This is an excerpt from my husband’s memoirs. He grew up in SW Florida before and during WW2 and remembers what it was like with no electricity, outhouses, iceboxes, and the freedom of growing up a little like Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. He lived with his grandmother and grandfather, Will and Lulu Curry until his father came home from the war. When his father remarried, he went with his father and stepmother to live in Minnesota for a bit where he was not accepted. The family then moved back to Florida where his step mother gave birth to three daughters. Frank left his father’s home when he was 17 to join the Air Force. His days of living with his grandparents were happy times as were his times in the Air Force. His experiences so poignant and sometimes unique I wanted them preserved. We are working together on this, he does the remembering and I apply a biblical lesson. If this is ever published, it will be intended for families to enjoy the stories and engage in family discussions as to how the Bible has a real use and relevancy today.
I hope you enjoy this story about Jackson learning to appreciate what Momma puts on the table for dinner through what Grandma Lulu did when Poppa was growing up in the early to mid 1940’s.
It was Tuesday night, Mama was fixing dinner and Jackson looked over hoping for mac n cheese and hot dogs.
“What’s for dinner, Momma?” he asked.
“Leftovers, sweetheart” Momma responded. “We need to finish up this chicken. There is plenty here for one more meal.”
“Is Mac ‘n Cheese with it?” Jackson was still hopeful.
“No, baby, we ran out last week and it’s not time to go food shopping again. We will finish off this rice. Some gravy with carrots and green beans will be just right. Don’t worry; it will be a good dinner. Then when we go back to the store on Thursday we can buy more Mac n Cheese.”
“AWWWWW! Jackson complained. We had that ‘hicken yesterday and I don’t want the carrots and green beans and rice, ugh, I hate rice. I want something else!” Jackson whined, his voice growing louder and louder. “I don’t want it! I don’t want it! I won’t eat!”
Momma was frustrated with Jackson’s complaints. “Now young man you know better! You know we have to be careful and we can’t afford to let perfectly good food go to waste. Now you hush or do you need a ‘Pow-pow?”
Jackson’s wails simply increased and Momma looked with askance to Papa Frank who was watching a football game. He sighed, shook his head and called out, “Jackson! Come here, boy!”
Jackson haltingly walked over to Papa Frank, his alligator tears running down his face and with little hiccups complained, “I don’ want hicken, I want mac n’ cheese and hot dogs.” His little lip pushed out in a pout. Patrick had been sitting at the computer desk doing his homework and muttered under his breath.
“What was that, boy?” Papa Frank asked.
“Nuth’in Papa” responded Patrick. “Why can’t Jackson stop his whining and let me finish this homework so I don’t get in trouble again? Why does he have to complain so much? Aunt Teresa is mak’in dinner and we either eat it or we don’t.”
Papa smiled. “Reminds me of when I was his age living with my Grandma Lulu…”
Sensing a story coming on, Jackson hushed his whines and Patrick put his pencil down. Just then, Jasmine rushed in from ballet class, having been dropped off by Miss MaryAnn, Momma’s friend.
“I twirled! I did a real pirouette and didn’t fall down!” Jasmine crowed. She did one to show everyone her new skills.
“Who cares” countered Jackson. “It’s just a dumb girl thing. It’s not important, not like my soccer practice.”
“What do you know; you’re just a stupid boy!” Snorted Jasmine, her eyes flashed and her long dark hair whipped around with instant anger.
“Enough!” shouted Momma. “Everyone is quiet this instant or it’s to your rooms!”
“What’d I do?” complained Jasmine, anger still sparking from her eyes.
“Jackson is complaining about dinner and I can’t finish this stupid homework.” Patrick was really getting mad. “I don’t know why I have to be here anyway and listen to you two brats. I’m old enough to be home by myself while my Dad is at work.”
“You know perfectly well why you are here, Patrick. You won’t do your homework. I’ll not go through this with you again. And you will not be calling any names in this house, you know better!” Aunt Teresa corrected Patrick with fire in her eyes.
