Published in the Rains County Leader on September 5, 2017:
Mom was born on September 3, so she’s always on my mind during this season. Every year I post a picture of her on Facebook that was taken six years ago on her 90th birthday, her last one on earth, and then I spend most of the day thinking about her. Last Sunday, probably because I was also thinking about what to write in my column, I remembered what a city girl she was in spite of the fact that she spent her first nineteen years on various farms in west Texas.
She was the fifth of six children, and she was raised on a series of small farms where her father worked the land on the halves. Actually, the whole family worked, and she hated every minute of it. Her siblings called her their house cat, because she would trade for household chores, preferring any kind of cleaning or other indoor work to being out in the dusty heat of the fields. In spite of all her bartering, she still did her share of hoeing, picking cotton, and shaking peanuts, but it wasn’t all bad.
She and her sister Fay daydreamed while they worked, imagining the perfect wardrobe, house, and other wonders they would have when they grew up and left the farm behind them. Later on, Mom discovered that the cute boy she winked at on the bus lived on the adjoining farm, and when the neighbors pooled their work forces, romance blossomed as the two of them worked side by side. The young lovers married three months after they turned nineteen, and they left the farm for the big city of Fort Worth and never looked back.
I think Dad sometimes missed the farming life, but he knew how Mom felt, so he contented himself with keeping an immaculate lawn and a few flowers beds. She enjoyed looking at the results of his labor through the windows, but she was a house cat all her life.
Her sister Fay, on the other hand, loved the land and never really left it. She and her husband, who incidentally also lived on the adjoining farm, usually chose homes with some acreage where they could grow peas or corn or peanuts. But even when they lived in the “silk stocking” area of Mesquite, their backyard was filled with tomatoes, peppers, beans, and other veggies instead of grass and flowers. Later in their lives, they ended up back in the country, and now, after being a widow for more than a decade, Aunt Fay still lives on a 100+ acre farm in Brashear. She’s once again working the fields on the halves, but this time she’s the owner rather than the worker.
Even at the age of ninety-three, my aunt doesn’t watch the world go by through the windows like Mom did. She mows her lawn with a Bad Boy Zero Turn Mower, she trims her trees with a chain saw, she chases the crows away from her pecans with a shot gun, and she still plants a garden. She’s slowed down a little in the last few years – instead of six or eight forty-foot rows, she only plants two, and she will accept help from a willing son or nephew from time to time. Still, she’s very independent and doesn’t like for her family to try and tell her what to do.
David and I are planning to pay her a visit this week. I offered to take her to lunch, and she said that sounded nice, but she’ll probably fix lunch instead. She loves to cook for her family, and she loves to sit around the table after the food is gone and talk. We’ll talk about Mom a lot, because she misses her, too. And maybe she’ll have some stories about her city sister that I haven’t heard yet. If so, I’ll be sure to pass them along.