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September 3, 2006

Repressed Librarian shares Where am I from?

Over at one of my new favorite blogs, Ya Gotta Believe, Michelle posted today about a meme/writing exercise she did last year based on George Ella Lyons’ poem “Where I’m From.” The rules, the original poem, examples, and even a template to follow can be found here.

I then shared the idea of this writing project with my daughter.  She thinks it might be fun for us to try sometime but she reminded me of something she considers special that I had already written.

I hadn’t forgotten it.  I was just so very happy that she remembered.

It may be lengthy to some and emotional for others but so was Auntie’s life, thankfully.  I have not edited it recently; doing so would certainly cause me to cry.  But if you wish to share my rememberies, you can follow along for


african violets
corn bread and cabbage and stewed potatoes
can’t forget the banana pudding

sleeping with her in her bed
and always asking as soon as the lights were out
“Auntie, tell me a story”
and she did…

she and Dell riding a pony and buggy to school
halloween tricks her mama Iris played
frightening her and her brothers and sisters terribly

the dolls she and Laura Dell made
calling them Margie
and Dr. Green
out of a tobacco stick
a pig sticking stake
and a broken screen door frame piece 
4H and raising chickens
and winning prizes
raising Mama and Jimmy
when she was only 13
the Farmington house burning
Meredith dying from eating little green apples
but not really…
her graduation from high school at 16
already destined to be tending always
to everyone else rather than herself

the way the water tasted at Wingo
and the jelly glass jar I drank out of
where she lived with Thomas and Dell
the green color it made in the bathtub and sink
bottles of water saved for her flowers
the basement full of canned tomatoes and hot relish
going to the the store, Holloway Hardware
playing with the nails and paint and that old cash register
treated to bananas from the grocer across the street
Trade Days and rained-on parades
and the buckled sidewalk out front under big old trees
her picture in the paper when she won the Messenger’s football contest 

Joe going to scout camp
Jan teasing teasing teasing
and marrying the Vice President’s granddaughter
how she loved Dottie
and the sweet gifts she brought her
Scott and Kim and Annie and Laura
more nieces and nephews she was so proud of
Jackie and Stevie and Kathie
scattered all over
Jimmy dying and good Ella stories

the burn barrel down by the fence at the back lot
the path thru the flowers and vegetables and dogwoods
and azaleas and peonies and crepe myrtle to get there
green peas sown on St. Patrick’s Day
turnip greens already sprouting
and the tiny blown-down tree-branch tips
placed tenderly to cover them
the bird bath and feeders always tended
many homemade
amongst the every colored iris beds

sweet potatoes rooting in jars of water
then growing vining twining everywhere
her sitting at the end of the chrome dinette
with the little W. T. Grant tv set
bird books and purple martins
potato salad and chicken livers
riding in the back seat with her
bringing her to Mayfield for the weekend
sneaking peeks in the brown grocery bags she brought
for goodies
always… never wondering if maybe…
her chin dropped to her chest then that wonderful open-eyed smile
saying “I’m not asleep”
then that wonderful laugh
the pocketbook fondly named Blackie
and a Smiths poke safely tucked beside her

pimento cheese and tuna fish salad
Tabasco on baloney sandwiches
ambrosia and dried apple cake
chicken and dumplings
Little Debbies and peppermints
peanut butter and crackers
the way she said PITza and laSAAGna
and TACKos
and didn’t like any of them
cept when Johnny made them…
her jar of Vicks Vapor Rub under the pillow
every night
the kleenix always in her pocket
and the paper towel she always wanted in her hand
except that last afternoon at the very end
I should have realized it
maybe I guess I did even then…

her room
always only one
wherever she was
filled to the brimming with
everything she ever owned
and then some…
collecting everything
crocks and coins Daddy helped find
from antiques and trinkets to milk cartons and tin cans
gardenias she started
magnolia leaves she raked up
and picked up and packed up
til Dan made her a stick to stick-them-up

her sewing machine
a treadle until she finally gave her favorite pastime up
the dresses she made me all my life
til I took home ec and sewed for myself
until again for my engagement parties
13 new outfits for every single brunch tea luncheon
then for Mary Kate frocks by the dozen
so beautiful and pain-stakingly crafted
gifts for our young family
the time she tried to mend the ragged trailing binding
on her Byron’s blanket
she was tending to him while we tended to Daddy
Mary Kate telling her “quit hurting my brother” 
as he cried not understanding
truly only a well-intentioned attempt
to help by once again to be fixing something…

