Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 . . . And Away It Goes

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 . . .

19 comments:

Stephanie J said...

That completely transported me back to another time and another place. Beautiful!

My strongest childhood memories are from the first neighborhood I lived in. We were all close enough in age that we could hang out and get into trouble. There was one particular thicket of trees that we used to transform into haunted woods by digging out monster footprints in the dirt and hanging ghosts from trees. We'd even made monster blood by mashing together the berries from the bushes.

Cyrano said...

Maxine,
I truly loved taking a walk down memeory lane with you.
What a wonderful childhood you must have had.
And what perfect writing. I felt like I was there in that little grocery store, drinking an icy Coke right beside you.
I have many fond memories of childhood. There's one that sticks in my mind for some reason. I recall it all the time. I was six and my father was teaching me how to ride a bike. I can remember finally getting the pedals to churn beneath me and as I took off on my own after my father's final push, I remember the huge coconut palms whisking by over my head.
Love that memeory.
Thanks so much for the glimpse back in time.
Have a lovely morning,
Tamara

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Maxine,

Thanks for your post today. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, and we would walk the mile to the country store and sit on the rough hewn benches and drink Cokes or even make coke floats by pouring coke into a Big Tub of Vanilla ice cream. In the back of the store Mrs. Harrison kept a shelf of books that the bookmobile would change out from time to time. Oh, and there was a bulletin board full of pictures of all of the neighborhood kids. That's the sort of thing we're missing in our Wal-Mart world.

Coincidentally, one of my novels has a character who is in love with her flour sack dresses. I heard all about them from my mother and my grandmother.

Sally

Marilyn Baron said...

Coca-Cola figures into my memories too. I remember walking to Breedings Drugstore and sitting at the fountain and ordering a cherry coke, but not the bottled cherry coke we see today, but a glass with chipped ice with coke and real cherry flavoring. And I think it cost a nickel.

I enjoyed your post.

Marilyn Baron

Anna Steffl said...

Maxine, what a great writer you are. When the heck is your novel coming out so I can have more? These morsels are just making my mouth water. Now I'm going to have to go eat a pickle or something.

I grew up in the middle of a city--just a couple blocks removed from where the bums lounged on the bus stop benches. So, we didn't walk too far up that way to the drug store. We'd hit the 7-11 for a coke slurpee, though. I'd get beer nuts at the bowling alley when we walked there after school to meet up with my mom who was in a couple afternoon leagues.

EC Spurlock said...

What a wonderful trip down memory lane, Maxine!

We lived in a small town that was very ethnic (if your grandparents spoke English, you were a rarity) and until I was five we lived in a big "two-family" house with my grandparents and two maiden aunts. My uncle and his wife and their four daughters lived in the flat upstairs. We had a huge yard with four enormous cherry trees, one of which had two rope swings in it, and there was also a sidewalk that ran alongside the basement for hopscotch and tricycles. In the summer when it got hot we would play in the cool basement; I remember we had a pegboard and pegs to make pictures with and dozens of picture puzzles. There was a little grocery store on the corner (essentially next door but facing a different street) where our parents kept a tab, and once in a while we were allowed to walk down in a bunch and pick out an ice cream bar or candy bar and put it on the tab. I always wanted one of the giant-sized Hershey Special Dark bars that were kept on the very top shelf but was never allowed to get anything that big. (Funny how they don't look that big anymore, somehow!)

Everybody in town was employed at one of three factories, and when the factories closed everything went downhill. It's very sad to go back there now and see how much things have changed for the worse.

And FYI, Maxine, one of my design resources is a website that sells vintage fabrics, including real vintage flour sacks. The fabrics are still beautiful, and I often reference them when designing retro-look patterns.

Maxine Davis said...

Holy Cow, I never realized anyone had heard of flour-sack dresses but me and my sister!

Stephanie, I love the 'digging out monster footprints'! I never thought to do that! Thank you for commenting.

Tamara, I bet we would have walked to the drug store every day and spun around on those stools before our cokes came! Thank you so much!

Sally, I agree. Wouldn't those store be nice now? Ah, and the coke float! I wonder if it will taste as good with diet Pepsi. Think I'll try that. Thanks!

Marilyn, oh yeah! Got the real cherry flavor in my nickel coke too! Loved that!

Anna, you just brought tears to my eys. Thank you so much for the compliment! Hey, those candy bars were much bigger then - I could hardly hold it in my hand! ;)

I would have loved to have lived in that house, EC. I would have been in one of those swings all day! I will check out the site. Thanks for the story.

