tub and rub out the bad spots. We had two or three washboards at home too. I loved the small one, about six inches wide to use for ladies’ undies. All the clothes were dried outside on lines, some after being heavily starched, like Dad’s dress shirts and my dresses. Everything was ironed and folded. Then, we went back ,paid Hattie, and brought it all home. We didn’t do this every week, maybe twice a month or so. Mother also washed at home, always her own clothes and lots of mine. Mother and Hattie were friends and sometimes she came to our house and they drank sweet tea and talked. Long rainy spells and very cold weather were hazards and excited birds were bad news!  Hattie always had beautiful rose bushes because she used the old, soapy, wash water to water them.

I remembered all the above after trying to teach Grandson Mike, 13, how to iron a dress shirt for the first time, a little while ago. He loved the part about using the steam iron. Son Bruce was a little younger than that when I pretty much taught him to do everything around the house. His first driving lesson was about then too. By the time his dad decided to teach him to drive, he was driving beautifully. When they returned from the “first” driving lesson, Tony came in laughing. He said by the time Bruce backed the car out of the driveway and pulled off, it was obvious he was comfortable driving.

My first washing machine was a thing of beauty to me. I’d never used one because my parents sent nearly everything to the laundry or dry cleaner. When we had our first house and baby Bruce was on the way, we bought the cheapest washer that Sears sold. It lasted for years. The first week after it was installed, I washed everything in the house! I’m talking bedding, curtains, throw rugs etc. We’ve never been so clean since then! When Bruce was a toddler, my beautiful machine started making terrible noises. The repairman asked me the problem when he arrived. I said it sounded like it had rocks bouncing around inside it. Later, he came in and said I was exactly correct, the machine did have rocks in it --- and he handed them to me. Of course with a tiny, new baby and a two year old, I’d forgot to empty pockets.

Living in Augusta, I had my own season’s ticket to Masters. One of the directors of the bank gave it to me every year for the 15 years we lived there. He always said I deserved it for putting up with all of them. I agreed with him. He was also a member of the National. My first time to spot a celebrity happened sometime in the mid or late 1960’s. He was no taller than me and had on a trench coat with the collar turned up, in very warm weather. When I peeped around at him, I realized that he had on heavy make up so of course I kept looking. It was Perry Como and he’d apparently just come from an interview. I poked my program at him and said in a soft voice, “If you’ll sign this for my niece, I won’t tell anyone you are here.” He did and I eased away so he’d be able to enjoy the golf.

In my first days of going to the Masters, women never wore pants or shorts. We always wore nice, sport type skirts or dresses, perhaps what lady golfers wore those days. We also wore cute hats that we’d jazzed up one way or another. I had a medium size straw hat with a brim that I refurbished every year, sometimes with artificial grapes dripping over the front or flowers with a fat bumblebee perched on them. One year, I covered the entire hat with real, fresh cabbage leaves but it finally got kind of stinky. The trick was to make the hat heavy enough so that it wouldn’t blow off in the stiff breezes that sometimes whipped around the fairways.

In later years, I gave my Sunday badge to my dad. That way, I could stay home with my kids and cook a big Sunday dinner for whatever guests we had. Getting into any decent place to eat was nearly impossible because of the crowds.

President Eisenhower liked to come to Augusta and play golf, and was a member of the National:

My first visit to the Hephzibah Agricultural Club was fun because I got to say hello to a  diverse group of people, some new, and some I’d known for years. What my husband always called “the farmers’ club” had been around for about a hundred years. Members of his family had been charter members. Though it started as a get together for farmers, members now come from all professions and several counties. A person has to join and pay dues. They meet the first Saturday of the month for a short business meeting, a speaker, and a perfectly delicious BBQ lunch with all the trimmings. The BBQ pit is just back of the wood frame house which sits on a lovely piece of property, just out of Hephzibah, Ga. My husband grew up about ½ mile away, in Hephzibah.

The lunch consists of fork tender pork which has been cooked over an open pit, hash, rice, potato salad, slaw, white loaf bread, and sweet tea. The first time I ever went, Tony said don’t waste tummy space on the starches. You just want to eat meat and hash and that’s what I did. Folks sit at long tables, covered with white butcher paper and eat off paper plates with plastic forks. You may sit next to a prominent doctor, a local judge, a preacher, a truck driver, and/or a real farmer. The food is served, family style, in huge dishes which are constantly refilled by whoever  is taking their turn as server. It took some time and lots of begging but I finally got the recipe for the hash, from a couple of the older members who had been friends of my father in law. It was not written down - they just all know how to make it.

Hephzibah BBQ Hash    ---- easy to double or triple for a crowd

1 lb lean stew beef
1 lb lean pork  [ sometimes I just buy a pkg of  boneless pork chops, cubed]
1 lb onions, chopped
1 lb white potatoes, chunked, peeled

¼ cup tomato ketchup
few drops liquid smoke
1 tablespoon dry mustard, mixed with a little water to form a pourable paste
about ¼ cup vinegar
a large bay leaf
salt, red and black peppers to taste

Cover beef and pork with water, in a large, heavy pot. Boil until tender enough to shred. Remove from pot, save liquid, shred meat, return to pot with the liquid. Add all the other ingredients. Simmer about two hours or longer. Taste and adjust seasonings. Traditionally served over white rice.
Note : I add a tablespoon salt to the boiling water for the meats. The veggies are supposed to fall apart. This will stick so cook on low heat and stir often.

I’m thinking this might be good cooked in the crock pot [after the meat has been shredded].      

A good side dish to go with the hash is this terrific slaw recipe I got from a member of Tony’s family.                                                                  



½  cup real mayo
½ teasp celery seed
2 tabl vinegar
1 tabl grated onion
1 teasp sugar
½ teasp salt
1/8 teasp pepper

4 cups [or 1 whole] cabbage, thinly sliced. I like to quarter the cabbage and slice. Crisp in ice water, then drain well, and pat dry with paper towel.
Add the dressing just before  serving and toss well.
NOTE:  garnish with toasted walnuts ----- yummy –

Augusta is known for good BBQ and I surely agreed after my first taste! I’ve had lots of “firsts” in my life and am always ready for more! [Above shot shows me in a hat, though it was a subdued hat, for church, not one of my Master's creations!]