Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Remembering the Old Ways

Where have all the old ways gone? I see photographs like these, and I remember as a teen seeing women work in their gardens in just such a sunbonnet. Goodness, I even owned one once upon a time. With a matching dress. Made out of brown calico, my Mama made it for me as a costume, but I wore it often, not usually with the bonnet, but I did wear the dress for several years.

The sunbonnet was just what its name implied, a bonnet with a broad brim that protected a woman's face from the sun as she labored outside in the summers sun. What? You thought the women worked indoors and the men did the outside work?

As my Grandma Bean would have said, "Awww, pshaw!"

Women did all of the outside chores next to the house. From clipping the grass (you really don't want to know how that was done! ), to gardening, chopping wood, and cleaning the outhouse out.  (Before the advent of lime, that stinky job was done a couple of times a year! Later, women found that if lime was regularly put down the hole, it would cause the waste to disintegrate and that chore would be eliminated! Plus it kept the smell down considerably. And that's lime as in the mineral, not the fruit.)

My Grandma Bean came to live with us when I was 5 years old. She spent a lot of the first few years talking to me about her youth, and the old ways.

I think of these things now, as I near the age she must have been then. I remember in the spring gathering the dandelion greens for wilted greens. Or dandelion tea. Dandelions are high in iron and are a perfect natural use for regaining lost iron in women of child bearing years. The old folks would eat the dandelion greens either as a salad or wilted, or drink them as a tea. They were "spring tonic" and every young girl knew how to make it.

My Grandma Dreher allowed cobwebs to linger in the corners of her high ceilings. They were a great way to make cuts "knit" closed. I saw her once cut the back of her hand pretty badly on a sharp bed rod (the rod that sometimes holds the two sides of a modern bed frame together.) She simply took the handle of the broom and gently removed some cobweb from a corner, (that's cobwebs, not spider webs!) and lay it over the cut. It caused the free flowing blood to clot almost instantly. She lay several layers of this over the wound. Then she tore a petticoat into strips (yes, a slip was called a petticoat back in the day), and she wrapped a cotton strip from this around the hand. She had a very fine thin line of a scar. No physician could have stitched it to look it any better.

My Mama never bought cough syrup as we were growing up. She'd have Dad buy a pint of whiskey (Mama was a tea totaler Southern Baptist to the core! She would have died before walking into a liquor store!) She would mix honey, lemon juice and whiskey and she made her own cough syrup. She used a minute amount of whiskey, to be sure. But it cured our coughs.

And me? I am a hot toddy woman. My children were given hot toddies when they were sick. And I drink them to this day when I am in need due to cough, cold or flu. I even have a hot toddy for pain, well, that's a little stronger when taken with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but it does the job when traditional pain medication is not available.

I also pick up every coin I find lying on the ground. Even if its a single penny. As we used to sing when collecting pennies to be sent to the missionaries for church, "Pennies grow up to be dollars!"

I also knit, crochet, quilt, and love making my own clothing! I love cooking from scratch as well. Sometimes the old ways, even with all of our many conveniences, just hold no appeal to me.

In June I am moving to a tiny community that lies in a valley in West Virginia, where we like to tease and say they have to pipe in the sunshine. Cell phones don't work there. And there is no cable tv or regular internet. And you know what? I can't wait to step back into that older way of life.

When we go over to work on the place, neighbors drop by "just to say hello and see if ya need any help". Gardens are plowed and disked already, and getting ready for those potatoes to be planted over Memorial Weekend. The old schoolhouse, now the community center, will hold its annual community dinner where everyone brings a dish and a dessert.  From my back door, I'll be able to look across the valley, and see the hillside where my family lies in the cemetery. There's my Mommy, my Grandma and Grandpa, my great-grandparents, my great-aunts and great-uncles. My aunts and uncles. My cousins. And one day, someone will walk by and I'll be at my Mommy's feet. (Well, actually at my sister's feet, but she'll be right beside Mommy.) My family will all be together there.

Just like the old ways. And that's just how it should be to me.

If you are interested in learning about the old ways in the Appalachian area of our country, The Foxfire Book series is an excellent way to learn. The first book was published in 1972, and is still available on Amazon. There are over 20 books in the series, and a re a real treasure! You can purchase Book One below if you like!

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Sun a fun read! I grew up in Southern WV where they 'pipe the sunshine in'. (Monroe county) Now I live in the midwest I miss just hearing the accents & language. let alone all the other treasures we had there.