Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home

It seems the older I get, the more I miss my childhood, and the more I yearn to go “Home.” Yes, my present house, the one I have lived in for a little over twenty years, is home, but I’m referring more to a state of being than a physical place.

I will say, though, that the old, weathered house where I spent the first twelve years of my life is a big part of Home. It had no indoor plumbing, and we relied on heat from the fireplace in the front room and the wood cookstove in the kitchen in the winter months to keep us warm. Most places inside were still cold if you weren’t in the kitchen or right in front of the fireplace. My siblings and I slept under quilts my mama had made from fabric scraps. On frigid nights, the layers were so heavy I felt almost pinned to the bed under their weight. But I wasn’t cold. Many mornings I woke to the cloud of my breath and the smell of baking biscuits and sizzling bacon.

In the summer, there was no escaping the heat. I had never known the luxury of a fan to sleep under, let alone air conditioning, so I don’t recall sweating interfering with my sleep. In the height of summer, Mama canned vegetables from our large garden. My sisters and I were often recruited to help, and let me tell you, if I had to be in that hot, stifling kitchen today, I would probably pass out.

I don’t look back on those times as hard, though I’m sure they were to my parents. They bore the bulk of the work and let us children have plenty of playtime. We roamed our large farm/ranch and the lands surrounding it (which at that time was still primarily woods), played in the branch, and because we had few toys, improvised our own. We used our imaginations to be cowboys, Indians (that’s what Native Americans were known as then), play war, and sometimes, my sister closest in age to me, and I played with dolls. But outside was the preferred place to be.

I’m old enough to know that I look back on those times through rose-colored glasses, but I think most of us do, even those whose childhoods weren’t so great. Some people have horrific childhoods with little to no good memories, but most of us fall somewhere between idyllic and horrific. And I think we recall more of the good than the bad over time.

My mama had a hard childhood. Her family was dirt poor, and her father was an abusive alcoholic, and though Mama’s mother was kind and gentle, I don’t think she protected her children from their father. In that day and time, the man was the king of his castle, and what he said (or did) was the law. I believe, though, that Granny endured most of his physical violence. And you know, one would think my mama would have no desire to return to that time in her life or see her father again. But…

In the final months of her life, when my siblings and I were caring for Mama, she often spoke of her parents. She was old—eighty-seven—and after a series of mini-strokes (we think), her mind was slipping away. Frequently, she believed she was still a child, and her children were people she didn’t know who were taking care of her. She would ask us if Mama and Daddy knew she was there (Maybe in a hospital?) and when would they come to take her home. We always reassured her they knew and would be there as soon as she was well enough. What else could we do but make her passing as easy as possible for her both physically and emotionally?

Mama departed this earth eighteen years ago this month. And just like she wanted to go Home as she was dying, for several years now, I’ve also felt that urge to return Home as I know it. I don’t get it—what’s so magical about our childhood that makes us want to return there, that makes us hope that if there is a Heaven, it will be Home? Is it the innocence of that time in our lives that beckons to us, calls us back to the safety we felt beneath our parents’ wings? All too soon—especially in today’s world—that innocence is ripped away, and we see the ugly side of life.

As we grow older, we don’t necessarily grow more content. And we look back, look back, on those perfect halcyon days, wanting to go Home.

©2022 KT Workman


“Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” written and performed by Joe South

Image by RitaE from Pixabay

A Christmas Memory

We all have a favorite Christmas memory, and mine happens to be one of my earliest—
As all kids do, I would pilfer around under the tree in the days leading up to Christmas, looking at the presents and looking for my name, and shaking those of course. When I was around five or six, at a certain point in all the looking and shaking, I realized my mama didn’t have a present under the tree. And that made me sad. 
I remember going into the kitchen where Mama was working (she was always working at something) and asking why she didn’t have anything under the tree. I don’t remember her answer, but she must have seen the distress on her youngest’s face. She didn’t tell me that providing Christmas for seven children put a severe strain on her and Daddy’s limited resources; she didn’t tell me they didn’t have the money to buy presents for themselves; she offered up a solution instead. She gave me a powder compact she hadn’t yet opened, a small square of Christmas paper, and told me I could wrap it up for her.
To this day, I still remember how good it made me feel to put that small present under the tree for my mama. And looking back, I think I realized that day that it truly is better to give than receive.

