Soup makes me think of mom. She’s gone now, has been for a long time it seems. But I love soup and it makes me think of her every time I make it or see a really yummy pot that someone else has made. She was a very unique lady. I think as with all children, as we grow older and our parents have passed on, we look back on them and realize that we really didn’t know them as individuals or appreciate their lives quite like we do our own acquaintances or colleagues.
She could make a pot of the most delicious soup out of almost anything/nothing. But there were some hard times when there wasn’t a lot of money, so she just did her magic in the kitchen and we were all fed like royalty. She did magic every time she was in the kitchen. (I forget that she went through things like the Great Depression, and that she had a family to cook for during the same time many people could barely feed themselves, let alone a family. Somehow I bet her soup was still stellar.) Her food was simple, uncomplicated, and delicious. The best cornbread in the world came out of her old cast-iron skillet. I can still taste it, and because it was round, everyone got a piece of the wonderful crust. I remember watching her heat it up before she poured the batter into it to finish cooking in the oven.
My mom was an amazing woman. She was one of 7 kids born at the turn of the century in a very small town in Tennessee near the Kentucky border. Her mother died shortly after giving birth to the last child. I don’t recall ever hearing what took Grandma and I am not entirely sure anyone remembers that is alive today. People just sort of died in those days, and no one necessarily knew why, they just died. The youngest child was unable to walk, her little body short and boxy looking in the few pictures I have seen of her. Mother always said it was polio but I suspect that isn’t what it was. I would venture a guess that it was Scoliosis, having seen pictures of her frame later in her life. Mom was next to the youngest, so it was her job to take care of Maude, and cook, and clean and I guess anything else that a little girl shouldn’t have had to do, but since all the kids helped do whatever they could just to put food on the table, there was never any question that mom’s job was cooking, cleaning and whatever. Their father was a sharecropper. And until mom was probably about 7 or 8 there was an older couple who lived some distance away, that walked to mom’s house every day and helped take care of the family. Mom always said without out them she was pretty sure they would have starved. I suppose they are the ones who taught mom to cook. Sis says the lady’s name was Millie. And that she kept the house so clean that you could see your face in the floor. I never thought about it, but my grandmothet was gone, and mom was helping in the kitchen from the time she was able to walk, so I guess I have the two old sweet country caretakers to thank for not only making sure my mom was taken care of and I am sure loved, but also teaching her how to be a wonderful cook. I know they were poor as poor could be and that is surely where they learned to use as mom used to say “everything but the oink” on the pig.
When we were kids, and spoiled beyond anything my mom could ever have dreamed of, we had no idea what her childhood had been like because she was just not a talker. She never complained, never felt sorry for herself, never whined about hard times. She just kept on keeping on. She had a lot of funny hill sayings, some that were just so funny we still recall them with much laughter. When we or even our children would tell mom/grandma that we were bored, she would say “You don’t know what bored is. Bored is sitting in a bucket looking at the ass end of a mule for 8 hours a day while your father plowed a field”.
I have never been used for ballast, and am thankful that I was never in such peril that the only way to protect me and account for me during working hours was to put me in a bucket behind a plow. But apparently that was not an uncommon happening for mom.
They moved to southern Missouri at some point for awhile. I guess it didn’t work out, because they moved back to Puryear. The family was pious, and religion was important to them. I suppose as poor as they were, you better believe in something beyond earthly possessions. Mom said her Grandfather was a minister in “the church”. I never thought to ask what church it was, but later Grandpa moved to Independence because he chose to follow the promise of the “profit Joseph Smith” and the hope of a better life here. The family moved here via covered wagon. I cannot imagine what that was like. It must have been horrendous. Mary, Nina, Bobbie, Marian -who went by the name of “Tot” her whole life, Maude, Boy, Shep–7 kids and Grandpa. Wow.
Well, as with all stories, this one has a “OMG” moment. They were here for 2 weeks and their father became ill. He died. That left 7 very young children alone, poor, no money, alone in a strange town. Sometime I will tell you more about their life after their father died. Remember, this was the early 1900’s, before any kind of organized social care, government assistance or any other sort of organized help for that matter.
I think I am going to go look for something to make soup out of.