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The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

“If I’d Only Known”

By Julie Terry Cartner

A pair of dark gray socks, embroidered with burgundy edging and elaborate flowers of the same hue, just my size, sit in the old Captain’s trunk atop many other treasures from the past. Slipping my always cold feet into the two, hand-knitted cocoons of warmth-filled pleasure, I marveled at the intricacy of the design. Such detail, lovingly added to the already-complicated creation of socks, must have been a labor of love.

Like many of us, I have spent much of my shelter at home days cleaning and de-cluttering. Opening the old Captain’s trunk in my boy’s bedroom, I unearthed expected memories – hand-tooled quilts commemorating their births, favorite blankets and winter apparel. But I had forgotten I had put several items of my own in the remaining space once the boys grew to men and moved away. Always aware of the voracious appetites of destructive moths, I had added my woolen garments along with the deep richness of cedar chips, an aroma so reminiscent of old trunks, before closing the lid many years ago. Now, I pulled out several scarves, mittens and hats, and then, the socks.

I love winter, always have. As a child and far into my teen years, I’d spend every available moment outside, sledding, or more often, ice skating. Dreams of being the next Dorothy Hamill soared through my brain as I practiced spins, glides and jumps. Despair of my curly hair, which could never duplicate her famous Hamill wedge, was the only negative thinking I allowed myself – other than the other, my bitterly cold feet! Figure skates, no matter how elegant, are not well insulated, and I would skate until my feet were numb, then trudge home through the woods and the knee deep snow, frozen toes screaming with every step.

I didn’t know then, didn’t know until many years later, how tedious knitting socks really is, how many countless hours it takes to fashion a skein of yarn into soft, comforting socks. After all, I’d thought, they’re little and probably only take an hour or two to make. How wrong I was.

I wish I’d known. I never knew, and, to be honest, to some degree wish I didn’t know now. Had I known the depth of the gift, those soft woolen socks, I would hope that I would have been more gracious, more appreciative of the gift. Had I known, I hope I would have expressed my understanding that they were so much more than socks. To my rather undemonstrative mother, this gift was an expression of love. She knew how much I adored skating as it so closely duplicated hers in her younger years, and she also knew of my icicle feet.

So she made me socks for warmth and adorned them with decorations for a daughter who was old enough to appreciate beauty even if she weren’t old enough to recognize her mother’s expression of love for what it was. Those socks were a way of telling me, “I understand you. I love you. You are mine.” Sadly, to my teenaged self, they were merely a pair of socks. If I’d only known, I would hope my casual thanks would have been replaced by a deeper, stronger, more loving thank you, a recognition of the time-consuming task of knitting socks and the depth of love, and the acknowledgement of the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter.

If I’d only known… But I know now. Thank you, Mom. I love you.

“Remembering Mama”

By Gaye Hoots

The first memory I have of my mom is when my younger sister was born. I was two years old and had slept in a baby bed at the foot of my parents’ bed until Faye was born. Then I was installed in a youth cot in Grandpa’s room. I did not like being moved from my bed but did like my time with Grandpa, becoming his shadow until my brother Phil was born four years later when we moved from my grandparents’ home to the Marchmont.

Mama was afraid when Dad was not home, and I thought I was her protector. It was during the years here that she shared the stories of her childhood. She had grown up on a farm with five brothers. Their family attended the church that was closest to their home, Friend’s Union. Mama had been a good student and an obedient daughter. One of the things she loved was dancing, and she could do a mean Charleston, but she rarely got to go to dances. She was beautiful and always careful of her posture and how she dressed in public.

Mama graduated from high school and shared with me that she had played basketball during her school days, which surprised me. She shared stories of double dating with her girlfriends and how she met my dad. He came with the boyfriend of Mama’s girlfriend, and they began to date. After a few months, she agreed to marry him. She, her brother, and his fiancée and Dad drove to York, South Carolina, where both couples were married. They drove back to Winston Salem and spent one night at The Robert E. Lee Hotel.

My parents then moved in with my dad’s family on a farm in Yadkin County, where Dad farmed with his father. Mama had never seen Dad in anything but a suit until after they were married. Once married, he donned overalls and rarely dressed up again. After a couple of years, Grandpa sold the Yadkin County farm, and Dad located a farm in Advance. WW11 had started, and Mama took a job at The Carbon Plant in Winston, where she lived in a boarding house during the week, spending weekends on the farm. It is hard for me to picture her being this independent, but Mama worked about a year and quit a month before I was born. She lost her brother, a glider pilot, over France, and I was born on his next birthday.