My favorite Christmas song, “Little Drummer Boy”, is about giving; more specifically about the giving of self, whether it’s your time, talent, donating to charities—something other than buying presents that put you into debt, and/or will be shoved in a closet and forgotten by New Year’s day. Make lasting memories instead.

Little Drummer Boy (also known as Carol of the Drum) video
Performed by: Vienna Boys Choir
Written by: Katherine Kennicot Davis

©2019 KT Workman

(Note: This was originally posted on a previous blog. I've been so busy this week, I haven't had time or energy to post, and very little time to read posts of those I follow.
Here's wishing all a very Merry Christmas. I hope Santa brings you all your heart desires.)   
 

Image by monicore from Pixabay

Two Women and a Doll

If you’ve read my profile on WordPress, you already know that I grew up way, way back in the sticks (In my younger days, sticks was synonymous with woods.) about as far as one could get without falling off the edge of the Earth. I was backward, shy, and ignorant in the ways of the world. All I had knowledge of was my family, our farm/ranch, and the few—three or four, I think—neighbors who were within a walking distance of a couple of miles. Our closest neighbors were Effie and Thell Shaw. They lived up the main road a piece in a ramshackle house in worse shape than the one my family lived in. At the time, I had little to no knowledge of indoor plumbing, air conditioning, and other modern conveniences, so to me, their four-room house that had probably seen its last coat of paint in the Stone Age, was a nice place to visit. Why, they actually had a TV, something my family didn’t acquire until I was nine years old.

But their TV wasn’t the main attraction for me; it was Effie, a nice elderly woman who was either a full-blood Cherokee or close to it. She and Thell sort of adopted my siblings and me as honorary grandkids. She took my sister and me fishing on at least one occasion, digging the fat red worms we baited our hooks with from the dirt right outside her kitchen window where she pitched out her soupy-looking dishwater. Lord, I still remember the taste of the homemade biscuits and sweet onions she brought along for our dinner—lunch to y’all who happen to live up north—on our fishing trip. And her ice cream, also homemade. Pineapple was my favorite, and to this day, when I buy a malt or shake, nine times out of ten, you can bet your butt it’ll be pineapple.

But what I remember most were her dolls, lined up all nice and prim on top of a free-standing cabinet in her kitchen. My favorite was an Aunt Jemima doll that, if memory serves me correctly, was about a foot tall. All decked out in her red-and white checked gingham dress, white apron and kerchief, that doll was beautiful to me. I loved that doll. I adored that doll. And if I washed my hands, Effie would let me hold her for a while. Lord, did I ever covet that doll.

Now on to another set of neighbors: Mr. and Mrs. Little. They were black. In fact, until I started school, I think they were the only black people I recall seeing.

They lived on a farm a tad bit farther along the dirt road that ran in front of our house. Every so often, Mrs. Little would stop on her walk to the mailbox, which was located on the main road–also dirt–that was a little past our house in the other direction, to visit with Mama.

Now remember here that I was a terribly shy, skittish child. I did well to speak to my immediate family, let alone someone I barely knew. So, when Mrs. Little dropped in occasionally, I literally hid behind Mama. I can remember Mrs. Little telling me in a gentle voice that she wasn’t going to hurt me, but I was sort of scared of her just the same. But I was that way with everyone, not just her, so please don’t mistake my reticence for bigotry. Why, at that time in my life, I didn’t even know such a thing existed.

Mrs. Little is only a whisper of a memory; she came into my life and left before the Aunt Jemima doll. She and Mr. Little sold their place to my parents and moved away before I’d so much as set foot inside a schoolroom—a horror story I’ll save for another time. When I got a little older and a little wiser and looked back on my childhood, I wondered sometimes if the Aunt Jemima doll was a stand-in for Mrs. Little. I wondered if my abiding love of it was my way of saying I was sorry I hadn’t talked to her. If I could go back and change things, I would. But I can’t. And I hope wherever Mrs. Little is, wherever her Lord took her, that she still looks down on me with kindness and understanding, like she always did.

