Every time I look at this photo of my grandmother as a child, I think of what her life was like back then. She was born in in the summer of 1918 ( that would be 102 years ago at the time of this writing). She lived in a time of oppression, the “jim crow” era which lasted well into the 1960s, yet still, I’m sure she had the dreams and hopes of a child; dreams of growing up, going to school, getting married, etc.
Slavery was abolished here in the United States in 1865, but as we know, it continued on well past that due to racism, hatred, greed, lack of education and resources, and due to the fact that (whenever possible) the knowledge of the abolition of slavery was withheld from the enslaved, since they were needed to run the farms, plantations, and generally keep the life-style of their former owners intact. Injustices included the “jim crow” era (I left those words lowercase on purpose), segregation, etc. The fight for Civil Rights, sadly, continues on into today, September, 17, 2020 and will go on for years to come.
Now, back to my other story . . .
Back in the day, when my sister, Denise and I used to stay with our grandmother, we had a regular set of chores to do. Sweeping, washing dishes, feeding the chickens, and even slopping the hogs. After school, we did our homework and had supper as a family in the evenings. Yes, we sat at the kitchen table and talked as we had our meal. There were no such things as cell phones, tablets, and computers at that time. We did have a land-line phone, but, if it rang during dinner, no one answered it.
Every Sunday, and I do mean every Sunday, we went to church. Rain or shine, sun or snow, we were there for Sunday School, and preaching that lasted until at least 2 p.m. or later. If there was a program after church such as a singing or anniversary for the pastor or choirs, we attended that also. It was a tradition, also, that almost, every Sunday the extended family gathered at “Granny’s” house. Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, would come by for some leftovers or for a slice of Granny’s wonderful home-made cakes. We all enjoyed the conversation, the company, the playtime, etc. That made for a close knit family that has remained close throughout the years.
Granny had a pretty active house-hold. She was a seamstress, so people were always coming by to drop off or pick up something she had made or altered for them. She did everything from hemming to making wedding dresses. Most of my aunts are superbly skilled in sewing. Somehow, my mother didn’t get that talent. Granny, made a lot of the clothes my sister and I wore. Cheaper to make them than to buy them. I remember my grandmother, and also, my mother doing laundry and working as housekeepers just to make ends meet.
Granny and granddaddy Aaron (her husband) had a huge garden every year. He had an old gas-powered plow, that he would use to cut up the ground with. We would drop the seeds and cover them once he had the field plowed. Tomatoes, okra, beans of all kinds, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, greens, you name it, we had it. The garden fed the extended family and the neighbors too who had a need. Some weekends, my cousins, Micki, Jennifer, and Stacy would stay over too. We slept 2 to a twin bed, or sometimes all got in one full-sized bed. We talked and laughed until we went to sleep.
From my grandparents, Aaron and Mable, (and from the ancestors who lived long before them) some of whom were enslaved people, our family has grown from the little town of Iva, SC, to live all over the USA and Germany. We still are a close family, now connecting on holidays, by way of telephone, email, and of course social media (FB, IG, etc.)
In my heart, I feel such gratitude, and indebtedness to those who survived slavery, segregation, and a host of other atrocities. The tears roll every time I think about the privileges we have today, compared to harshness of life back in what people call “the good old days”. Even today, we still struggle with racism, gainful employment, education, all the usual things, but, just like those who have passed, and those yet to live on through our bloodlines, we keep the faith and continue to work toward the hope that even better will come our way.
From humble beginnings of sharecropping on property owned by the “B” family of Iva, we have come a long way, by the grace of God! Today, those of us who aren’t retired, are busy with working in manufacturing plants, school, government, law, being self-employed and raising our own families. Some of us own property (ies) and most of us like to travel. We do our best to encourage the dreams of our children, and stress the need of higher education. A degree will open doors, even if you don’t work in the field you studied. More of us also need to start businesses once we come up with a plan.
There is no way we can determine the paths that God has laid out for us. There are so many off-shoots to the paths that lead, to our destinies, that our journeys resemble the intricate branches of a tree. As we grow and learn, and experience love and heartache, success and failures, we must continue to believe and keep the faith that God is working in our lives. There are times when it is necessary for us to answer the call the action, but, Sometimes, we just need to stand still and listen.