Oh, you have all made my day! Thank you and have a wonderful afternoon!!

EC Spurlock said...

Maxine,

The site is Sharon's Vintage Fabrics at http://www.rickrack.com/ and sells not only antique fabrics, feedsacks and textiles but also tableware, hankies, aprons, towels etc. It's a great source of both inspiration and nostalgia!

Maxine Davis said...

Loved the site! Thanks EC.

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Maxine! I loved this story. It brought back memories of when I would go visit my grandmother. She had these two dresses that she said were Cinderella dresses. I now know them to have been those tulle type prom dresses. My sisters and I would play dress up in them for hours. We would use grandma’s high heels and practically break our necks as we tried to walk up the stairs to show ourselves off.

I remember when we first started wearing them that we could fit them over our clothes. Then we had to graduate to taking off our shirts before slipping them on. I was never so disappointed than the day I tried to put one on and it wouldn’t fit. My heart was literally broken.

But I remember those dresses and how simple life seemed to be then. Such a contrast to the hectic pace I’ve created for myself in today’s world. Thank you so much for taking me back to that cherished memory!

Tami

Maxine Davis said...

Tami,
I can just see you prancing up those stairs! Bet you were a cutie! I remember those dresses. Hot in the summer and cold in the winter! Thanks for commenting!

Carol Burnside said...

Maxine, I'm late coming to the party, but I enjoyed reading your nostalgic post. I have lovely memories of working with my granny in the garden at the crack of dawn before the Texas sun got to hot for us to be out. What bounty we enjoyed from that garden! My granny made me an old-fashioned bonnet that had cardboard slats in it to keep it stiff. It matched hers and looked just like those you see in pictures of the pioneers. We didn't have many cokes, but plenty of Orange Crush, Grapette, and Kool-Aid.

Linsey Lanier said...

Thanks for giving us a delightful look into your past memories, Maxine. That was just what I needed to brighten my day. :)

In the burbs of Chicago, I remember walking to the local drugstore with a friend to get those little wax Coke bottles you chew the end off and drink. Probably wouldn't taste good at all today, but in my memory, it's delicious.

Linsey

Nicki Salcedo said...

I'm stuck on the idea of a library truck. I'm embarrassed to say I'd never heard of such a thing and just the phrase filled my imagination with wonderful thoughts. A truck carrying library books? Sounds like heaven.

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

Walking on the beach on Summer mornings at sunrise is my fondest memory of childhood.
Your blog is great and I WILL follow.

Susan May said...

Great post. My mother's parents would keep all the grandchildren(7 under the age of 10) for a week during the summer. We would go out to the old home place for part of that time. This was a house built in 1900 in a dog trot stlye. We love everything about it. Sleeping under the trees, eating at the huge family table, and playing in the creek. Great memories.

Ana Aragón said...

Maxine,

What a fun post! It sounds as if many of us have some of the same memories. All the cousins on my mother's side of the family lived in the same barrio in the southern part of Albuquerque. Dirt roads, so lots of dust that had to be swept up and furniture dusted every day. On summer days, we'd play until noon when mom called us all in for lunch and then a three-hour nap (or time for reading when we got older.) After helping with dinner, we could go out and play. Looking back on that I'm wondering if my mom knew something about skin cancer!

Almost all the cousins were boys, so we'd play stickball or ride our bikes up and down the street. The most fun was when someone threw out an old mattress and we decided to play WWF. For about a week, my sister and I were the tag-team record holders! (We were meaner than the boys were!)

Coca-Cola cherry cokes at the Downtown Woolworth counter were the best. And, Carol, I had that same sun bonnet with the cardboard slats. I loved it!

Thanks again for a lovely trip down memory lane!

Ana

Maxine Davis said...

I'm sorry everyone. I fell asleep last night at 8:00 - feel great this morning, but so sorry I missed commenting until this morning.

I bet that bonnet was super-cool Carol.

And those little wax coke bottles. I've had a wad of wax in my mouth that felt like the size of a fist.

Thank you RQL and the HEA. I'll take the beach any morning!

Susan, I wish I had been there with you. That sounds like a wonderful place.

See there Ana, Mom's know everything!

Nicki, the truck looked like a smaller version of the UPS truck and had a wooden railing you could step up on. Great books!

Hope everyone had a great and 'restful' evening!

Thank you so much for stopping by!

Dianna Love said...

What a fun stroll back through time, Maxine. I can see all the things you talk about. I agree - somethings were great memories, but I don't want to live in the past era again.