The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Mama Long

By Rhonda M. Goodin © 1986

Issue: May, 1986

Mama Long, 1956 when she was 48 years old. On her lap is 9 month old author of this story. Left back: Charles E. Long. Left front: sister Debra. Right: cousin Linda Franklin. "We were the four who kept Main Long on her toes."Mama Long, 1956 when she was 48 years old. On her lap is 9 month old author of this story. Left back: Charles E. Long. Left front: sister Debra. Right: cousin Linda Franklin. "We were the four who kept Main Long on her toes."Mama Long is what the six grandchildren call her. That's because she is our second mama. Even though Mom and Dad were the best parents a child could have, Mama Long was there for us too.

When growing up, my two sisters and I could walk from our house up on the hill to Mama Long's, down the path through the woods or down the road, in five minutes and we did this most every day during the summer. I made this walk every time I got into trouble at home. I would come in her front door and walk to the kitchen where she was, with my head hanging down. She knew there had been a big fuss up on the hill by the look on my face. She'd say, "Honey, what did they fuss at you for this time?" They, meaning Mom and Dad, had the temper! I knew Mama Long would take up for me as she always did. She would hug me and say, "Come sit down here beside me," then we would talk it over and always came to the conclusion that I had not done anything wrong (although I probably had!).

Anyway, after I dried my tears she would do anything for me. She'd peal those little, green, sour apples from her tree in the front yard. I loved them and never got the belly ache from eating a dozen at a time.

On winter days, we'd arrive at her house in our snow boots and Mama Long would fix us homemade french fries or perfectly thin sliced into potato chips. I can still see her standing there slicing those potatoes until we were full. Other mornings she would fix the best biscuits ever made and fry a whole pound of bacon. We would eat bacon biscuits til our bellies almost busted.

I loved helping her churn butter and buttermilk, fix 14 day pickles and can green beans. She would let us go into her bedroom and drag out everything she owned to dress up in - jewelry, scarves, dresses, and high-heeled shoes. When we spent the night in the summer with her, she would tell us stories long into the night of her childhood and courting days. We'd awake in the morning with the bird's spring songs and a gentle breeze coming through the window. Mama Long had gotten up much earlier to get Daddy Felix off to work. We'd snuggle deep into the cool, soft sheets then get up a while later.

After we had breakfast, we would go with her outside to weed the flowers, wash down the front porch and sweep. She always kept the ground around the front porch swept since no grass grew there because of the shade from the large, flowering shrubs that grew in front of the porch. A few feet from the front of the porch was the cinder block wall which extended well past both ends of the front porch. It is divided in the center by a wide sidewalk, then steps that descend into the front yard. This provided a perfect border for Mama Long's flowers and shrubs. She had every kind of flower there was. I especially remember the Blackeyed Susans, Zinnias, Chrysanthemums, Marigolds, Geraniums, Hollyhocks, Sweet Williams and Roses.

The wide front porch held lots of memories. It began at the left front corner of the house and went all the way across the length of the front of the house, then around the right side for about 12 feet. On this corner, steps again descended out onto a large walk. Mama Long had flowers in pots and shrubs surrounding the walks, steps and 7 columns of the front porch.

When we washed the porch down, this was by no means a chore. We would haul water from the back of the house to wet it, then sprinkle detergent all over, then came the fun. We'd take off running and slide from one end of the cement porch to the other. When we were finished playing, we'd rinse it. The porch was then clean.

During the summer when it rained, we would dress up in our rain attire, which consisted of plastic bags for coats and small ones on our feet, closed with rubber bands at the ankles. We found lots of mud puddles and would splash in every one with the rain pouring so hard we could not see, but we loved it.

My grandfather, Daddy Felix, had the largest garden around. It covered the grounds past the yard on three sides of the house. I remember him sending us to the house for ice water. Mama Long sent us back with a quart jar full and he would drink the whole thing that instant. He worked so hard in his garden and became so hot and thirsty. He worked at Stanley Furniture Company. (He made the first chair ever made there.) He would come home from work and work til dark. Some evenings we'd all sit on the front porch snapping green beans. We would play in the dark because it was too hot to go inside. We would get thread and tie it on the legs of June Bugs. We'd let them go, holding onto the string and watch them fly around in circles, buzzing above our heads.

Daddy Felix was so loving to his grandchildren. He was funny too. I remember in church having to punch him because he had fallen to sleep and was snoring. He'd wake up and look over at us and smile. He passed away at the age of 69 from one of his many heart attacks.

Mama Long still lives in that house that Daddy Felix built on state road 609, below Dillons Fork, which is above Fieldale, Virginia. She is 78 years young and spends her time knitting and cooking. I very seldom get to visit her, but all I have to do is give her a call and we have talked for hours about everything. Every day I think about those wonderful days of my childhood which I spent with these wonderful grandparents of mine and what I would give to just go back for a few days. But all I have are the beautiful cherished memories which are the greatest gift God could give to a child.