Now on to another chapter in the Aunt Jemima saga…

After years of being a stay-at-home wife and mother, I went to work for Walmart in the crafts and fabric department. One day, a customer came into my area looking for gold hoops, which luckily, we had in supply. Out of curiosity, I asked what she was going to use the hoops for. Earrings, she answered, for—you guessed it—an Aunt Jemima doll. Then she went into detail about how she made the dolls. The base was a tomato cage that supported the full dress-tail; and attached on top of this, the torso and head, stitched in brown fabric from a pattern and stuffed with poly-fil. She painted on the face, tied a white kerchief above the features, and glued the gold hoops on the tiny, delicate ears. She went on to inform me that each doll was made to order; the customer picked out the color of the checkered gingham dress, the color of the apron and kerchief.

At that time in my life, money was tight, but I had to have one, cost be damned. 

I chose red-and-white gingham for the dress, white apron and kerchief—just like the doll that had sat in Effie Shaw’s kitchen. I picked up my doll at the woman’s shop a couple of weeks later. brought her home, and placed her in a prominent place in my kitchen: against the wall adorned with family pictures. And there she stood, all of three feet tall, beautiful and proud. I named her “Mima.”

Mima was already living with me and Husband #1 when our first grandson was born. He grew into a toddler well acquainted with Mima. She had always been there, just like Granny and Ga’Pa.

One day, for some reason, my husband was talking about his own mother to our small grandson. Husband told him that his mama (husband’s mother) lived in town. Grandson said she didn’t. Husband said she did. Exasperated, Grandson said, “No, Ga’Pa, she lives here.” Then he ran into the kitchen and pointed at Mima. “Here’s your mama.”

Needless to say, husband and I had a good laugh. All the time we’d been calling my doll “Mima,” our grandson had been hearing “mama.” To this day, that memory still brings a smile to my face.

Mima stood guard in my kitchen for many years, first in the home belonging to me and Husband #1, until his untimely death, then, later in the dining room of my present husband’s and my house, which happens to be in the city. A few months after the move, I carefully wrapped Mima and stored her away. My reason? I have neighbors and friends who happen to be black, and I did not wish to offend them in any way.

But I never looked upon Mima as a degradation of being black. Lord, I loved that doll and still do. To me, when I looked at her, I looked at my childhood, a time of innocence, a time before the ugliness of the world elbowed its way into my life.

I miss Mima. Sometimes I think about taking her out of the darkness in which she now abides and letting the light shine on her beautiful face once more.

I think about it, but that’s all I do.

©2021 KT Workman


(Note: I know some who read this may think I was/am racist for loving a doll that to some, represents a racial stereotype; nothing could be farther from the truth. I was just a backward, little, country girl fascinated with a doll, and as an adult, associated that doll with two kind women and my childhood.)


Image by 13082 from Pixabay

Summer Treasure

Summer lies hot and heavy on the open field.
The brown grass crackles under the little girl’s feet
As she races from the house to the rambling branch,
Almost—but not quite—bone dry from baked July days.

Long-legged Sister and Brother are already there,
Ankle deep downstream of the constant eternal spring,
Lifting mossy stones, searching for pinchered treasure.
The shy little girl joins them, splishing and splashing
Ignoring their wrinkled brows and hot, flashing stares
Knowing that treasures may go, but will also return.

Soles gripping slimy stones, she lifts a plate-thin rock
Lazing stuporously beneath the blue-green veil.
And there! Treasure! Red-tipped pinchers raised high, it stares
Beady-eyed at her, daring her to make a move,
Daring her to attack—and she does, strikes boldly.
Small hand darting snake-quick, she snares the piqued treasure,
Flings it to the thirsty ground where water-things don’t tread.

