Mt. Hope Scrolls: Ma


One of my friend’s grandmothers was called Ma. That was how I was introduced to her. She had other names too. She was called, MeMe, Memaw, Nana and Mamaw. Ma was the name she liked best. Her husband was Pa and he didn’t have any other grandpa names. Ma and Pa were easy enough for me to remember and that’s all I ever called them. Looking back on it, I didn’t know any other name for them.

Ma and Pa raised a farm family from the end of the depression until they died. Pa got up every morning and went out to his farm and Ma started on housework and cooking dinner. Exactly at twelve noon, Pa would walk in the house and dinner would be served. What a dinner it was. There would be fried chicken, rice and gravy, beans, peas, carrots, possibly other vegetables and bread. There was always cake or pie for dessert. That was done seven days a week. Ma and Pa had three sons and they all worked on the farm as they grew up. Ma had the same routine of feeding all the people at twelve. That routine lasted until a few months before she died.

When I met Ma and Pa they were in their eighties. Now the only people that came for dinner was one of their grandchildren. The dinner table was not crowded. For a while I would visit my friend and it would be just the two of us visiting Ma and Pa. The menu would be the same and there would be plenty to eat.

Twelve was the time when the food would hit the table. Ma had been working all morning and even though Pa was retired and watching television all morning the noonday meal was going to be at twelve. This was important because the dishes would be in the sink because at 12:30 The Young and the Restless was coming on. Ma and Pa were going to keep up with Victor and Nicki.

Exactly at 1:30 Ma would head down the hall to her bedroom. My friend would say, “Listen for the snap.” Ma would put on her girdle and it made some sort of snapping sound. When you heard the snap, Ma would be headed toward her little Ford Falcon car and would head off to see some of her friends in the neighborhood. You wouldn’t see Ma again until right at dark. She would coast into her driveway; head down the hall to her bedroom and you could hear a snapping sound. The girdle was off and Ma would wash the dishes and go to bed. Pa would have to fix some sort of supper for himself. Ma had done all the kitchen stuff for that day. I only stopped by for a few years. My friend told me that this was an everyday occurrence for nearly sixty years. He had witnessed this his whole life and his dad and uncles always said this was the routine and it never varied.

One of the last times I visited with my friend at Ma’s house the routine had changed a little. Ma was having trouble seeing and didn’t like to drive as much. She had replaced driving around to visit her friends with calling them on the telephone. Immediately after The Young and The Restless, Ma would sit at a tiny little table and start dialing on a big rotary dial phone. Incredibly, Ma would light a cigarette and talk until about six o’clock. She would wash dishes fix a sandwich and head down her hall to put on her nightgown. While all the afternoon teleconferencing was going on Pa sat watching television and smoked sort cigars.

Pa died and Ma died about a year later. There were two mysteries involved in this tale. Ma kept her little Falcon car about twenty years and only put twenty five thousand miles on it. One of her sons got the car. The next thing was the smell of smoke. If you came into Ma and Pa’s house at five in the afternoon you could smell some tobacco smoke. If you came in at twelve you could only smell the food that was cooking for dinner. 

Looking back on the time I would visit with my friend and eat with Ma and Pa, he never had any explanation of the smell in the house or how the Falcon got around. In his lifetime he never saw Ma put gas in the car and she never seemed to drive over about twenty miles an hour. Some mysteries will just remain a mystery.