So much of what I learned as a child in Valdosta Georgia was taught by relatives and neighbors whose formal education was meager.
But they were not without knowledge…
They Knowed Some Things
Old folks in my neighborhood knowed a lot of things, and under the proper circumstances they would let you know what they knowed, even though you thought you knew everything. They knowed what they knowed because everybody in the neighborhood knowed the same thing, that way there was no cause to argue over matters that everybody knowed.
Mister Charlie, Mister B, and my Daddy knowed that when the whistles at the sawmill and the cotton mill blowed at 7:00 a.m., it was a reminder to get to work on time. At precisely 4 o’clock p.m., those same whistles blowed to signal the end of the day and to alert the cooks at home to cut a few strips of fatback and start mixing the flour, cause the menfolk would be home soon, even if he stopped by the store to get another plug of Brown Mule chewing tobacco.
Everybody knowed the Trailways bus ran between 3:30 and 4:00 every day, so why even talk about it. We also knowed Mister Dunlap came on Monday to collect the fifteen cents for the life insurance policy, and on Tuesday Mister Murray delivered a block of ice. You didn’t need a calendar to remind you that prayer meeting was on Wednesday night at the church, and if Mister Buster didn’t walk past your house on his way there, you got to worrying that maybe he ‘took sick.
Mrs. Washington and her niece Julia washed clothes each day, Monday through Friday. Everybody knowed that, and since everybody also knowed which way the wind blowed, you burned the leaves when the wind blowed away from Mrs. Washington’s yard.
Rather than tell your neighbor how to behave, we learned each other’s patterns and adjusted our expectations to what they did.
As children, when the elders said, “now, you better hear this,” common sense and respect dictated that you listen and remember what “this” is, so that the next time you heard it, you knowed what to do.
We were neighbors, and we knowed everybody’s business, and if anything changed, we all needed to know why, because we depended on each other.
Times have changed. We don’t seem to know as much as we used to.
It was not uncommon for my mother to work in the middle of the night ironing clothes that she delivered to her employer the next morning. The extra 50 cents she received for washing and ironing last week’s laundry helped to pay for this week’s grocery.
One night I offered her my company. I sat in a corner and studied my textbook by the light of a kerosene lamp. She moved the iron over shirts and sheets to the rhythm of a hymn to ease her burden. My textbook bore the names of the two prior owners, both White children. After a couple of years at the White schools, the books were delivered to our Colored schools, along with a few used desks and other “education hand-me-downs.” When I told my mother that two pages were missing in my text, she stood motionless for a spell, and then calmly asked: “Do you know everything on the pages you have?” Before I could answer, she put her gentle hand on my shoulder and said, “I can’t replace the pages for you, but I’ll promise to do my best for you with what I have; if you’ll promise to do the best for yourself with what you have.”
She resumed her tune. I studied what I had.
Good memories are treasures that we horde for ourselves.
Sometimes they are the only currency that can buy peace of mind.
They give us safe passage to where we were once content.
Good memories are not exhausted by time.
For The complete library of stories since May 2015, go to www.jeatrilogy.com