Don't let the difficulties of the present moments overshadow the reality of God's promises. God's promises still stand. And God's promises are stronger than our failures.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Letters From the Past - The Beginning






Dear Friends,

It was a dark and stormy night outside of Lurton, Arkansas in 1946. Heavens, of course it was a dark and stormy night – what story worth its salt doesn’t begin on a dark and stormy night! You’ve never heard of Lurton, Arkansas? Why that little town in Newton County up in the Ozark Mountains was the sweetest little community ever there was. Mountain folk might seem stand-offish to others but to those who lived there they were the salt of the earth. My grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa L. lived and tried to farm there though, truth be told, farming in the mountains is an impossibility if you’re planning to make any money from it. You might make a living if you aren’t expecting much. In those days you could raise a family there and never leave if you were a mind to. And my grandpa was a mind to. I'm including this little picture of the General Store in Lurton. Most of my old pictures are lost but I thought you'd enjoy this one.

When my Daddy returned from World War II to Mama and my brother, Fred, it was there he came. The first thing Daddy did when he got home, well I’d blush if I told you that, but suffice to say that I was the result. And so we’re back to the beginning of this story. It was a dark and stormy night on October 1st, cold and wet and the doctor couldn’t have gotten there if they had sent for him, which they didn’t. Why would you send for a doctor when Grandma L. had delivered six of her own children at home and helped with a multitude of other births, including that of my brother? And so it was that I came into the world in a little frame house back in a hollow in the Ozark Mountains. My brother, Fred, and my cousin, Carol, couldn’t say my name so they shortened it to Marnie, and Marnie it was to most everyone else when I was growing up.

Just a little about my Grandma L. My Grandma was a tall, buxom woman; and I do mean buxom. I can remember as a small child standing in awe watching her iron, yes I said iron, her brassieres. And that was the word she used – she never shortened it to bras. My goodness with bras that large it wouldn’t seem fitting to shorten their rightful name anyway! They were made from heavy cotton that was thick and that wrinkled something awful when washed. Ironing was a necessity. I guess Grandma L. might have worn pants some time but I never saw it if she did. I’ll have to ask my cousin Carol about that. She always wore what we called shirtwaist dresses that she made herself, including the belts that were covered with the same fabric as the dress. They were always flowered fabrics and the leftover pieces went into the next quilt she made. She was a strong willed woman and definitely ahead of her time. When she got fed up with Grandpa’s shenanigans (he drank something awful) she up and moved to California to work in the fruit packing plants and left him in Arkansas. She took her sons with her and California was where they stayed. She and Grandpa never reconciled but neither did they divorce because they didn’t believe in divorce. Both wore their wedding rings till they died. At least that’s the way I remember it. In his later years Grandpa was in a nursing home in the town where my husband and I were living and when I told him Grandma wasn’t doing too well health wise he offered to go take care of her. It had been forty years since they’d seen or spoken to each other. If he’d shown up there that would have killed her for sure!

When I was a grammar school child we had a telephone but long distance calls were way too expensive to make unless it was an emergency. So Mama and Grandma wrote letters. Mama would write one and then Grandma would answer. Mama would reply to that one, and so it went. Every week or so there would be a letter from Grandma in the mail. I can remember her handwriting to this day. Oh, I do miss letters in this age of e-mail. That’s why I decided to write you this one….and a few others that will follow. I want to tell you my story but I want you to get it a little at a time just as we did in the letters of my grandmother. In my next letter I’ll tell you about our trips to California when we were small children and about Grandma’s trips to Arkansas. But for now I best get back to my washing and sweeping.
Love to the family and all,

Marlene

19 comments:

Twisted Fencepost said...

Great idea! I can't wait to read the rest. Just like checking the mailbox everyday, waiting on that letter of response.

Jacquie said...

I LOVED this post, Marlene! You have an interesting story... and I'm well aware of Newton County, Arkansas, as it's not too far from where we live.

My roots are in California, and we've migrated here. My husband's family are all natives of North Central Arkansas (hill country) and some of your description of your family resembles his family.

Can't wait to hear more!!!

Marge said...

