by Maxine Davis
It’s the end of the year and, for me, nostalgia sets in about the year that’s nearly over or one of the years in the past. The other day my niece said, “My dress is the same color as my favorite dress of Grandmother’s. I miss Grandmother and Granddaddy.” I do too, but it got me to thinking about my own Grandmother and Granddaddy – and one very special dress that I had . . . .
Flour Sack Dresses and Colas in the Cooler
Nostalgia - The term nostalgia describes a longing for the past, often in idealized form. The key words here are “often in idealized form.”
When I was small, my sister and I, before my brother’s entry into the world, would visit my grandparents every summer. No TV, but we loved it. Using a broom to clear away the pine straw and use it for borders, we’d make ‘rooms’ in the pine thicket and play there for hours. Sometimes these were hospital rooms, sometimes a house. Two bricks and a board was the sofa. We’d sit there and enjoy make-believe tea and sometimes real cookies on pieces of broken plates. I loved that imaginary world where visitors would come for a visit and sit and talk. I knew everyone just loved Roopville in Heard County and thought the world of Walter and Christina (my grandparents.) It never hurt that some of these friends would often bring an imaginary handsome prince with them. Ah, the good life.
My grandparents loved it too, but to them it was life—hard work and all. Granddaddy and Grandmother had a huge farm, about 100 acres, where they grew cotton and raised pigs, a few cows, and always a few cats. Being so far out in the country, there was a Grocery Truck that came by every couple of weeks. There was also a Library Truck that came by. We could pick a book and get lost in an adventure. Although all that was—sort of—interesting to me, I really loved it when we got to walk up the road to Cook’s General Store. Now that was a place I loved!
After the long walk there (actually, you could see it from their yard) we’d sit outside on the benches that lined the porch and catch our breath. No one went with us; no need. We were perfectly safe. Of course, it was always coincidence that Granddaddy would stop by in the truck just after we got there. Inside, Elsie Cook would say, “You girls know where the Coke box is.” Inside were different sodas, NuGrape being my favorite. They were sitting in ice water. Now that is a cold drink. We could go back outside or sit on the benches around the coal heater. I can just imagine the things that old coal heater heard—crops, kinfolk, new babies. Back then I couldn’t understand why we girls weren’t allowed to spit in the spittoon beside it.
One of the staples of the general store was flour. After all, families had biscuits with just about every meal. These twenty-pound bags of flour came in ‘beautiful’ cotton sacks. Sometimes grandmother would give my mother some of the matching sacks and mother would sew us dresses. I had one that I called my Buttons and Bows dress. It was navy blue with pink and yellow buttons and bows. Beautiful! Even some of the girls at school asked where I got my Buttons and Bows Dress. No one cared that it was from flour sacks. It was just pretty.
Fond memories? Yes. Would I want to go back to that way of life? No. Visiting it in memory is enough for me. And somehow I don’t think that a flour sack dress would be as gorgeous today as it was then.
Do you have fond memories of growing up? Did you have a special dress that your mother had to sneak away from you to wash it? Now, if I only had a NuGrape to drink . . .