ESTELLA RAPIER HARRINGTON LETTER
September 3, 2009
“… You asked me where grandma was buried. I don’t know. If she died in Alcoa or wherever they lived at the time is probably where she is. I wish I knew. Mom said she was buried in a cemetery but she was so young I don’t believe she knew the name of it. My mom was the greatest mom anyone could have. Of course I didn’t think so when she got the switch or belt out. She taught us so much of life. She had a hard life, but never ever complained. Heaven knows what her childhood was like. When we went to Tennessee in 1937, grandpa didn’t even have an outhouse. Go behind a tree, he would say. You would think they could dig a hole and put up a little privacy. They had this cellar in a hill for their vegetables and fruit. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Guess no way to get lumber back there. We had to park the car and walk a long path to get there, and to be told to stay in the path because of rattlesnakes. That was as scary when mom would send me to the basement to get carrots out of the sand barrel. She would say don’t let raw headed bloody bone get you. I can feel my eyes getting big just like when I was a kid. Mom always had a day bed in the kitchen where she spent most of her time. That way she could watch the baby napping or care for a sick child. She taught us how to button our shoes, yes, way back then ,buttons. She held our hands and walked backwards so we could learn to skate. How to ride a bike and I bet she was never on a bike. How to plant a garden. How to plant by the moon. We never had a garden that failed. How to save the beans we dried for that pot of beans and ham or a pork chop or bacon or salt pork and cornbread. How to churn butter, how to separate the cream from the milk, but had to leave some in for us to drink. She made our cottage cheese and oh could she fry chicken ! Week days like on Friday she baked bread. How silly of us. I’d give anything if I could smell the bread baking again. How to can fruits and vegetables even though you don’t have a pressure cooker. Put a tub full of water outdoors on some cement blocks, build a fire under it and boil it 10 minutes. Oh, those bushels of beans to be snapped, cutting corn off the cob, boiling beets and slipping the peels off then can them. When we butchered, rubbing that salt in the meat then packing them in a huge box dad brought home. We didn’t have electricity on the farm so dad nailed an orange crate box outside of a window in the winter that was our fridge. Raise the window and get what you need. If you didn’t have a clothesline, use fence. Mom taught us to make feather beds, make quilts, embroidery, so many things. How she would come pull the quilts up around our necks and tell us to lay real still and we would get warm. I still do that eighty-six years later. Dad wasn’t around much , he worked even through the depression. Then he repaired cars after work. He was home, but in the garage. They both taught us to love God, love our neighbors like the Bible says. Family is togetherness. If someone needs help then help them if they need a safe place to land open your door and arms wide open. During the depression if someone was evicted, they came to dad. We would take them in until dad found them a place to live. I suppose he paid the rent. The pastor of our church would tell dad when someone needed help . We would go home, mom would have dinner ready if she had to stay home. I can still see dad telling mom about this family needing help. Hurry up and eat, we have to go see Mr. and Mrs. Adams.
To see Mrs. Adams a rack of bones in bed with a baby whose stomach was so swollen like kids in Africa. Mom and dad went back to the farm and brought lots of food back and clothes we could spare for their poor little kids. Mom made broth. I imagine it was chicken broth. Mom made her own stock. She lifted Mrs. Adams up and gave her a little at a time. When I asked why she didn’t give her more she said she would throw up. How did she know that? Dad signed us up for band when we moved from the farm. They taught us morals and always be ready and willing to help people in need. We were taught to be clean in body and home. Every evening after dinner, the dining room and kitchen floor had to be mopped to be ready for the next day. Hold hands and pray. I really had a good life didn’t I ?