Marlene, just change the location to northeastern Iowa where I was raised, and change the fact that the grandparent divorced, and it's my story. My grandmother made dress after dress, often navy blue or purple, out of the same pattern! She always covered the belts with the same fabric. She made the same dresses for my mom, just out of lighter colored floral fabrics, but using the same pattern! And every single week would come a letter from her. Like clockwork, every week! What fun to think back. I'll be waiting for the next letter from you!

Carol said...

OK! Comments/additions to the story:
Yes, Grandma was buxom. And, as she aged, they sagged. Cousin Bonnie Lee said she was peaking through a crack in the opened door (she did that a lot when she was a child) and saw Grandma ROLLING up her assets to stuff into her "brassiere" (Sorry, Grandma. But what an image).
And, yes. Grandma did wear slacks of some sort, when she worked in the vineyards of Sanger, CA. She was quick to change into a dress when she came home.
NOW for a clarification. Notice how Marnie refers to me for memories that she no longer has? Doesn't that sound like I am several years OLDER than she? NOT TRUE! I am 65 DAYS older.

Tracy P. said...

Oh, I am so glad that Carol is picking up the "reply" end. This will be SOOO good. I'll have my coffee and "readers" ready.

I have written many, many letters in my life (and awaited many a reply!). I am so relieved to have email!

Until next time!

J'Ollie Primitives said...

I LOVE this idea. Wonder if I can find a sample of my mom's handwriting so I can post it....handwritten letters were such a treasure before email. I had literally thousands of letters that were lost in a house fire. I will now stop rambling. Goodness.

Amelia said...

So enjoyed this post...history was my favorite subject in school...and this is your history...makes it even better.

Crazy for Primitive Quilts and Gardens said...

Great beginning! I'm hooked :o)

Connie W said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. I still LOVE letters, real mail, you know, and email will never replace it, in spite of its instantaneous results which are indeed the best. Now, more more more...

Cyndy said...

I enjoyed your post today! My mother passed away last March and I have been going through boxes of pictures and of all things, letters! It's taking me so long to go through the boxes because I have found the letters so interesting. I found one from my great-great-great grandmother to my great grandfather. Also the one where my grandfather asks my grandmother to marry him. So very interesting!
I also got such a kick from your cousin's reply. I'm so sure those extra 65 days really made a difference in the way she saw things, too!
I can't wait for your next letter.

Harley Dee said...

I loved reading your post! Can't wait for the next one. And thanks so much for my sweet note! :)

Rose Mary said...

I loved reading this story, Marlene! Isn't Newton County just the prettiest place? I sigh everytime we drive into Jasper.

You know, I don't think I ever saw my paternal grandma wear pants, either. I doubt she owned a pair.

Remember how you used to have to 'talk real loud' whenever you got a long distance call? Funny how the connections were never very good. I miss the days of letter writing, everyone emails these days or calls on their cell phone. Personal letters are such a link to our past--who saves emails??

Looking forward to your next post!

P.S. Our weather has been mostly gorgeous lately!!

Dandelion Quilts said...

When you get this done, are you going to publish it into a book for your own children?

Michelle said...

What a delightful post. I can't wait to read some more!
Michelle

Lindah said...

Marlene, you are such a creative communicator! I love your stories. So often, I can identify with them. They are like hearing from family. My roots are in the KS/NE/IA/OK area. Good country folk. After spending the day battling with technology, I am longing for the old simpler way.
Looking forward to your next letter. Got to go get supper on the table.

Lindi said...

Loved the first letter, Marlene. It will be enjoyable reading your history. It will also be interesting comparing it with family histories and activities here in Australia. The similarities and the differences.

Veggie Mom said...

What a wonderful, thoughtful, poignant post! Thanks so much for sharing a little piece of yourself...

Calamity Jane's Cottage, Bonnie said...

Hi Marlene,
Thank you for sharing this with us, I always think about the times, how and where they lived. I wish I knew more about my grandparents and I think the older we get that information is so important to us. Kinda like History Class, didn't like it in school to much, but me and my better half sit and watch the History Channel.

Lena . . . said...

What a wonderful story. I'll certainly be waiting for the next "installment." I, too, remember the shirtwaist dresses with self-covered belts that my mother wore and my sister (11 years older than me) ironing her brassieres. I have a quilt that my other made out of "used" fabric and my daughter is amazed that I can identify every piece of fabric in the quilt and tell her what article of clothing it had been and who it belonged to.