Childhood on the farm with my grandparents was picture perfect in my mind, and after we moved to Marchmont, I still spent weekends with my grandparents frequently. The most significant change for me was that Mama wanted me home when Dad was gone, so I was spending less time with him and more with her. I watched her take on all the responsibilities of family life, and she had her challenges. Faye stayed close to Mama, but Phil and I gave her many scares.

When I was 6 or 7, I missed the school bus one morning, and rather than return home and upset Mama, I decided to walk the three or four miles to school. Someone I did not know offered me a ride, so I didn’t have to walk the whole way. A few days later Jim Peebles, who worked for Dad, told him a man of questionable character had picked me up and taken me to school. Mama was upset with me. Another scare I gave her was when I cut my foot deeply on a broken Coke bottle, and she could not stop the bleeding. Luckily, a farmhand was able to stop it.

My brother broke his bottle and swallowed a piece of the glass when he was one year old. There was someone to help then, and Phil survived. Once he ran away, and Jim Peoples found footprints leading up to the edge of the farm pond, but no returning set and for almost an hour, Mama thought he had drowned.

Dad purchased a farm in Advance when I was about 13 years old, and we moved there. Advance was much more convenient for Mama. Although I loved Marchmont, it never belonged to us. We were closer to church, which was always a part of our lives because of Mama. Dad attended when we were young, but as he took on more farmland, he stopped. I had started attending Advance Baptist with Grandma Hoots when I was 6 years old, and this became our anchor. Mother lived her life by the rule book, no gray areas, only black or white. After my dad died, the church was her support circle.

Farm life was harsh, but Mama handled it all and tried to keep us all on the right track. She loved her grandkids fiercely and mentored them as well. She was an excellent cook, and while I never thought of things in terms of rich or poor, I felt I ate like a king. Mama was a teetotaler, and one of my fondest memories was her giggling with my daughters and listening to their stories about dating and marriage. I had never seen this side of her as she tried to be strict with us growing up.

One day she asked me to get her one of the soda pops the girls shared with her when they visited. I could not figure what brand she wanted, so she saved an empty bottle for me. They had been taking her a wine cooler on their visits. I never told her what it was and picked up some for her.

She had a difficult time adjusting when Dad died as she had never spent a night alone. My five- year old granddaughter stayed with her for a while. Mama eventually learned to live alone and lived until just past ninety. She had a major stroke when she was eighty-five and had to have total care. Mama was able to spend the last two years of her life living with my sister and for the final year with me also. Mama was a treasure.

“Masks”

By Marie Craig

My first memory of wearing a mask was in the first grade near Halloween.  Our teacher had us cut out black construction paper that had a vague shape of a cat’s head.  We cut jagged holes for eyes and mouth with our little rounded-point scissors so that we could see and breathe.  She fastened elastic on each edge that went around our heads and became tangled in our hair.  Then she marched us single file the half mile from school to downtown so that everybody could see our marvelous art projects.  It’s a wonder we didn’t get run over or trampled with our poor line of sight.  I remember feeling embarrassed by the whole thing because I was sure somebody would recognize me and I would be permanently scarred by this experience.

     I recall having a black Zorro mask a few years later that went with my cowgirl outfit.  It had sharp edges that dug into my face, but I wore it anyway as I solved crimes and wiped out bad guys.

     My mask days got put on hold until recently when I’d go to the doctor with contagious symptoms.  I still felt awkward putting one on.  I wonder how much good they actually do.  But we now live in a must-wear mask moment.  It’s been interesting seeing what creations some people have either bought or made at home.  I’ve always admired others’ abilities to think outside the box and combine the mundane with the abstract.  We now have clown faces, designs with nature and plaid designs, and favorite team logos on masks.

     I have a strong suggestion: somewhere on the mask you wear, write, embroider, or use a name tag.  I talked to a woman in a store this week for several minutes who knew me.  I had no idea who she was.  The voice was familiar, but it was one of those odd times when the harder you thought, the more obscure the answer was.  I couldn’t think of a pointed question that would give me a clue as to who she was.  It would be wonderful if everybody wore name tags all the time.  It would make life so much easier, and this would be a great help if they could be put on masks first so that we get used to the idea.

     Something happens in your brain when you try too hard to think of a name or an answer.  I have found that if I say to myself, “I really don’t care if I think of this or not,” then some very relaxed part of my brain will come up with the correct answer.  But sometimes, the moment has passed and you don’t need to think of it right then.

     I saw an image once of a man who had gold engraved in his front teeth that spelled out his name.  Now, that’s class.  But nobody can see it now because he has to wear a mask.

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