Old Man Brxb

A place for my poems

Early Memories of Home

Early Memories of Home
By J. Carl Brooksby

Was Fredonia a big town? No, no not at all.
In fact, by all measurements, it still would be small
It wasn’t the birthplace of prophets or presidents,
It was only the home of some three hundred residents.
It didn’t boast much in the way of amenities,
But to a young boy, it had its serenities.                  .                                                                       
It was peaceful and calm and tranquil at night,
Except at the dances, where the Parkers would fight.

The Judds and the Brooksbys were plentiful then;
Aunts, uncles and cousins numbered three score and ten.
The house I was born in was a humble abode,
With kerosene lamps and a path to the commode.
The water was drawn from a barrel by the ditch,
‘Til Dad built a new house, and we thought we were rich.
The water then came from a pump in the kitchen,
From rain on the tin roof that was caught in a cistern.

It’s to the stove in the kitchen that my thoughts turn often;
The tales it could tell would make your heart soften.
I’d give all I own for that feeling once more,
Of the comfort and warmth of the old oven door.
The number two tub each Saturday night
Was used for our baths by the kerosene light.
The kettles on the stove kept our bath water hot.
Each child took his turn, whether he needed it or not.

The woodbox by the stove was filled nightly from the pile;
The thoughts of the stove warmth made the chopping worth while.
There the water was heated for the washing each Monday,
Of the clothes we had dirtied from Tuesday through Sunday.
I can still smell the beans on washday each week,
On the back of the stove, waiting ready to eat.
On Tuesdays the stove heated flat irons for pressing;
On wintery mornings, it gave warmth for our dressing.

‘Round the kitchen table each night our lessons we’d learn;
When we had a problem, to our mother we’d turn.
As a scholar, I admit, I had a reputation,
But I owe a great part to her eighth grade education.
We played children’s games, heard stories, sang songs,
There was no television to start us off wrong.
‘Twas the warmth of the kitchen and the coziness there
That made it seem easy our burdens to share.

Our clothes came from Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward;
Waiting for the package to come was so hard.
The new clothes were Russell’s; I had to wear his,
The ones without too many holes, that is.
Santa used the same source for his annual presents;
Compared to today, you would think we were peasants.
A truck or a knife or a book or a ball
Or a home-made sled and some love, that was all.

We slept on a mattress of corn shucks and ticking.
If we happened to wet it, we were in for a licking.
Each Fall, new corn shucks were exchanged for the old;
We had lots of heavy quilts to keep out the cold.
We’d always rise early our chores to perform;
Milking the cows would keep our hands warm.
Pour some milk for the kittens, feed the bucks meadow hay,
Swill and corn for the pigs to start out the day.

Breakfast was mush, mostly made from cracked wheat.
Corn flakes and Wheaties would have been a rare treat.
Sometimes there were pork chops or bacon or ham,
And usually hot cakes or muffins with jam.
The school bell would summon, and off we would walk;
We’d come home for lunch, it was only a block.
Recess was fun, playing marbles or ball;
When school was over, our night chores would call.

Then back to the feeding and milking and such;
You couldn’t wait until dark or you did it by touch.
With no lights in the barn to see your way ‘round,
But the teats on the cow could always be found.
I don’t want you to think life was all work and school,
But you should realize that hard work was the rule.
There was time to build kites to fly in the wind,
And times for some mischief, yes, sometimes I sinned.

Summer evenings were when we all gathered for fun,
With “kick the can”, “dare base” or “run my sheep, run”.
With potatoes roasted in a fire by the street,
Or roast corn from the garden, so tender and sweet,
Or sometimes in a can on the coals we’d prepare
A stew. The aroma would fill the night air.
You’d think we were poor from the things we went without,
But in the things that really mattered, we were rich without doubt.

I have been no angel; I’ll never sprout wings,
But I’ve learned that the best things in life are not things.
The love of a mother, the strength of a dad,
The things that they teach you, the good from the bad,
The sharing of secrets with sister and brother,
The comfort and pain at the knee of your mother.
Though I had a million dollars and the world I would rove,
I could ne’er buy the comfort of the old kitchen stove.

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