how she laughed even then
all the joy she kept and gave
through the troubled times

when Catherine and Jenny and Bo came along
adding to the list for Christmas towels lovingly hand-embroidered
great-nieces and great-nephews
developing a collection with their own name…
her concern and fear as she traveled with the family 
to Louisville to check on Sharon
after the twins were delivered prematurely 

and the quilts
how she loved to piece and pad and stitch
long winter’s nights with her lap full
treasures all
some worn now with love
some protected with love
warming us twice as nice
forever and always more

she and Mama and Dell
being silly…
them running over her with the car door
and laughing about it
and her being mad and hurt too
not bad enough
but enough…
always relying on Billy Graham
First Baptist Paducah on tv
and radio Sunday School at Mayfield
to sustain her
with a good dose of Graves County and KY Wildcat basketball
helping her see things through too

her disabilities and how Thomas managed that
her crackly voice I never noticed til someone asked
the mastectomy and the way the nurse said
how beautifully she crocheted her signature
because her terror worsened her palsy
but the tremors were always bad…
the foot broken from a misstep into a hole
while hanging clothes in Mama’s back yard
getting her eyes finally done
cataracts be gone!
no more orange and green fabric selections
in place of certainly intentioned pink and blue ones
and going shopping the next week and missing a step
out of a Hancock’s Fabric Shop
flew to the parking lot she did
arms waving waving
we laughed more
she did too
so easy she was to not let on that her feelings were hurt
but I know they were
often times and many
even then her little grin hardly wavered

Smith’s Grocery shopping
Walmart hours of looking touching
secretly they both offered security
of buggies for pushing…
Captain D’s or fish anyplace I guess
mostly Johnny’s grilled specialty only hers
country ham breakfasts and oyster sandwiches
from the rootbeer float place
and the glorious God given grace
for the good times she and I shared
just us two together
simple times at auctions or
flea markets and yard sales
more treasures to pack back
more memories to share
over napping quiet nights
with the volume on the tv maxed
not really reading but seriously inspecting
each and every glossy picture
in her magazine stacks

her apartment the first ever
hers alone
when she was age 77
when Dell and the house at Wingo was gone
Ann helping fix it up
she was delighted as a child
a little scared
and Mama teased her about her playhouse
cause she hardly ever stayed there

until Mama was gone
and she worked too hard to keep things up on South 12th Street
so Johnny and I sold home
and Mammy and Pap made her a flower bed on 10th (extended)
she grew zinnias and tomatoes and parsley and peppers
nurturing sage for flavoring dressing
joyful of the sunflower that reached up to heaven
and gave Lee violets and plants
cause she loved him with all her heart…
even when she wouldn’t understand
what happened to us

and how sad she knew Mama and Dell would be
to know she had to live in “that old place”
after she got too feeble to keep her with me
and she was moved to the nursing home…
and Joe would always call to check
and she wanted Jan to know how much she liked the Christmas card
and Mammy took cookies and sent cards and cards
and she told Mary Kate and Byron and Christina more stories
not long before she was gone
cause her tired time had come
we knew it kinda but it hurt to admit it

lots more
minutes and hours and days and months more
years more
my life she formed
with a lifetime of giving her love
in every imaginable way shape and form
we will share more in the times to come
memories to keep us much more comforted
than ever the quilts she so lovingly labored over

just so the world knows
shout it from the rooftops and mountains
she gave all she had
unconditional love
in every ounce of her
in her every breath
she gave love to all
nature, family and friends,
and God

she wanted me to tell every single one
how much she loved them
with her last breath
and although she could not make the words come
I heard
and I promised her I would tell you

you knew it of course
but please let her know
that I did as she asked

I told her the last thing
to please tell Mama and Dell
and all she has gloriously reunited with now
we said hello

she will never ever
be gone
Dessiree Cochran
January 8, 1913 – February 7, 2001
blessed and resting
in peace

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 5, 2006 12:39 pm

    Yep, that’s it, mama. Glad you didn’t try to edit it and get to crying, cause I’m big teary enough now just reading it.

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