Her spring eyes dancing, she charges to the bald bank,
Scoops up the crawdad, drops it in the gallon can
Among the other treasures there, plotting escape.

On the way back to the old, weathered house called home,
Brother and Sister praise the girl’s special treasure,
Eyes rolling, saying hers is the biggest of all.
The little girl smiles, imagines the pride that will
Shine on her mama’s tired but still beautiful face 
When the tale is told; and for that moment in time
Of summer in the South, all is right with the world.

©2021 KT Workman

(Note: Written in free verse, which does not contain rhymes, strict meter, or the use of repetition. It has varied meter, but can use loose iambic pentameter and cadence.)


Image by José Manuel de Laá from Pixabay

Shrinking Violets

wild violets grew
along the dirt road’s hillside
shrinking, they were not
when picked by Mother in May
to brighten our old kitchen

©2021 KT Workman

(Note: A tanka is a form of Japanese poetry made up of 5 lines containing 31 syllables. The 1st line has 5 syllables; 2nd, 7 syllables; 3rd , 5 syllables; 4th , 7 syllables; 5th, 7 syllables. It can have any theme.)


Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

Grandma Workman

I don’t remember seeing my Grandma Workman laugh, or even smile, until after Grandpa Workman passed away. I was around eleven when he died, but I barely remember his death—or him. But I recall that to me, he was a scary, cranky old man who didn’t seem to like children. Funny considering the fact that he and Grandma had nineteen children.

My daddy was the eldest. He was a good daddy, a kind, gentle man who didn’t have a mean bone in his body. I suppose he must have gotten his goodness from Grandma because to hear him tell it, Grandpa had a terrible temper. I recall my daddy telling a story once about Grandpa, something about him getting so mad at a horse that he practically beat it to death. But if Grandpa treated his children and wife like he treated that horse, Daddy never spoke of it—at least not that I know about.

Grandpa died in his seventies. My grandma lived into her eighties. And it was somewhere in that time when she lived alone, when she was free to be herself, that I really got to know her.

When we were in our early teens, too young to date but not too young to like boys, my cousins, sisters Lesa and Jennifer, (You have previously become acquainted with them if you’ve read “The Root House”) and I spent many Saturday nights at Grandma’s home. She’d sit cross-legged on the bed with us and talk about school, makeup, boys, whatever subject our featherbrained minds flitted upon. And even with her gray hair and wrinkles, she fit right in with us giggly girls. She took delight in our silly talk, her blue eyes sparkling like she was right in the thick of it with us—girls on the verge of becoming women. It was easy to forget she was our grandma.

Grandma’s house had two bedrooms, so we slept two to a bed, and we girls took turns on who had the honor of sleeping with Grandma—after we had talked ourselves out, which sometimes didn’t happen until the wee hours of the morning. No matter when we fell asleep, though, Grandma was an early riser, and we were up at the crack of dawn helping her fix breakfast. It was always the same: homemade biscuits, fried eggs, white gravy, and coffee. Grandma took her strong brew black, but Lesa, Jennifer, and I liberally laced ours with cream and sugar. Then, we tidied up the house and talked more.

I never thought about it at the time, but Grandma never had the chance to be a teenager, to be frivolous and lighthearted. She married Grandpa when she was thirteen. Child to wife, nothing in between. I don’t know how they managed it, but my daddy wasn’t born until Grandma was eighteen. Then it was one child after another. Nineteen children! I can’t even begin to imagine what that was like, always pregnant, always a baby at her breast. For over thirty years.

But you don’t ponder such things when you’re a fledging. You don’t think about your parents or grandparents as ever being young, walking the same path, thinking the same thoughts, having the same dreams as you. That comes after you are no longer young, after life has beat you down, and you realize that most of what you dreamed about, most of what you planted in the garden of your life is never going to bear fruit.

Then you wonder: Did Daddy’s life go the way he wanted it to? Did Mama ever dream of doing big things? Was Grandma happy with the hand fate had dealt her?