“Yes ma’am. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to call them brats. Hey, Jaz, you want to show me that spin thing again?” Patrick apologized. “Besides, you are a better cook than my Dad; I get tired of those subs.”
Aunt Teresa laughed and rumbled Patrick’s blonde hair. I know and we love having you here, Patrick. You are a great help and I love you a lot.”
Papa Frank had been waiting patiently and with a lull in the arguing, he called all three children over to him. “I thought I would tell you about Grandma Lulu, that is if you can stop fighting and sit quietly.
Jackson quickly sat down on the floor; he loved Papa Frank’s stories. Patrick quieted down and sat back down. The story would give him a break from the math homework he didn’t want to do. Jasmine’s anger evaporated and she ran to sit down to hear Papa Frank.
“Well, Papa Frank said, settling into his chair and turning the TV off, I’ve talked about my grandmother before, do you remember?”
“She was in that book,” said Patrick, was she the first girl to live on some lake?”
“No, Patrick that was your Great-Great Aunt. Grandma Lulu was my father’s mother. She was part Indian and took care of me when I was as old as Jackson and Jasmine. She was in that book; you are right about that, though.”
“Grandma and Grandpa were not rich people. Grandpa was a fisherman and didn’t make much money. We didn’t have much except what we caught or grew. We lived on collards, grouper, homemade cottage cheese, and sometimes ham if grandpa butchered a hog.
“Grandma would get up early every morning and cook a big breakfast. We had bacon or sausage, biscuits ‘n jam, hotcakes, oatmeal, fresh milk, cottage cheese she would clabber in her kitchen…”
“What’s clabber,” asked Jackson.
“That’s a good question, Jackson. Grandma would let milk sour and then put it up in cheesecloth and let it drain. Now when milk clabbers, the whey is the liquid and the clabber is the chunks that are left. That is what cottage cheese is.”
Jackson made a face. “Wheewww”
“Well back to the breakfast. Grandma would put everything out on the table and you could eat what you wanted as much or as little. When we came in for lunch, there was breakfast still on the table. She added some stuff to it … some fried mullet maybe, more bread or biscuits. We ate what we wanted and headed back out to do our chores.
“Did she make mac ‘n cheese for dinner?” piped up Jackson, ever hopeful of getting his favorite meal.
“No, Papa Frank chuckled, “Not quite. Grandma would make beans and rice, tomato gravy and rice, if we had one a pork roast, or fried grouper and cornbread. We had a lot of leftovers, you have to remember, and whatever was left over from breakfast was still on the table for dinner. We didn’t have electricity; we had a real ice box with a big block of ice so we couldn’t store much food. What was fixed had to be eaten. There wasn’t enough to throw things out.”
Did you have mac ‘n cheese? A determined Jackson asked.
“I didn’t know what mac ‘n cheese was until I joined the Navy,” chuckled Papa Frank.
“We didn’t have hamburgers, fried chicken was a real treat and what was on the table we ate ‘cause there was nothing else.”
“Reminds me of how the Israelites acted in the desert, Jackson.”
“Why, Papa, did they have mac n cheese?”
“No, they were in the desert and they didn’t have a whole lot to eat or drink and had to depend that God would take care of them. God had taken them into the desert so they would learn to depend on him and to get rid of the bad habits they had learned while they were slaves in Egypt…
“Those Israelites didn’t much like being in the desert, eating the same food, and started to complain. They thought it might be better if they went back to Egypt and were slaves again. They had forgotten their God and all He had done for them. They got very mad at Moses and spoke against God. They complained and complained to Moses and Moses went to talk to God.
“I bet God didn’t like that very much,” commented Jasmine.
“You’re right, princess, God became very angry with them. He had saved them from slavery in Egypt, given them the Ten Commandments and they made a golden calf to worship, totally forgetting about God’s mercy, and then they wouldn’t go into the Promised Land because they didn’t trust God. They didn’t trust God.”
“They were pretty ungrateful, huh, Papa,” injected Patrick.
