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Friday, 29 January 2010


By Mary B Summerlin who keeps a photostream at Flickr

Susannah, my niece said, “Aunt Mary you must have a library of quotes.” She’s right. I love quotes and cut them out of magazines, newspapers, letters, wherever I find them. I have books of quotes, websites and documents where I categorize them and save them for that special occasion.

This past year Susannah, really Mary Susannah, had been going through a stressful time and I wanted to help, to touch her heart, to make the bond between us stronger. Besides being such a special and unique lady, she is my namesake so I have a special place in my heart for her.

I suggested I send her a “quote a day.” We agreed knowing that some days she wouldn’t appreciate the quote and some days she’d really like it. That turned out to be a great idea.

We commented on the quotes when we felt like it – a sentence or two. Intellectually and emotionally we connected, we didn’t need to be social and proper here. We just made our comment and the other answered if they felt like it or had time.

After Susannah made the comment about the “library of quotes,” I began to analyze – where did this come from? I’m a curious sort. I want to know why about everything – myself and others. After some contemplating, a light went off in my head. Of course!

My mother started the whole thing. In our house we had a pantry. Home was a farm house built in 1902. Pantries were very important. Staples were bought in bulk and then stored in bins in the pantry.

The shape of the room was a rectangle and on the right side were bins, big wooden built in bins. There were five of them. They were for flour, sugar and I don’t know what else. By my time, several of them were just used for storage. I remember the flour bin being full and used all the time when I was growing up. Mama often made biscuits for breakfast and usually cornbread for dinner (12 noon)  On the left side were shelves, four or five that ran the length of the room. Mama kept her canned goods there.

Since Mama didn’t work outside the home, she felt it was very important for her to do something that was productive, useful and saved money. Her way was to make sure that we didn’t have to buy much from the grocery store.

Fruits and vegetables were canned in glass jars and the shelves in the pantry were filled with beautiful colors and designs of the food. Mama took pains to make sure the peach pickles were placed just right so they would look pretty from the outside.

Later when freezers became available, some fruits and vegetables would be frozen. Summer was spent making sure we had enough food to last us during the winter. I remember gazing up at the full shelves in the pantry, thinking how pretty. I also remember that I didn’t particularly like the canning and freezing part.

The space above the bins was empty. There was nothing until way up high and there was one shelf near the ceiling that went around the room. I think that was a place to put things to make sure they were safe and/or to make sure the children couldn’t get to them.

As years went by, Mama began to use the space above the bins as a place to put pictures, articles, quotes or whatever she found interesting. The wall was made of wainscoting and she used it like a bulletin board. She cut out articles from the newspaper and magazines. These were things that spoke to her, things that were important to her.

Many of them were articles by ministers – sometimes a meditation or a scripture reading. She also put up things of local interest – people and places. She wanted to save them, to read them again and to share them if somebody was interested.

We were a farm family so that meant there were not neighbors nearby and everybody was very busy working anyway. So Mama didn’t have much social time, didn’t have many opportunities to discuss ideas and thoughts. But she devised a way to keep that part of herself active.

After I left home, I would receive a letter from Mama and often there would be an article of some sort. It would be something she thought I’d like or was interested in or something she especially liked and wanted me to know. The tradition continues.

Often when I get a letter or package from my sister, there is one or more articles in it. I don’t usually send articles but I save articles for my son and family to read. I have a special box where I collect articles, sayings, ideas and quotes to share with him and family the next time they come to visit.

Yes, Susannah, it must be in the genes. I’m sure one day you’ll find yourself doing your version of sharing articles, ideas and quotes with loved ones.

Susannah’s stressful time has passed. The quotes helped create a new mind set. Now Susannah and I send quotes spontaneously. When we need to touch base, we send a quote and say, “Isn’t this the greatest!” or “what are they saying?” or “This is ridiculous!”

It’s our shorthand way of communicating, of keeping the bond strong even though there are many miles and years between us.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Great story. Me too with the quote books and the cut outs of quotes and articles. And I tape things up on the kitchen wall, it's one handy bulletin board. I also have bags of cartoons which are often as good as the quotes. Once in a while I read a line in a novel that is so great, I turn it into a poem. Hooray for words and wisdom and sharing. Thank you Mary. PS Love your name, same as my mother's.

Mary, Glad to have you join the As Time Goes By family. A lovely story of warmth and connections.

Loved your piece, I too save quotes & articles, my baby sister in Idaho is the biggest recipient..no idea how it started..great writing, I could see & feel the pantry...I am yet another Mary..been a long time since there were so many Marys in any place I have been..another big change in life..thanks for good writing...Mary Follett

Nice article. My niece and I
compiled a book of family photos and put a caption under each, a quote we like that fit the photo. We had fun e-mailing quotes back and forth until we hit on the right caption.

Mary, wonderful story and so very nice to see you here on Time Goes By.

Thank you all. You make me feel very welcome. I look forward to more interaction as I learn my way around.

Wonderful story. Tho my mother didn't send clippings, my first husband's mother always sent articles regularly.

Thank you for this story, Mary. These vivid memories of the pantry are splendid. I was just thinking the other day about Nana's flour bin - how it was lined in tin...I can recall wondering, as a child, why there were three, too! She used the third for root vegetables that need to be spared the light as I recall. I wonder if we will see the day the American family kitchen will be redesigned to replicate this kind of efficient bulk food storage?

Your niece is very lucky to have you in her life, Mary.

Thank you Mage B for your kind words. And Cile, thank you very much for your memories of the pantry. Yes, I think it's a very special place. I appreciate your comments and I think Susannah and I are both fortunate.
Thanks all.

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