I don’t have the answer to any of those questions, and I never will. But I do know that for a couple of years, before Lesa, Jennifer and I moved on from just talking about boys to dating them, before we traded our Saturday nights with Grandma to Saturday nights with our boyfriends, we made her life exciting in a way she’d never experienced: we made her young again.

And it wasn’t all one-sided; she shared some of her experiences also: She and Grandpa fleeing West Virginia after Grandpa had beaten a man so severely that the man died. Their trip by covered wagon to Montana, where my daddy was born. The time she threatened to walk out on Grandpa, leaving him with the kids, if he didn’t stop drinking. (And it worked!)

Mostly though, she preferred talking about what was going on in my cousins and my lives. Through us, she lived the carefree, and sometimes heartbreaking, teenage years she never had.

But there are two things she told us girls that have stayed fresh in my mind for all these years. One was her telling us that Grandpa had never seen her in the altogether. Lord, did we ever wonder how they’d produced nineteen children, and he’d never seen her without clothes. And the one I still laugh about today. I can still hear her saying: “Girls, there’s nothing uglier on the face of this earth than a naked man.”

©2021 KT Workman

On a side note—the reason I used the image of an old woman’s bare feet is because I rarely saw Grandma Workman in shoes. One of my sharpest memories of her, second only to her grin that was so like my daddy’s, are her feet.


Image by tatlin from Pixabay

Plinks

Drip-drip-drip, rain slides off the sheet-iron roof,
Plink-plink-plinks onto the wayward tin can
Placed by wily storms or fickle wind’s goof,
Who can rightly say, be it beast or man?

The rain cares not where the gentle drips fall,
Nor gives a thought as the plinks softly sing
To small ears listening behind safe walls,
Lulled to sleep by the drip-drip and plink-plink.

Silently they creep on tiny wet feet
Beneath a cracked pane of misted raised glass.
Aqueous drips and plinks, seldom they meet
Those to whom they sing at two AM past.

Plinks slowly lessen, lightly tread away,
Follow the drips as night steps into day.

©2021 KT Workman


(Note: A Shakespearean (English) sonnet consists of 14 lines written in iambic pentameter, and usually has 10 syllables per line. It has three quatrains and a couplet. Rhyme scheme: a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g.)


Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Mama

Mom
so dear,
I still hear
your soft, sweet voice
in my memories
of a long-ago time.
I was small, you a giant,
quiet and gentle of nature.
You were homemade bread, killer of snakes,
dressmaker extraordinaire, cow milker,
gardener, canner, factory worker,
herder of children, a comfy lap,
the scent of vanilla, honest sweat,
a good example, warm heart,
rough-workened hands, bent body.
You were many things—
Mama to me,
home, sweet home,
safety.
Missed.

©2021 KT Workman


Happy heavenly Mother’s Day, Mama.


(Note: an etheree poem consists of 10 lines of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 syllables. The lines can be reversed in order—10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. And you can do a double etheree, like my poem here, which is 20 lines of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. Or can be written in reverse order.)


Image by Comfreak from Pixabay

An August Day

A hot August day closes its simmering drapes
Sultry darkness creeps in on silent, soggy feet
A hot August day closes its simmering drapes

The sun slinks away in temporary defeat
Mimosas curl their leaves, heave a sigh of reprieve
Sultry darkness creeps in on silent, soggy feet

Katydids, crickets, and frog’s voices interweave
A warm breeze soughs through old oaks, tickles Spanish moss
Mimosas curl their leaves, heave a sigh of reprieve

A whippoorwill calls, shedding the sun’s scorching dross
Fireflies come out of hiding, frolic in the yard
A warm breeze soughs through old oaks, tickles Spanish moss

Through the screened window, Elvis croons, that fifties bard
On the front porch, sweet iced tea caresses damp hands
Fireflies come out of hiding, frolic in the yard

Where children shout “Red Rover!” in my heart’s Southland
A hot August day closes its simmering drapes
On the front porch, sweet iced tea caresses damp hands
A hot August day closes its simmering drapes

©2021 KT Workman

(Note: A Terzanelle is a combination of the villanelle and terza rima poetic forms. It consists of 19 lines containing 5 interlocking tercets, plus a concluding quatrain, in which the 1st and 3rd lines of the 1st tercet appear as refrains. The middle line of each tercet is repeated, reappearing as the last line of the succeeding tercet, with the exception of the center line of the next-to-last stanza, which appears in the quatrain. Each line has the same metrical length.

