Age must really be creeping up on me. I spent the morning looking through various reference materials and I found absolutely nothing on “Hand-Me-Downs”. How can the world have changed so much in the last five decades? It seems like yesterday that I was just a kid. There were nine of us, which included Mother and Dad, and I was the last of the nine. The name of my wardrobe was “Hand-me-downs”. It was the only fashion I knew. Since others had used it before me, it couldn’t look all that bad. In my youth I had the perfect wardrobe for today – “rags”. They charge $50.00 for a pair of blue jeans with the knees torn out. I got them free from my brothers. Besides, mother would never pay a big price for any one of us to “sit” on an emblem!
These “hand-me-downs” often came from outside sources. We had friends then, that passed their clothes to us when they were finished with them. We were dirt poor. Others we knew just had a better quality of dirt. Today I see kids that wear tennis shoes that light up when they walk. Some of those kids are even pre-schoolers. When they have so much now, wonder what they will have later on? I always wished that school kids wore uniforms. This way no one could show off the latest fashion and everybody would be equal.
I always thought I was rich. I had three brothers and three sisters and a real sure enough live in forever, Mother and Dad. Mother was stone deaf for 65 of her 80 years. She never heard any of her seven children speak, or laugh or cry aloud. But there was something about Mother that I would never forget – she was always at home when we came in from school. There was a biscuit waiting, or a hunk of cornbread, or an oven hot cookie. We always had milk. You could buy two gallons for 87 cents and we only had to walk two miles to get it.
A month before Christmas we all went looking for discarded cigarette wrappers. By the way, they were the only “wrappers” we knew back then. The inside was lined with tinfoil. We use this to decorate different objects to go on the Christmas tree, generally a pine cut from the woods. Dad would give us 50 cent each to buy presents for each other. Combs were five for a dime and we often used the Sunday funnies to wrap gifts with. Skates were the most popular gifts that Santa brought. All the kids in the neighborhood would meet at Edison High School where there was plenty of concrete to roll on. They got skates too.
Mother’s Day was a most special time. After marrying Ann and leaving home I wrote a poem about Mother’s Day. Let me “hand-it-down” and share it with you.
“Mother’s Day in years gone by, holds special memories for me. It ever lives and never dies; it was something special you see. There were seven of us and Mother and Dad, who dwelled together then, and that one day was especially glad, when our hearts together would blend. Into a joyful song of praise and grateful spirits rise, and into the early morning haze, as dawn lit the skies, we would spring from our beds with a ‘shh’ and a hush; we would tiptoe along as if the floor we would crush. Not wanting to wake the queen of the hour, for before this event, we had to pick flowers. The pickin’s were easy, the flowers grew wild, and baskets were filled in the arm of each child; four sons and three daughters were soon ready to say, to the Queen of our life, “Happy Mother’s Day!” Some petals were weaved in the shape of a crown; we tiptoed inside without making a sound. We listened for noise, some hint from the room. We held our breath tightly, she’ll be coming soon. One false alarm, but soon we would hear – Mother is coming, our Queen appears. Our eyes had a tear, our hearts made a jump, the flowers were ready, our throats had a lump; but self was soon lost with the sight of her face – the joy and the wonder, her marvelous grace. She knew we were poor with silver and gold, and flowers were not much a cover, yet in our hearts were treasures untold, freely given to us by Mother.”
The flowers were just the blossom of the Periwinkle, with their various hues and colors. Grass reeds were used to thread the petals and form a crown. As she stood in the archway, a basket of flower petals were poured on her head and the crown was placed there as a final honor. We were the first flower kids!
Mother and Dad gave us the ‘hand-me-downs’ of faith in God. A Bible was on our living room table at all times. Prayer was a daily feature in this “Hand-me-down” business. As I spoke Mother’s funeral, it was a simple recitation of all the “hand-me-downs” she had given to us. Jesus said, “God commanded, saying, honor thy father and mother, and he that curseth father and mother, let him die the death” (Matthew 15:4; Exodus 21:17. Thank God for “Hand-me-downs”.