Pinch a Penny till it Screams

Cousin Kat was tight as Dick’s hatband, or conservative as she called it.  We learned early on stop by a grocery store before going to spend a few days at her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Our first visit, she knew we’d be arriving about dinner time.  She insisted we wait and eat supper with her.  We were surprised to find she’d cooked a about a cereal bowl of full of beans, sliced a tomato or two and an onion, and cooked four chicken wings for herself and our family of four.  “I don’t eat much,” she explained.  “I don’t want to make a pig of myself.”  My fifteen-year-old son could have eaten everything on the table.  Then she stirred eight teaspoons of sugar into her iced tea.  About a half-inch of sugar settled in the bottom of the glass after she stirred.  Apparently, the rules did not include sugar.

We went out for breakfast the next morning over Cousin Kat’s objections.  The kids were starving.  It was buffet style, so Cousin Kat ate like a lumberjack, loading about six biscuits on her plate.  She wrapped the leftover biscuits in her napkin, tucking them in her purse, topping it off with packets of jam, honey, sugar, and butter from the table to take home.  “They put these out here for us!”

Afterwards, we drove twenty-five miles into Independence, the nearest town, to the grocery store.  Aunt Kat went straight for the reduced for quick sale bin where she loaded up a bag of battered fruit, several dented cans, some aged produce, and a taped up bag of flour.  Then she cornered the unfortunate manager, a guy she’d taught in Sunday School thirty years ago.  He paled when he saw her, obviously battle-scarred.  “Marty, how much do you want for this rotten fruit and bent cans?  Something has leaked on this flour.” 

“How ‘bout a dollar for the whole lot, Miss Kat?” he asked tentatively.

“Now, Marty.  I don’t think you ought to charge me that much for this flour and this rotten fruit buzzin’ with fruit flies. I ain’t sure I’m gonna be able to use ‘em.  These peaches and bananas look pretty bad and ain’t nobody else gonna buy this flour.  You’re gonna have to mark ’em down some more,” she countered.

He looked desperate.  “How much are they worth to you?”

“How ‘bout a quarter?” Marty looked hopeful.

“Well, I’ll give you twenty cents, but I’m coming back to see you if that flour’s bad,” she promised.

“Tell you what.  Don’t worry about paying.  I don’t want to see you disappointed.”  I’ll bet he didn’t.

“Okay, but I’d be willin’ to give you twenty cents.”

“That’s alright, Miss Kat.  Wouldn’t want to beat a good customer in a deal,” he finished gallantly.

I roasted a chicken, and cooked green beans, and mashed potatoes with gravy for supper that night.  We’d bought plenty of groceries, so getting enough wasn’t a problem.  Cousin Kat pulled the biscuits from her purse and made a small fruit salad from her finds of the day.  She ate heartily, since all those groceries were going to waste anyway.  She canned the rest of the fruit with the honey and sugar from the restaurant.


Miss Ruby and the Bagwells

Reblog of an old post

The companionable thing about growing up in the fifties and sixties in the rural South was that everyone went to the same school, churches and knew everything about everyone.  When the women got the kids off to school, beds made, dishes done, wash on the line, and the beans on to soak for supper, they might have a little time to visit a neighbor for coffee before heading home to get the baby down for a nap, finish their

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First of all, I was born in the deep South in 1950, another world. Mother was determined to raise us to be above criticism. This was hard on me, a kid quite comfortable with criticism. Our language was subject to all kinds of boundaries. The first thing that set us apart from the great unwashed was that we “wee-weed” and “gee-geed”. I’ve met other prissy kids who “wee-weed”, but I have yet to meet another “gee-geeer”. (g as in go) See, there’s not even a right way to spell it. Being a “gee-geer” in a world full of “do-doers” is rough. On top of that, I grew up with a bunch of renegade cousins who were too bad to “pee-pee”. They “pissed, do-dooed, ka-ka ed, dookied,” and even worse, they “shat.” They said these words in public, in front of their parents! Mother led us to believe they were exceptions…

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I Never Claimed to be Donna Reed!

