Not too long ago, I visited an area eatery, and observed a young mother spoon-feeding her toddler, that marvelous, colorful, shaky, jiggly dessert with whipped cream on top, Jell-O. Now, I am not touting any brand or brand name, but who hasn’t enjoyed Jell-O in one form or another? It is used in recipes, it is used to make punch, it is used in more gelatin fortified adult pick-me-ups in little one ounce glasses. It is colorful, it is wiggly, it’s refreshing, and it’s cold. It’s everything that brings joy to the eyes, the taste buds, even the touch, and when it’s spooned in your mouth, oh!! Everyone has a favorite flavor. Mine happens to be lime. I love lime. I always have. Jell-O has an appeal to all ages.
Not two hours after leaving the area restaurant where I observed the touching exchange between mother and child, I visited a friend in an area nursing home. My friend’s neighbor, who has been her friend more than 70 years said to her: “Honey, can I feed you a little of this Jell-O. Will you try for me honey?” The patient replied “I’ll try,” and she did. In the face of a scene that was filled with such pure and unconditional love, I had to excuse myself for just a second.
“I’ll be right back I said, I need to say hello to someone down the hall.” That wasn’t true. I had to walk down the hall to wipe these eyes that were flowing like the Suwannee. I cry at the strangest things. My brother told me once when we went into the rotunda of the old Capitol in Tallahassee, and I began to have tears roll down my face. “Stop it. Stop it now.” Parades passing with the American flag out front do it for me. Children singing in a chorus, those innocent voices so sweet and pure, and the love between old friends will do it. The playing and singing of “Our National Anthem” does it.
Now let’s flip that side of melancholy and let’s express things that make us laugh out loud. What is it about someone accidentally who takes a misstep and down they go that is so hysterical? The first thing one does if one happens to be the “faller” is immediately get up, look around, and see if anyone is looking, and if someone is, there is usually laughter.
The way someone winces their mouth when they taste something truly sour can usually make me laugh, and this is awful, but, at times there is nothing funnier than surprising someone and scaring them. That scream, as we say “that holler,” always brings laughter.
Conversations that go on between folks in our area. In this case between my brother and me, not too long ago, Mama told my brother and me to “hush.” “Hush now,” she said. “I am tired of hearing it. All this argument over who was related to whom so far up the river, it was in another century.” She could tell it made me mad, and I was determined.
“I plan on settling it,” I said. So I phoned a person in the family, and this is an example — and a made up name too, f.y.i. — of the phone conversation.
“‘Cousin Carrie,’ Your maternal great-great grandmother was a sister to thus and so who once served as the Judge for this county. Is that right?” “That’s’ right, honey,” she responded. “Now, her maiden name was thus and so,” I said. “You are right, sweetheart. What have you and your brother had a argument over some family history?” she laughed. “Yes ma’am,” I replied. “Well tell him this time you won the argument, but remember last time you didn’t.”
When I hung the phone up, I told my brother what our cousin said, and we both laughed till the water ran down our eyes, when I recounted about the time she thought she was putting eye drops in her husband’s eyes and the room was dark, and she dropped camphor in them and her husband, who we thought was permanently “stove up,” ran like a scalded dog. We laughed and laughed.
Mama said “Y’all are both crazy. Poor thing, his eyes scalded. I heard he ever lowered a cussing on Carrie, and she is a good, Christian woman. You two go ride over to the farm or do something so I can take my nap.”
Well, in our part of the world, it doesn’t take a lot to elicit emotions, the happiness of seeing a child’s eyes light up as a mother spoons Jell-O to her young child. The tenderness of two elderly friends visiting in a nursing home with one encouraging the other, and feeding her. The arguments of my brother and me over family connections and then laughing at the conclusion. No, we are not sane. We are Southerners, and that means, many times “sanity” can be cast aside for pure fun.
One more, my cousin phoned me and told me a story of my paternal aunt. Now she wasn’t afraid of anything but insects. She would charge torment with an empty water bucket, but you could take a horse fly and chase her to Macon and back with it. She phoned her daughter, my beloved first cousin, and said “There is one of those huge grasshoppers in my room. You have to drive over here — (30 miles one way for her daughter) — and catch him and throw him out of my room.”
“Mama, he might jump,” the daughter replied. “No,” my aunt replied. “I am being really quiet, and I am looking at him.”
To make a long story short, the trip was made, the grasshopper returned to the outside, and the danger of cardiac arrest averted.
Now, one more thing, I want to mention, those in the small community of Jasper, Florida, who did so much for so many. We lost one not too long ago, the late William Jackson, Jasper, Florida, a longtime pharmacist, cherished friend, humanitarian, and owner of Jackson’s Pharmacy. William, like the late Kayo McGhin, who owned Kayo’s Pharmacy, and the late Woodrow Wise, who owned Wise’s Drug Store before William bought it.
All these gentlemen had a great care for the community and were true humanitarians. William Jackson opened the drugstore for folks in the middle of the night when they needed a prescription. He delivered it to the homes of those who were ailing, no charge. He brought it to the nursing home when my paternal aunt was dying. He was a wonderful human being. I will never forget the great fun my brother, sister-in-law and I had with him when we visited New York City. We had a good time. His son, Bill, was in pharmacy school up north. We were country “come to town,” and we enjoyed that trip. Long ago now, 30 years, hard to believe and sweet memories. I thank God for the William Jackson’s, the Kayo McGhin’s, the Woodrow Wise’s, Mr. Cheek, Mr. Chambliss, over in Live Oak, Palmer and Edith Purser, Mr. George, and Mr. Collins, over in Lake City. The late Dr. Ross Barnett and his brother the late Dr. John Barnett in White Springs, long ago, but still fondly remembered.
But William, oh how I miss William, and will never stop missing him. William was a person of a generous spirit, and always friendly and kind to me and that’s worth a lot. Memories of Rainbow Pepsi’s, Cherry and Vanilla Cokes, Cherry Smashes, Lime Freezes, and here’s one for you, once in a while “Ammonia Pepsi’s” at Kayo’s, a shot, about three quarters of of aromatic spirit of ammonia in a 12-ounce Coke, and it would pick you right up during hot weather. Great memories of great times, memories of wonderful gentlemen who served our community, and we loved them, and they loved us and worked hard to keep us healthy and happy.
From the Eight Mile Still on the Woodpecker Route north of White Springs, wishing you a day filled with joy, peace, and, above all, lots of love and laughter.