I noticed him as he sat on the motorized shopping cart and guided a half-filled grocery cart firmly with his left hand. He turned into the aisle by the dairy products. He picked up a gallon of 1% Milk. His cart already contained a case of Gatorade and a carton of Mountain Dew underneath the boxes of oatmeal, Oreo cookies, and a bag of Fuji apples. He also had bananas, grapes, a honeydew melon and tomatoes. There were frozen Stouffer’s TV dinners and several boxes of pot pies. He stopped briefly at the cigarette counter, then went on without choosing any. He reached for a bottle of Aleve and a can of shaving cream. He passed by the meat bin, without stopping. He raised his eyes to look at me as he maneuvered past my overflowing cart. His eyes were pale gray, so washed out–hardly any sparkle to them. His hair was neatly trimmed and short, showing beneath the cap he wore. Even now, he was a handsome man.
He was a veteran.
I know because he was shopping in a military commissary, the day after Memorial Day.
September 1980 —The September breeze touches the hickory leaves gently. Buzzing insects twitter across the dry, dusty lawn. Although the rain from last evening helped the grass to turn green again, more rain is desperately needed across the state.—Freeda Baker Nichols
From my journal . . . dated 1980 . . . random thoughts
Days that come as bright as the golden sun filtering from a blue sky. Sun that filters from a blue sky. Sparkles of sun that sifts down in lines that eaglets follow. Birds opening their beaks, reaching for food. Worms. Food for birds. Birds singing. Happy birds. Birds have problems, too. Keep the cat away. Keep the people away from the nest of eggs or baby birds. Many kinds of birds. They sing with different melodies. They are beautiful. They are of many colors. Yellow, black, orange, red, blue, purple.
A million blackbirds flew over the house. They made a huge shadow when they were in the sunlight. They alighted on the bare limbs of the gigantic oak tree. They looked like big leaves on the tree. They all flew to the ground. They looked like a big black carpet.
Her name was Laura Sephrona. She was my mama. I am the sixth of her seven children. Four girls and three boys. Her grandchildren called her Granny.
She braided her black silken hair and wound it around and around her head. Her eyes were blue-bonnet gray. She was short and plumpish when I knew her. In a photo, on a yellowed postcard with crinkled corners, she was dressed in a white blouse, trimmed with tatted lace and a long, black cotton skirt with a small waistband. She wore high top lace-up leather shoes.
She fell in love with daddy the first time she looked into his blue eyes.
In spring, she tended to corn, okra, and other vegetables in the meadow garden. She stored fresh red, round tomatoes in a lard bucket and hung it on a prong of the cedar post that cornered the back porch. The tomatoes were juicy and good, she said, sprinkled with salt.
Her tanned, wrinkled fingers once picked soft gray-white feathers from ducks squawking in rhythm to each yank of snowy down. The feathers made their way into the pillows that we slept on at night.
Mama milked “Ole Jerse” and placed the fluffy foam on pink tongues of orphaned kittens.
Sometimes she doctored me and my siblings with castor oil and she said, “Swallow this. It tastes good with sugar on it.”
I said nothing to disagree with her opinion because the weathered oak bench we were sitting on was beneath Mama’s blooming peach tree.
Mama quilted the quilts for our beds with fingers tender from being stuck by the sharp needles.
She built a fire in the wood stove to cook our meals. She wore an apron made from flour sacks. She wrung the necks of chickens to prepare our Sunday dinners. Sometimes the preacher came for dinner and she always served fried chicken.
She taught her daughters how to become keepers of our homes. By following her example and with the grace of God, the four of us maintained stable homes.
She showed us the milky way and taught us nursery rhymes about starlight.
“Wish I may, wish I might
have the wish I wish tonight.”
She wrote in my diary that “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Beside that, she added the Golden Rule. “Always do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
She taught us the Bible in many ways. By example and by a game she played with us by asking what our dreams were and then opening up the worn leather cover of our family Bible to find these words “and it came to pass.”
And my dreams did “Come to pass.”
I became a writer, a wife, mother, grandmother and now a great grandmother.
My mama was the very best! I loved her with all my heart and I cherish her memory!