Born in a house by the river,
you crossed the water in a boat
every morning for school,
never learning to swim.
Your mother toiled in the fields,
birthed five children and raised
three, you were the youngest.
She made your clothes, wrung
the necks of chickens for dinner
and baked golden corn bread.
Your daddy grew head high corn
and tobacco to sell, raised a hog
for fattening up to buy cloth and
shoes once a year for his children.
Hunted squirrel, rabbit and deer,
fished for blue gill and catfish
to feed the family.
You climbed with your brother
like a cat, balancing and jumping
from rafter to rafter in the old
tobacco barn, fearless as a child.
You grew up in the mountains,
dreaming of a life like the ones
you saw in the picture shows.
You never had indoor plumbing
while you lived at home.
Cold clear water came from
a bucket drawn up from a well
outside the backdoor. You bathed
in a galvanized tub in the kitchen,
standing, washing from head to toe,
then doused in warmed water
from the stove to rinse.
You wrote letters to a friend of your
brother who he met in the Navy. He
left to join, underage but craving
a different life than what his parents
You remained, caring for nieces and
nephews, finally time with your mom
to yourself who by now, was too old
and tired to relate to a teenage girl.
You married at seventeen, the friend
of your brother’s, you had met once and
written letters to for more than a year
when you came together, a double
wedding with your cousin.
Your dress was handmade by your
mother, so many satin covered buttons,
with tiny crocheted loops down the
back. It enveloped you like a shiny
white glove, you stepped into a
new existence, all innocence.
You traveled to New York – far from
home yet not as different as you may
have anticipated. With this man, you
made a life. You gave yourself over to
being a wife and mothering three
daughters while your husband
finished college on a G I Bill, worked
at a Dairy and started a teaching career.
You sewed, cleaned, cooked, comforted,
parented, loved, but always you missed
the home you had left. He kept his promise
and took you back to the mountains,
his education complete.
You created a life in a small town
in Kentucky. Sunday meant dinner
with your parents near the river
in Clay County. Summers meant
traveling to New York for his family.
Between the Sundays and summers
you made dresses for three girls,
cooked three meals a day, brushed
and braided three heads of hair,
washed clothes with a wringer
washer and dried them on a line.
Over time, he built you a home, and
put the kitchen wherever you asked.
You both made a home full of music
and art, books and singing, writing
and discussions. A place filled with
love and inviting to those who found
connection to a door always open.
You did the baking, the cake making,
the planning and designing for
costumes and performing. You loved
reassurances. You found inspiration
in praise. You gave of yourself in
your coherent days.
For eighty five years, you performed
your role, as daughter, sister, niece,
cousin, aunt, wife, mother, grandmother
and friend. You never missed a chance
to contribute some part of your heart
to those you loved. You created lasting
memories that have no end.