“Are All The Children In?”

A friend asked me, “Just who are you writing for?” I really didn’t know just what to answer. He narrowed the question, “What age group do you target”? I had never thought of it. When I have something on my heart I write it. Some of my articles lose their appeal to certain ages at certain times, but a cafeteria line poses the same problem and offers the same choices.
Now that I am on the heavy side of 70, I reserve the right to share some of my memories stored up in all those years. When Mother died (her body and mind went out together), the family asked me to offer the eulogy. I made a few random notes and leaned upon the impressions that had been formed through the years.
All nine of us went to the Central church every Sunday. You could set your watch with the entry of the Exum’s during the singing of the third song. We were always late.
Every Monday, mother had 9 large stacks of dirty clothes to wash. A large black boiling pot was bubbling hot at first light, and the ancient 2-tub ringer washer had begun with a ‘rump-rump rump’. The last of the clothes were hung out at the setting of the sun. Tuesday and Wednesday were dedicated to sorting, ironing and putting away days. This process continued for 52 weeks a year. I never heard Mother complain a single time.
The 30’s and 40’s were hard times. We were poor but never hungry. We always had the same two things on the table at every meal. They were called “Take it or leave it”. A large pot of black-eyed peas, lima beans or collards dressed the center of the table. Mother said, “Hunger knows no bad bread”. The simple rule was “Take all you want but eat all you take”. Those were good days of growing up.
During the week Mother would cook and bake good things to sell to neighbors… She had 7 salesmen – us. We would take them door to door, and normally would give out of goods within the hour. As I write, I am looking at a record from a ledger that Mother kept. It is from the year of 1937. “April 12, one extra large angel food cake with special icing, $.50 cents. April 17, two dozen doughnuts, $.60 cents. April 20, one devil-food cake, $.60 cents. April 27, one fudge cake, $.90 cents. Dad worked hard every day, but Mother helped quietly on the side in paying the bills…
Each year on Mother’s day, we would rise before dawn, pick a large basket of Periwinkle flowers, which grew wild in the field. We filled one basket full of petals. Using long grass reeds, we would form a crown of 7 ringlets of petals. Then we would take our positions just outside her bedroom door. When she emerged, the one standing on a chair would pour the basket full of petals on her head, and then the crown was put in place. We were the first “flower children” and she was our Queen.
No one was ever ‘bored’ in our house. We might not be around for breakfast together, and just grab a bite to eat for noon, but supper was different. It was the last meal of the day and Mother would stand at the back door and call ALL OF HER CHILDREN HOME. It was supper time, a special time to be together for the big meal. We all had our place around a large home made oval table. Mother was a ‘wonder woman’. She was stone deaf for 65 or 80 years, and never had the privilege to hear any of her own children cry or laugh, or speak. In spite of that she still managed to raise 7 kids. She would always ask, “Are all the children in?” (Poem by the same name has been omitted.)
Both Moses and Paul wrote, “Honor your Father and Mother, which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth which the Lord your God gives you”. – (Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:2-3)



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