Bronis Fitzpatrick - Christmas in Mahopac, New York.
These are some of my memories of my grandmother from Mississippi (Bronis Reid Fitzpatrick), well before that she was my grandmother from New York. She lived in what I remember as a large, pink, two-story house on top of a hill with her sister, my Aunt Ned (Inez Reid Walsh), and her brother-in-law, my Uncle John (John Joseph Walsh).
Those were the times when all you had to do was to stay out of trouble and have fun, but everyone knows that trouble and fun sometimes have the same meaning. My grandmother was there to remind you that there was a difference.
My cousin Johnny (John Joseph Bartimoccia) and I were about the same age, he being a few months older then I. His grandmother was my Aunt Ned. It would seem that most of the time when I was getting in trouble he would be with me. Upon our return from whatever we may have been doing, my Grandma would be waiting with the order to "go pick me a switch".
Grandma was a great cook and she loved to feed me. She would cook and then sit and watch me eat. The pink house was cold in the winter and we kids would fight to sit on the heater vents.
In 1971 Grandma, Aunt Ned and Uncle John moved to Walthall County, Mississippi, and that is when she became our "Grandma in Mississippi". At first, they lived in a small white wooden house. They were waiting for their home to be built. It was a large brick house that stood on eighty acres of land with one fish pond and a few years later they had the catfish pond dug. They had a few cows and some hogs (no chickens -- Grandma said they whitewash everything).
During the summers in the early years of them living there all the grandkids would come and live at the house for the school break -- my two older sisters, Patty and Roberta and me and Aunt Ned's grandkids too, Camille, Johnny, Louis and Eddie Bartimoccia from New York. We all had few chores to do, but nothing hard. Mostly for kids from the suburbs it was fun. Feed the cows, pick some type of vegetable and shell peas or butterbeans. Then Aunt Ned would pack us in her car and take us swimming at the river. Grandma would stay at the house. She was always cooking or canning something.
The grandmothers would both take care of either side of the family. Aunt Ned would baby us and our Grandma would discipline us, when she was not feeding us. There were more switches in Mississippi than in New York. The girls where always getting us boys thrown out of the house. Then we would get in trouble for nothing. Like the time we caught the skunk and all of us ended up stinking. Then somehow the skunk ended up in the mailbox and scared the hell out of the mailman. Or when someone's watermelons would come up missing or when somebody would have a bunch of bales of hay destroyed. Some how we always got blamed for every thing that happened around there. Then you would hear "find me a switch". She had a paddle for a while, but I think the only person she could hurt with it was Patty. But as much trouble as we would get in to she would never send us home. She would spank us and then feed us.
Years went by, about six and by this time only me and Eddie would go to Mississippi. This was my last year there and then Grandma came to live with us for awhile and then she went and lived with Uncle Mike. Aunt Ned and Grandma got in a fight over Eddie and me so they sort of quit talking to each other for awhile. She did not move away from Mississippi forever though. She would stay in Mississippi for awhile and then go stay with us or go see Uncle Mike.
The summer I turned 18 she was staying with us, well with me, my folks and sisters went to visit my Grandma in California. Patty was in the Army and Roberta in jail. She would take care of me, cook, and clean the house, stuff like that. She didn't spank me anymore. We would talk she would tell me stories of when she was a little girl growing up in Mississippi. When summer ended she went back to Mississippi.
One weekend I brought three of my friends up to Mississippi to go squirrel hunting. Before we went I called my Grandma to find out if it would be okay. She was very excited to have me come visit. She wanted to know what we would want to eat, but I told her not to go to any trouble, we would just have soup. So she cooked soup from scratch for us. My friends still remember that soup.
My grandmother would cook and then sit across the table and watch me eat. I really believe this was her favorite thing to do. Or maybe it was my favorite thing to do. She died the next year. I was in the Marine Corps when she died and this was a very sad day in my life. She was buried in Enon Cemetery, Walthall County, Mississippi, not very far from where she was born. But unlike many folks in Mississippi she lived in and traveled to many different places. She was happy with her life.
Written by Robert Paul Jones, September 1999, somewhere off the coast of China.