The sun glistened off the petals of the red zinnias and one lone dewdrop cast shadows of color as I walked by. The old and well known flowers or plants called ‘flags’ by some were holding their own this hot summer day.
A lady by the name of Johnnie, had painstakingly planted these spots of beauty with loving hands and a prayer in her heart they would survive. All the flower seeds and flags had been given her by friends who wanted to share their gardens of beauty, with her.
I was carrying a pail of water and my job at the moment was to wet the pads of an old evaporative cooler, sticking out the bottom of the window. I had to hand wet it because there was no running water available. My parents idea of running water, was, ‘Jimmy, run to the well and get some water and wet down the fan.’
My mother was recovering from a surgery she had and the house was hot. I didn’t mind doing my assigned job because it helped Mom feel better.
As that thought raced across my mind these seventy some odd years later, it brought with it other things this lady called Johnnie had done in my life. Some of the things were victorious and brave and other things were just downright funny.
She was quite a lady. Actually, she was more like ‘Wonder Woman.’
When I was in high school and a typical teenager, Mom would make me beautiful dresses out of feed sacks the chicken feed came in. She was a wonderful seamstress and no one would know the beautiful dresses I wore had once lived the life of a lowly chicken feed sack.
The same ingenious brain, thought up the idea of nailing cardboard on the inside of the front porch, which she had previously made canvas curtains for on the outside. She said, “We will paint it the color you get to pick out, and this will be your room.”
I loved that I had my own room. The house only had three rooms total and for me to have my own bedroom was really a work of art and an act of courageous, ‘out of the box thinking,’ on my mother’s part.
She did that a lot in my growing up years.
She saw that I had the same as the other girls even if she had no money to give me. She did it so well I never realized we were as poor as the proverbial church mice.
Mom made what little spending money she had from raising chickens and turkeys and selling their eggs. She also milked an old cow and had butter to sell. On Saturday we went to town and she sold her wares. That’s where the money came from for the paint to paint my newly acquired bedroom.
One of my weekly chores was to sweep and mop the front porch. This was prior to it becoming my bedroom. The downfall was I would no more than get it mopped and here the big footed turkeys would come and march themselves all over the clean porch. These were free range birds long before we knew what to call them. I hated them and swore I would never marry a farmer, regardless of how much I might love him. I had no desire in carrying on, what I thought in my teenage mind, was a disgusting practice.
You can imagine the gloom the day Mom came in the house and announced her prized rooster was lying dead in the cow lot. I personally rejoiced because every time I went to the barn that rooster would ‘flog,’ me and his spurs would bring blood to my legs. So one day I prepared for him and when he made his predictable run at me I whacked him over the head with a two by four I’d purposely carried with me. His murder was indeed premeditated, but Mom never knew what killed her prized rooster until years later as an adult, I confessed my deed. Mom’s response about the rooster was the same response she always gave, “I don’t believe it.”
There are so many tales I could share, so many memories both sad and funny about this courageous woman I called, ‘mother.’
As I shared previously, her name was ‘Johnnie,’ so she thought it fitting she name me, her one and only daughter, Jimmy. I think the real reason was because this very smart woman realized it was indeed a man’s world and in order to make it you had to be able to match wits with the best of them. I can’t commence to tell you how many times in the business world, my name got me in the door simply because they thought I was a man. Once I was in the door they were too embarrassed to ask me to leave.
I never felt I was being taken advantage of because I was a woman. I just felt like it was business as usual and we’d see who won the battle. Somedays I was the dog and somedays I was the tree, but most days I was just ‘blessed,’ by having such a smart woman that raised me to be independent and self-assured.
Momma has been gone a long time, but I learned so much from her by the simple act of ‘osmosis.’ Just being around her and observing what I later came to realize as an adult, her innate ability to face life’s challenges head on, without fear or intimidation.
I feel as though this ability in women has somehow become endangered. Now, so many want to blame others for their hardships, when in reality it’s simply a matter of taking charge of their own life and willing to accept defeat or victory on their own terms.
I hope I’ve been successful in passing on that ability to my daughter and my granddaughters and my great granddaughters. If so, then I’ve pleased the woman who gave me that inbred ability to pick myself up and carry on.
Thanks, ‘Johnnie B.’
I pray I’ve learned the lessons you taught so well.
Words to express the appreciation and love I have for you escape this wordsmith, so I’ll simply say……….“I love and miss you Momma.”