Is there a fragrance, a sound, a word that triggers for you another time, another place? Lilacs in the spring time? Honeysuckle? For me there is a nostalgic return to the time of my youth and summer day — a time of security, of comfort and of home. Grandma Martha Spears, working in her Zinnias. She loved color and Zinnias gave her hard working life color.
Martha Caroline Gibbins Spears was only 16 when she married Willy. Mother to seven healthy children, born in the years from 1912-1926, the wife of a struggling farmer. There were few luxuries in her life. An easy day for her was her traditional Sunday. She didn’t believe in doing any work on Sunday that could be done another day. Consequently, any gathering and harvesting of crops, any canning or laundry, any house cleaning, mending or cooking that could be done another day would not be done on The Lord’s Day. Of course, meals would have to be prepared on Sunday, but the baking would be done the day before and whatever could be prepared in advance, was. Sunday was for worship and rest and preparation for the coming week.
Without inside plumbing or electricity, the spring was a cooler instead of a refrigerator and any cooking was done on a wood stove. That includes the canning of tomatoes beginning July 4 and harvesting and canning green beans, corn, berries, and anything else that could be preserved for a future day. Imagine building up a fire in the wood stove in her little kitchen to sterilize jars and rings, in July and August!
Early morning milking, breakfast to serve, all before heading for the big vegetable garden or the fields. Get done what you can before 11 a.m., take a big dinner break and back in the fields as the heat of the sun diminishes back to make supper by the light of the kerosene lamp — and to bed to the music of the crickets, the whippoorwills and the mating song of the night owls. It was a hard life but when one knows no other? They find solace and joy in other things, in a Sunday free of work, in a harvest moon or a gentle July rain.
That is what is so special, then, in the memory of Grandma Spears with her Zinnias. Imagine, if you will, the silence, only a few flies, bees, no airplanes, no auto traffic, no door bells, no cell phones, no furnace or air conditioning kicking on or off, no ice maker laboring — just the silence of summer. The smell of summer, dill, basil, parsley, sassafras tea, and Grandma smelling of clean soap, talcum, and her flowers.
Ah! Summer! A Sunday to get ready for the rest of the week. A season to get ready for the rest of the year, and memories. Memories that sustain me, that come when bidden to a busy life. Imagination can carry you away on a winter day — what inflames your imagination?
Remember, you are invited to join the McDonald County Historical Society at 302 Harmon Street in Pineville on December 1 as we discuss the Jesse James Movie and how it relates to the City of Pineville and McDonald County. Then, on Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. join us (bring a dish of goodies if you like) as we celebrate Christmas together at the grand old court house on the square, being renovated in to our future museum.
Alberta Anders writes a weekly column for the Daily News.