It was another Saturday morning spent with Mama. I usually set aside Friday just for her but Favorite Child was in this past week and she was summarily preoccupied with his presence and maneuvering him to meet her ever-increasing whims. Not being Favorite Child is a blessing AND a curse. Blessedly, I very seldom measure up to favorite status, usually having to put myself in harm's way to achieve it. Accursed is the bothersome incessant chatter of "Favorite Child this...," "Did you know Favorite Child that?" and worst, by far, "Favorite Child bought me a new...." The brothers and I don't discuss favorite child activities in front of Mama. She'll shed a crocodile tear while admonishing us that she loves us all the same. To her mind she is absolutely correct. We all see a difference when the REAL favorite comes home though. Favorite Child really is quite another story for another day.
Saturday morning we went to Neely, Mississippi to pick up our Angel Food boxes from the little church twenty miles in the western woods of Greene County. Before going to the church we took a quick jaunt a few miles more westward to the Buffalo community, halfway between Neely and McLain. My long time friend, Murray, lives there on the old farm of his childhood. The little house is a few miles down a narrow two-lane road lined with harvestable pine trees and fields beginning to glow with the first wave of goldenrods.
I love the drive. This morning the ragweed growing in the fence rows gently bowed with the breeze as if paying thankful obeisance to the allergy gods for the plentiful hay fever season about to bloom forth. The planted pines made patterned shadows across the road that reminded me of a universal product bar code; the car is scanning the road for the directions to Murray's home. I'm very conscious of the fact that mine and Mama's roles are slowly but surely becoming reversed as she asks every few moments "Is this is?" "How far down this road is it?" "Now are you sure you know where we're going?" Role reversal is a painful thought to accept always leading to the obvious next thought of remaining time left with her.
I left that dark musing behind as the bar code roads led me on past the barn and the remaining mile or so to his home. We'd come to pick pears.
Mama had overheard me telling FC (Favorite Child) about the pear trees Murray's grandfather had planted, a bunch of them! Mr. Harvison loved pears and loved tending his trees. There are three or four old varities of pears - all good. It's a bit late in the season for pears but the one tree was still loaded. Mama knew this; her hearing is not nearly as bad as she purports. I had a foot tub for a mess of pears;Mama, her ever-present plastic grocery sacks.
Murray met us in the yard. A fellow is there cutting grass and Murray's been clearing up the leggish four o'clocks and lantana, neatening the place for a good mulching before cold weather arrives. He told us to watch out for copper heads and Mama giggled as she looked up in the trees and asked Murray had he heard about the fig tree yet. Fortunately, no snakes are seen and the pears are uneventfully harvested. She stops to admire the bonsai he grows.
Murray invites me to show Mama his home. He won't come in, trying to finish the outside work by noon.
I enjoy being in Murray's little farm house. There's not one thing fancy about it, glancing at it from the road. It's an unremarkable little old house. You'd never know it housed a collection of plain and ornate kerosene lamps, all beautiful in their simplicity or ornate workmanship.
Or that he's painstakenly found oval bubble glass photo frames for old family photos. It's not cram-packed full of antiques, just the right amount to give the feel of walking back into a comfortable time when family, friends, and good food were of much more importance than the latest model of Blackberry, gaming systems, or dire political world events. There's not one item in his house of incredible great worth to anyone but him.
Well. Almost. Mama spotted an arrangement of ceramic-on-steel dishpans hanging in the kitchen and commented on them to me. Going through the house she made mention of the fact that it's so clean (and of course, FC keeps a clean house, too)! It was getting close to time to pick up our boxes at the church. Meeting Murray, ever the Southern gentleman, on the side porch coming out, he thanked Mama for coming to get pears, inviting her to come again.
And do you know? Can you imagine? Putting on that little-old-kindergarten-teacher's-voice she says, "Well, if you find another one of those dishpans like in your kitchen I sure would like one to make jelly in." I'm not sure if Murray gave her the pan she desired out of the kitchen because of Mama's endearing charm or as a true token of our friendship. It's now at her house. She's going to cook her pear preserves in it and make sure Murray gets a pint. We talked all the way off the porch, through the yard, and to the car; me hustling her in it and closing the door before she spotted the old wagon in Murray's shed.
I drove us to retrieve our food boxes, picked up really good hamburgers at the Neely Store, and got Mama home and unloaded with her pears, food box, and the dish/jelly pan that I couldn't carry in, lest I ding the ceramic off.
Mama amazes me. Her ability to finagle her every wish or wanted item is unmatched. In the past, she's talked the county into putting in new culverts at the end of the road, pointing out it was their own fault and bad road-grading that caused them to become dented and stopped up in the first place. Another friend keeps her supplied with one or another beautiful pot plants out of his florist when she merely suggests she might like one, along with fresh cut flower arrangements on her birthday, Mother's Day, and Easter. She's persuaded physicians time after time to supply her with medicine samples - just so she won't have to make another trip into town. She's used her finely honed skills on her children and has, in the last five years, obtained a new roof, hydraulic wood splitter, riding lawn mower, new plumbing for the entire house, and more free cakes than I'd like to remember.
She's something else, for sure. And I need to turn off the computer and get back out to her house - she needs another five pounds of sugar. She doesn't have but one bag and she's decided to cook all the pears into preserves...now that she has a nice big pan.