Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

It’s a beautiful “spring is here” day in North Carolina, sunny with a promise of warmth; birdsong the audio backdrop.

My Family Album0006-1

Today would have been my mother’s 85th birthday. She died on November 13, 1989, at age 73. Last night I remembered Ann gave me Mother’s old photo album. I got it out of the safe and spent some time looking at it. So strange to look at those old photos. Mother married twice: the first time to T. J. Phillips, then to my dad, W. T. Jones. Funny that both of her husbands were men most folks called by their initials.

She bore six babies in all, although the first one died only a few hours after she was born. Mother grew up on a farm in Mississippi, one of eleven children, I believe. She told us farm stories over the years, some funny, some gruesome, and some painfully sad. I remember her telling me how she came to marry the first time; said she was washing supper dishes one evening, walked out the back door and ran off with the kid next door. She was possibly as old as 16. I don’t know if she was pregnant, but I believe she told us kids she was 16 when the baby was born.

She often spoke of working on the farm as a girl, hoeing in the garden, picking cotton, carrying water from the spring under the hill, leaning on her hoe and dreaming about getting an education, having a future. Oh, I do not doubt that a fire burned within her. I recall her bitterness that scarce family resources and the massive determination of her own mother, Mary Augusta Moore, went to educate the boys in the family, but not the girls. And indeed, all the boys, except for Uncle Ned, who made a career of the Navy, not only went to college but received advanced degrees, even several doctorates among them (Baptist Seminary, I think, and maybe some from the University of Mississippi at Oxford).

I sit on the deck of our mountainside home in Rice Cove and look out on the greening valley, feel the breeze and watch a golden hawk move in slow circles. I understand Mother loved me, and wanted me to have a great life, a much easier life than she had, a life of dreams come true. I wish she could see my life through the time and distance of universal space. Before the spinning spiders tangled up her ability to think and feel clearly, and before Daddy died when I was 13, they implanted a desire for self-improvement and a deeply rooted message that I was a special kid with something to give. I wish they could see my good life,  and my love.

And so on your birthday, Mother, I say thank you for everything. I love you and I hope your eternal essence exists within some happy plane of God’s universe.

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