My daughter zoned in on the Donna Reed Show when I started falling short in the motherhood department.  In case you don’t remember, Donna Reed was the perfect wife and mother, always prissing around in cinch-waist dresses with petticoats, high heels and jewelry.  She played bridge, called her friends Mrs. So and So, and kept an immaculate house.  If Donna had slipped in the mud, she’d have fallen daintily and ended up with a charming smudge on her cheek, whereas, I’d have busted my butt, ripped my britches, and farted.  No one would have been able to help me for laughing.  I could have fallen in a rose bed, and come out smelling like manure.

When Donna’s children lapsed into naughtiness, she’d rein them in with an understanding, quizzical smile, knowing they’d fall at her feet and confess because she was such a good mother. They only got in cute scrapes, like maybe accepting two dates for the prom or losing a library book, never anything involving calls from the school counselorf or requests for bail. The queen of her home, effortless meals appeared on her dining table out of the air, no budgeting, shopping, or messy kitchen to consider.  Naturally, her handsome husband adored her.  Even though he was a doctor, it was clear he’d married “up.”

Donna never lost her cool when her children announced they needed a million dollars for a school trip as she dropped them off for school.  I have been known to be annoyed.  Should Donna’s kids want to eat what she’d cooked, she’d coax them along in the name of nutrition. If my kids didn’t want to eat what I’d put on the table, I told them, “Fine, that leaves more for the rest. It won’t be that long till breakfast.”  Donna was vigilant about nutrition, whereas,  I figure kids eat if they get hungry.

I can lay so many of my motherly shortcomings at Donna’s door, but thank goodness, she’s gone and I’m still bumbling along.



Magic Circle

Shay woke early between Kay-Lonnie and Lena but their eyes were already open, waiting for her. They never wiggled till she woke, seeming to breathe the same air, thinking the same thoughts. Susie pulled the quilt over her curly head on the other side of the big bed, grumping about Shay’s cold feet. Shay, Kay-Lonnie and Lena padded barefoot to the kitchen, hugged Mama from behind and found their places at the table as Mama set out Shay’s Campbell Soup Kids’ mug of milk and Minnie Mouse Mug for Kay-Lonnie and Lena to share since they never drank much. After their toast and jam, Shay finished off the milk, helped them wipe their faces, push their chairs in place without screeching and carried their dishes to Mama at the sink. “You’re such a good girl. Oh, and Kay-Lonnie and Lena, too.” Mama smiled.

Racing to the barn, they got there…

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Road trip, the Best Way to Torture Your Kids

imageWe tortured our teenagers once by making them take a three-thousand mile roadtrip through several national parks.  The main thing they mention now is that Bud wore those stretch nylon coach shorts and a couple of gay guys hit on him.

In Yellowstone, he stopped for about the fourteenth time to try to get pictures of buffalo one afternoon.  The thrill of watching him try to get the perfect buffalo picture had worn thin, so the three of us watched from the car.  He fussed, tinkered, and messed with his camera, tripod and lenses till we were hoping a buffalo would gore him just enough to distract him. He worked frantically till a car pulled up just in front of him. A flambuoyant fellow trotted up to Bud, obviously interested in getting acquainted.

“Oh my, that’s some nice equipment you’ve got there,”

Ever polite, Bud thanked him, snapped a couple of random shots, grabbed his gear, and made his escape. He got no sympathy in the car! Finally, something good had happened!

“Dad, that guy, really admired your equipment! Ah ha ha ha ha!” For the rest of the trip, they worked equipment into the conversation at least ten times a day.

We stopped at a lodge that night.  As Bud was getting a room, he had a chance to make another friend. A friendly guy checking in at the same time told him, “I know you must put mayonnaise in that gorgeous beard.”

“Nope,” Bud snapped, turning to the kids. “Now get your mother so we can all go to dinner.”