A visit back in time

Jimmie Batchelor

Guest Columnist

You might remember my writing of my grandmother’s journal, the story of the not-so-real horse that she created at her house and her purchase of a very old buggy for sale that amazingly turned out to be formerly owned by her uncle. She rode in the buggy frequently during her childhood. James Margaret Hughes Pullen was born September 25, 1888. She didn’t attempt to write about her life until June 15th, 1969.

The more I read in the journal, the more I see how children growing up are timeless in their thoughts and actions. James Margaret could have been plucked out of the 19th century and joined in my fun as my playmate in the 20th century!

All my life I have been told I am just like my grandmother. My former husband made a comment, referring to our youngest daughter, “I never thought anyone could be as much like James Margaret as you until Amanda came along.” It is uncanny that some of the traits I remember from Mama (as I called my grandmother) I see in myself and my daughter. I recently came across a picture of myself at age one. My mother had sent that picture to my father who was stationed in Japan at the time. Her message written on the back, “She is just like JM. Big Stink and Little Toot.”

In my reading, I laughed at how many times she wrote, “I know now I needed those whippin’s” and it proves, we definitely are related. My own mother’s words echo in my head, “If the sun goes down and you haven’t been spanked, you make sure you do something to get one!”

Mischievous children have always been, and always will be, a necessary element of the learning experience while growing up. Mama talked about her cousin John William and some of their adventures, making pipes out of corn cobs and smoking rabbit tobacco. Mama volunteered to sneak some of her father’s Bull Durham. They got so sick, they had to go to bed, but confessions spilled out when her mother went to call the doctor. She said she was afraid of the doctor and medicine, though she mentioned her paternal grandmother, a doctor, who traveled all over, but passed away before James Margaret was born.

Her father made them a little boat to explore the small pond nearby. He marked the trees where they were not to go and she said they didn’t dare disobey (Not sure I believe that one!). They’d take a picnic lunch and stay almost all day. She did admit she fell in lots of times because her cousin would push the boat too fast. Right.

One of my favorite entries was a visit to town with her father. In a hurry with Father waiting, older sister, Pearl, got her dressed. Not finding JM’s panties, Pearl lent hers. Her father parked the buggy and horse behind the store he visited while JM played outside. James Margaret said there was no ‘little girl’s room’ for her to use. Accidents happen. She quickly hung her panties up to dry in a nearby bush and continued playing. Daddy came out and not wanting him to discover her bareness, she left the underwear draped over the bush. She noted she could not button them herself anyway. She ended up getting a whipping that night too. There was more to this story, if I had room!

In those days, children were taught in one-room school houses. Mama said, “Back then, anyone could teach and we got some lulus!” One day the teacher was going to paddle one of the boys and the boy’s brother jumped up and said if she paddled his brother, he would slap her down on the floor. Mama wrote, “I was hoping she would paddle the boy so I could see her slapped to the ground.”

Mama never laid a hand on my brother or me. My mother’s weapon of choice, the flyswatter, was always hidden away before our visits. Usually at the bottom of the clothes hamper, where my mother never thought to look!

One day, my former husband said, “Your grandmother is just a woman ahead of her time.”

Many years later, I was in Orlando on business, sitting across the table from a visiting co-worker, discussing our work when he looked at me and said, “Jimmie, you are a woman ahead of your time.” I didn’t tell him exactly how much that comment meant to me! Hearing those same words spoken of me felt strange, but good. I thanked him for the compliment while my thoughts were, “Thank you, Mama.”

Jimmie retired from Henry Co. Senior Services in Stockbridge, where she managed Hidden Valley Senior Center and resided for 38 years.