by Norma Medford Clayton
(Re-reading Norma's eulogy for her mother makes me want to pull out certain sections and share some of my own memories about Annie Lee and her sister Willa Mae. I expect I'll be doing that over the next few months. Norma's remembrances are like a large colorful quilt, the pieces holding all sorts of connections and patterns for each one of us. If I were still teaching creative writing, I'd use it to urge my students to pick a piece and stitch it into their own stories. I invite you to do the same!)
I remember the love that you gave to all the children you babysat. You always took time to read to them, answer their questions and you let them participate in whatever you did - sweep the house, make a garden, make biscuits, and help in the kitchen. You allowed them to play dress up, play beauty shop or whatever else their imagination thought up. It didn't matter that they got flour all over the kitchen and dusting powder in the bedrooms. It didn't matter that the house wasn't immaculate, what mattered was that each child was treated as an important person and allowed to develop their imagination and perfect their skills. And of course you made them take the inevitable nap! These children will never forget the love and care you gave them. You helped form their personalities and shape their lives. Through your love and care you have touched many lives.
As those children grew up and started school you began to work more and more with your crafts. You were instrumental in founding Dogwood Crafters, you helped with Mountain Projects, and you began to teach your crafts to others. Soon you were known as the "Cornshuck Doll Lady." You have shared your knowledge with people of all ages. In particular you have made a lasting impression on school children as you taught them heritage crafts.
I also remember how frugal and saving you were. "Waste not, want not" was your favorite saying. You were the original recycler when recycling wasn't even known. You found a use for everything (you even made beautiful dresses for us out of feed sacks). I think Ron Blackburn compared our house to Hoyt Roberson's store - "It's in there if you can find it!" I know we girls drove you crazy because we weren't as saving as you were -- but we always knew you'd have it if we needed it!
I also remember the yards sales we loved to "hit." We've gotten some REAL bargains at them and it was a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and visit with old ones. When you got home you would meticulously label your new "treasures" with the name of the person, from whom you bought it and you would date it.
I remember all the craft shows that we've helped you with. You always worried that it was hard work for us girls… and it was, but I enjoyed them just as much as you did! I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of setting up, and I always enjoyed visiting with people as they passed by. I remember how you always gave discounts or "freebies" when someone bought something from you. You've probably given away more than you have sold. That was what made you so special - you cared more about others than yourself. You made your crafts for other's enjoyment not for your financial gain. You were always willing to share your knowledge, your time and your creations.
I remember all the times "we girls" (and you always considered yourself one of the girls) would go shopping. You didn't like to shop and hated to try on clothes but you always went because it meant spending time with us.
You always enjoyed visiting your friends, as did we. Often you would say "it has been awhile since I've seen…." and you would name the person. That was great when we knew where they lived but often we'd start out on our journey and I'd ask, "Mama do you know where they live?" and you'd say, "No, but we can ask somebody." And we would.
I remember the times that you and I visited with our friends at the nursing home. They looked forward to your wonderful, secret recipe cornbread! And they so loved visiting with you. And I remember the chicken sandwiches you bought for your little dog, Cessie, on our way home.
Mama, I could go on remembering all day. Anna, Carolyn and I had a childhood filled with love, laughter and a few tears. We may not have had much money, but you and Daddy gave us the more important things in life. You taught us to care for each other, to be a true friend, to be a caring person, to help when we could, to love and care for animals, to enjoy learning, to appreciate the value of a good education, to be honest, to be truthful, and to make the best with what we have.
I have seen you perform miracles -- you were able to create good meals out of basic ingredients; you were able to make beautiful dresses out of feedsacks; you were able to create all kinds of things out of practically nothing (I remember the igloo you made for my class out of paper mache and the top of a toy silo), and you managed to raise three lovely (if I do say so myself) daughters! You were never too busy or too tired for us. I will never forget as a small child, calling for you in the middle of the night and you'd always come. What a wonderful feeling it was to know that you were there to take care of us. I am grateful for all the things you've done for us. I look back and realize how lucky we were to be born to you and Daddy. We could not have chosen two better parents. The older I got the more precious you became to me. You were a quiet, gentle, loving, caring person with a creative mind and busy hands. I admired you and I do wish I could have been more like you. You were an inspiration to me. Mama, thank you for all you've done for us. We love you and will always treasure your memory in our hearts.