Whenever I post my TALES FROM THE BAYOU stories, I'm not trying to garner sympathy. I'm not trying to get my readers to say, "awww poor, POOR Donna". What I AM trying to do is tell these tales in such a way as to draw my readers back in time to a place I called home many years ago and during a time...as Billy Joel likes to say..."when I wore a younger (wo)man's shoes". I guess I will let my readers be the judge...
Circa 1964...I wasn't much more than a toddler but I can still remember the old "icebox" Mother had in the kitchen. Some of you might not have even heard of the word icebox before but it was called that because quite literally there was a compartment on top where you would place a huge block of ice to help cool the perishable items stored in the compartment below it. I can remember the rides to the ice house in the back of a beat up old Chevy truck...way before the time people thought it too dangerous to throw four young kids in the back and just let them bounce around as you go down the road. What a grand adventure it was! I knew when I got to the local ice house there would be some guy with a pair of huge ice pick tongs eager to throw that fifty or one hundred pounds of solid ice onto the blanket laid out in the back of our truck. Then it was back to the house to load it into the back of our ice box so we could have something cool to eat or drink the next day. I never stopped to think that everyone else in town probably had REAL refrigerators...I just thought trips to the ice house on a Saturday morning was what everyone did.
Then there was Mother's little habit of needing a smoke. Mother chose cigarettes, probably not because she liked them so much as the fact it helped kill her appetite. Back then cigarettes didn't cost anywhere what it does these days but even so Mother couldn't scrape enough together at the end of Daddy's paycheck to get the store bought kind so she had to roll her own. I can still remember that big ol' can of loose tobacco and the bundle of papers she had to roll it in. Not one to be outdone by circumstance, Mother even made sure to tap a cheap filter into one end of her homemade smokes to give a little bit of class to what she was reduced to doing.
I can even remember when store bought bread was 20 cents a loaf but since we didn't have the extra money to throw away on such frivolous things, Mother would make homemade bread several times a week. I can easily remember the heavenly aroma of a freshly baked slice of bread slathered with homemade churned butter. There were many times I was forced to eat things you just never considered to be edible, but Mother's homemade bread wasn't one of them!
But I think it was when Mother couldn't pay for the gas to heat up her morning coffee that she became the most creative. At first I didn't make the connection between the utilities being cut off and Mother's lack of morning hot beverage. I would just follow orders when she'd tell me to go lay the garden hose out on the grass in the back yard where the hot summer sun could beat down on it. I always wondered if it was some kind of ritual she performed to the "garden gods" so we could harvest a lot of vegetables.
I discovered the truth when I caught my Mother coming out of the house one day and making her way to the garden hose with cup in hand. Quickly she turned on the water and captured the solar heated liquid so she could mix it with the instant coffee waiting inside. She may not have heat to cook a meal, but by God, she was going to figure out a way to have a cup of hot coffee to start her day! I can only hope a little bit of her creativity has rubbed off on me...;~)