I was sitting in the ETSU Graduate School office on Monday, the 13th, waiting to speak with someone about my thesis and graduation, when I a came across the following magazine article:
“Deep Roots and Mountain Spirit” by Judy Lee Green
Now and Then: The Appalachian Magazine
Vol. 24 No. 2, Fall-Winter 2008
What a wonderful article, full of rich language!
“By the age of twenty-one my mama had given birth to five little babies, just months apart. We were the baby dolls in the window of the five and ten cent store that her sharecropper daddy could never afford. Delighted with us, she dressed us up and changed our clothes, counted our fingers and kissed our toes, played patty-cake and peep-eye, and danced us on her hips as she sang along with the Carter Family, and yodeled with Rose Maddox and Patsy Montana on the radio.” (14)
“My granddaddy attended grammar school for a short period of time, after harvest and before planting, but he was needed to plow, pick cotton, chop wood, do chores, and work in the field to help his sharecropper parents. When he had learned the alphabet and could cipher, which was more than most folks knew, additional schooling was not necessary.
“When I was a little girl, my granddaddy corresponded with my mama, his youngest daughter, from the isolated Georgia farm where he lived and worked for shares. Letter-writing was their only means of communication. He carried a yellow pencil in the bib of his overalls, his Barlow knife in his left front pocket, jingling money in his right, if he was fortunate enough to have a few coins. He sharpened his pencil, moistened the tip on his tongue, and, using no capitals or punctuation, wrote in a dull, scratchy scrawl on a lined six-by-nine-inch dime-store tablet:
wnt 2 twn tuther day
got nu ovrals
an poke uf fuge
whn r u cumn dwn
u kok gud food 4 ed
4 he wrks hrd
u r stl mi ba b
i b cn u
luv dady (15)
“More than a century after my granddaddy was born into poverty, his great-great granddaughter (my daughter) was born to a life of privilege. She has never known hardship or disappointment, never wanted for anything. She is sixteen years old, a lovely young woman – smart, educated, gifted. If he could meet or correspond with her, my granddaddy would love her. She sends me a text message from her home a mile away:
schl is out
we r go n on vac 2mrrow
lk 4 a pt cd
i b cn u sn
luv Kessie :-) (16)
“The past is never lost.…”
I wish I could reproduce more here, because there is so much more to share, but this entry is getting to long already! The article is worth a read in its entirety, though, because there is a great section on education, reading and writing.
In the first excerpt, I love the phrase: “Delighted with us, she dressed us up and changed our clothes, counted our fingers and kissed our toes, played patty-cake and peep-eye, and danced us on her hips...” It’s very melodic and poetic, sing-songy sort of, with rhythm and rhyme! Here the author speaks in pairs, but each pair seems to be matched – 1) dressed us up / changed our clothes (3 words each); 2) counted our fingers / kissed our toes (3 words each). And here, the two pairs rhyme. In the third pair, there is alliteration (played patty-cake and peep-eye), along with the use of a hyphenated word on each side. The whole thing is a linguistic masterpiece!
In the second excerpt, I love the comparison of granddaddy’s ciphered letter and great-granddaughter’s text message [oh how similar they are!], with the comment, “If he could meet or correspond with her, my granddaddy would love her,” reflecting on the idea of communication creating community. I love one of the author's concluding thoughts here: "The past is never lost."