“They were like all of us, boy. We all forget sometimes. We forget where our blessings come from and start to complain that we want more of this or less of that. God had to teach them a lesson.”
“So what did he do?” asked Jackson.
“Oh, I know!” Jasmine triumphantly answered. “They got pow-pows!”
“Oh brother!” sighed Patrick.
“Well they did get punished, princess, but a lot worse than that! There they were, rescued from slavery, but in spite of their teachings and customs and all that they had seen, they had no trust, no faith, and all they did was complain. God sent snakes to punish the Israelites. “
“Oh,” said Jackson, “I wouldn’t like that much. “
“And the Israelites didn’t either. Moses prayed to God and he asked if God would forgive the Israelites for their complaining and selfishness and their lack of faith.
“Did he — Did he make those nasty snakes go away?” shivered Jasmine.
“In a way,” said Papa Frank. “He told Moses to fashion a pole with a snake wound around it. If the people looked up at the pole and remembered God the snakes would not bite them. He was reminding them to keep their eyes and minds on Him, and to stop all their complaining.”
“Did it work?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, that is the sign doctors use today to symbolize their profession.”
“So, stop complaining about your leftovers and remember to be grateful for the gifts God has given you. For if you forget Him and take what you have for granted you may lose what you have.”
“Dinner is ready!” Momma called, Dad had come home while Papa was telling the story and Jackson ran to him.
“How’s my boy?” Dad grinned as hoisted Jackson into his arms.
“We learned about Grandma Lulu and leftovers!” Jackson crowed.
“I can do a pirouette!” Jasmine bragged and promptly tried to do one in the carpet, tripping in her efforts. “Well, I DID do one.”
“I’m sure you did princess, and you can show us again after dinner. By the way, what’s for dinner?”
“Chicken! Leftover chicken! And we are gonna like it and have mac n cheese on Thursday and God will be happy!” Jackson exclaimed.
Momma laughed and Dad cracked a big grin.
“Come on, Patrick; let’s enjoy this left over chicken. How are you coming with that math?
“I don’t get it, can you help me after dinner, Uncle Matt”
“I think we can do that, Patrick.” Uncle Matt looked over to his wife, “Chia, the table looks great, plenty to go around. It’s been a day and I’m glad to be home.” With that he swung her around and gave her a kiss.
“Wait until you see what I got for dessert!” Momma said, Eyes sparkling with pleasure.
“What! What! What!” Jackson could hardly contain himself.
“Well, I had some cake mix and chocolate chips, and I knew you would like a treat, so I make some chocolate chip cupcakes!”
“Wow! “ Jackson was jumping up and down. Can you be like Grandma Lulu and put them on the table now?
“What’s this all about?” Dad asked
“Oh, Papa has been telling another one of his stories, Momma said. He gave me the time to make these cupcakes!”
Thanks, Dad. I’m glad you’re here tonight.” Matt said.
“Glad to help said Papa Frank. Now I’m hungry, let’s eat!”
“They all sat down to the table. “I want to say grace!” Piped Jackson who discovered he was very happy indeed to have chicken and rice and carrots and green beans.
“Alright, son, go ahead.”
Jackson folded his hands and bowed his head. “Jesus thank you for taking care of the Is – Is – Israelites and teaching them not to complain. Thank you for not getting mad at me and not sending snakes and thank you for Papa Frank’s Story and Momma’s cupcakes and for mac n cheese! Amen!”
“What kind of prayer was that?” snorted Jasmine.
“It was a fine prayer and I am sure it made God very happy.” said Papa Frank. So let’s eat this excellent meal and enjoy your mother’s surprise dessert.”
“Uncle Matt is it true, what Papa told us about the snakes and the Israelites? “ Patrick asked.
“Yes, Patrick, yes it is. In the book of Numbers it tells us ….. and with that, everyone enjoyed dinner and dessert and Jackson did not complain about leftovers, at least out loud, ever again!
New International Version (NIV)
The Bronze Snake
4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, [a] to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
6 Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.