Rhyme and refrain scheme: A-B-A, b-C-B, c-D-C, d-e-D, e-F-E, f-A-F-A [or f-F-A-A].) Definition taken from: Shadow Poetry website.)

And a special thanks to Ben Alexander at The skeptic’s kaddish whose Terzanelle inspired me.


Image by Konevi from Pixabay

The Root House

The summer I turned nine, The Root House ate my cousin Lesa’s foot.

Bad things happened to Lesa. I don’t remember if she was on the clumsy side or just suffered from plain old bad luck, but whatever the reason, she was always getting hurt. That’s just how it was.

When we were catching crawdads in the branch, she often slid on the moss-covered rocks, fell, and got her butt wet. (Then would want me, sister Linda and her sister, Jennifer, to get wet as well so she wouldn’t be the only one getting in trouble.). Thorny briars snagged her clothes and skin in the blackberry patches. She tripped over fallen tree limbs in the woods. There were four of us girls, two sets of cousins, but most of the bad stuff, accidents and what-nots, happened to Lesa—such as The Root House eating her foot.

Lesa and her little sister, Jennifer, had spent the night with me and Linda, who was twelve at the time. Lesa, Jennifer, and I had gotten up early the following day and had gone out to play, leaving Linda in bed sleeping. Linda had gotten her period a couple of months ago and thought she was all grown up now. She didn’t play much with our cousins and me anymore, and on top of that, had gotten downright cranky at times.

One of our favorite places to play was on and around a towering sycamore perched precariously on a steep section of a crumbling creek bank. The tree’s roots snaked over and under the ground, and an equal amount spoked the air over the stream that cut into the earth beneath it.

No sooner had the three of us arrived at what we referred to as “The Root House” than Lesa’s bare little foot sank up past the ankle into the soft dirt between two roots and became trapped there. I tried several times to pull her foot free, but it was wedged tight. No luck.

“Go get Linda,” I told Jennifer. We all knew that Linda, older, wiser Linda, could get Lesa’s foot unstuck. With a nod of her head, Jennifer was gone.

After a bit, Lesa wiggled her foot a little, and lo and behold, out it came. Then we heard voices: Linda and Jennifer’s.

Her eyes as big as saucers, Lesa looked at me and said, “She’s gonna be real mad we woke her up for nothing.” She glanced over her shoulder at our approaching sisters. Then she did the darndest thing: she stuck her foot back between the roots.

I thought it was a crazy thing to do, but I didn’t really blame her. Neither of my cousins would cross Linda back then; I didn’t care so much if she got irritated but knew my cousins were somewhat in awe of my older sister. And if Lesa wanted it to be Linda who rescued her from The Root House’s clutches, who was I to argue?

Then there was the time Brother Mike made a misstep when perched on the roots that stuck out over the branch. I was even younger than in the previous incident, and on this occasion, The Root House’s inhabitants were me, Mike, and Linda. My memory is sketchy, and I don’t recall if Mike slid all the way down to the few inches of water that ran over the flat rocks below or saved himself by grabbing onto some passing tree roots. I do remember, though, his scratched-up chest and hearing that he’d told his friends at school that Daddy had cut him with a chain saw.

The last time I remembered to look for The Tree House, which is visible from the road leading to my parents’ old home, it didn’t look nearly as impressive as when I was a kid. I suppose memories are that way, stored away as larger than they actually were. And I’ve read that our memory of an event changes down through the years, that each time it is recalled, it morphs slightly from the previous recollection. All I can say with certainty about The Root House is that it was a grand place to play, and it did eat Lesa’s foot.

©2021 KT Workman

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay