By Jannette Mountzouris
Our grandparents, known as Mim-Mim and Daddy Harry, lived on a ranch in Kerr County along Turtle Creek. Their modest home sat on a high bluff above the creek. Inside Mim-Mim focused on meals to be fixed, bread to be baked, firewood to be split for the cook stove, clothes to be washed and ironed and other somewhat mundane tasks.
However, outside she reigned as queen, wearing a sunbonnet as her crown while she cared for her flowers, maintained a garden, milked the cow and gathered eggs laid by her free range hens.
This was no ordinary jeweled crown for it was made of recycled feed sacks whose once vibrant colors were faded from many washings. Although our grandmother died more than 50 years ago, I can clearly see her in my mind’s eye – faded dress, old apron, and the sunbonnet on her head.
Her hoe became her scepter as she gently ruled her empire of flowers, garden, the barn, and all the nooks where the chickens laid their eggs. She carried the hoe not only to chop weeds but to address snakes that might cross her path. In the summer as she gathered eggs, Mim-Mim always had several visiting grandchildren in her entourage.
From the first frost-free mornings in early spring to the last golden days of autumn, Mim-Mim donned her crown and nurtured all things growing in her outside domain. I do believe she was happiest wearing her sunbonnet as she planted, weeded, and watered her flowers and the garden.
She loved flowers and it was evident they were happy in her hands with the green thumbs. They were pleased to show off along the fence or in any cranny where they were planted. There were no brightly colored fertilizer bags with instructions about where and how the plants were to be placed in the soil. Yet the zinnias, bachelor buttons, and shrimp plants along with others grew taller than any I have ever seen.
She always seemed to choose flowers that ethereal creatures like hummingbirds and butterflies loved. To my delight one summer morning, she pointed out a hummingbird nest in a huge oak tree which served as a canopy over a portion of the yard.
While I certainly don’t remember the names of all that she planted, I am sometimes amazed when I realize I know something about a particular plant I could only have learned from Mim-Mim.
Besides the flowers, there were the staples of the garden: squash, beans, onions, and of course, tomatoes and pole beans. At one end were little hills of cucumbers which would become crisp pickles during canning season. A spot was always saved for dill which released a piquant fragrance in the heat.
While others might complain about getting up at sunrise, Mim-Mim seemed to relish going out to water the flowers and vegetables before the sun advanced too far in its ascent.
Even after they moved to town for Daddy Harry’s failing health, Mim-Mim continued to don her crown as she cultivated a much smaller bounty of flowers and vegetables. It must have felt unnatural to be outside without the sunbonnet.
Our Aunt Dorothy told me that her memories of the sunbonnet centered on her mother always heavily starching the bonnet and ironing it. I was curious about why Mim-Mim took such meticulous care of it. Aunt Dorothy said the starching and ironing were done so that the brim would not sag over Mim-Mim’s eyes – the pragmatic memory of her daughter versus the sublime memory of her granddaughter.
Today when I hoe the good earth, recollections of Mim-Mim in her sunbonnet always come to mind – sacred recollections of the mind and heart.
EDITORIAL NOTE: You are a prolific bunch of writers and there is now a backlog of reader stories to carry us almost to summer. So for awhile, I am not accepting new stories until we work through some of the ones already on the list.