It seems I have had this conversation often but don't recall posting the same thoughts. If I have and this is redundant forgive my repetition.
Quilts, especially wonderfully old and somewhat worn quilts crafted long ago with tiny short uniform stitches, remind me of pallets on the floor. And what, some of you may ask, is a pallet? Of course it's a wooden frame thing that supports heavy loads being transported on trains or trucks. I know that.
The pallet I refer to is the slight soft bed made on the floor with a folded quilt to accommodate extra overnight guests. When 'we' were children a farmhouse bedroom was furnished with usually as many beds as the room allowed space. Rarely did I see a bedroom set up with just one bed. And those two or more beds were generally made up with more than one mattress. When company continued to pour in the beds were filled with cousins across and at the foot of the bed..the number determined by the size of the children. When more beds were needed a mattress came off the bed to a spot on the floor and the routine was repeated..as many as the bed had room for. When mattresses and beds were full and still the company is coming the next options is one or more [what ever is needed] QUILTS are folded on the floor to take care of the overflow crowd. Think about how many people you could sleep with this plan. It's no wonder a simple two or three bedroom home was able to welcome crowds of uncles and aunts & cousins during times of family reunions and Christmas or Thanksgiving gatherings. That explains why we always say "There was always room" at our Grandparents or other relatives' houses. And you were always welcome.
No one waited for an invitation. They knew they'd be welcome. No one called to give a warning that 'company is coming.' And besides not everyone had telephones.
On Saturdays my uncle Jack would check with aunt Laura about who and how many she thought might be there for Sunday Dinner [ lunch time after morning church]. He then went to the chicken yard and proceeded to make provision for fried chicken for Sunday...or chicken & rice. Not too many people [in my opinion] could turn out a better spread for an as yet undetermined number of guests than aunt Laura...but often with the help of Ileen, one or both of the Grandmas..Mobley or Kitchens, and any willing women visitors..but you know we never thought of ourselves as visitors or guests. It was just Family.
So many times I recall sitting on that side porch with other 'younguns' waiting our turn at the table. Whether it was a tobacco harvesting day or Sunday dinner I always felt the same. We were wondering why it took so long for those grown ups to eat and hoping to goodness there would be chicken left when they all left the table. Somehow there always was plenty of food..and leftovers.
That pie safe of aunt Laura's seemed to always have leftovers. All the women in our families made a different kind of Biscuit. Grandma Mobley's were baked in a round pan so all the sides were touching hence no firm crusts..tender and flaky as can be & no side crusts. Aunt Laura made lots of Biscuits, always. There were 6 children in their family so that was a ready made crowd with no company. When company came the numbers of biscuits grew. Flour was closeby in a 5 gallon Lard Can with lid. The lid was often turned over and used to mix up the batch of biscuit dough. Some women did the whole thing with their hands, blending the lard, flour & milk together with their hands. I hadn't thought of this is ages but I believe Grandma Mobley mixed hers with a fork. Where were those wonderful [now collectible] pastry blenders? Anyway they apparently hadn't discovered them or found no need for them.
Back to the biscuits: Aunt Laura's biscuits were big and flat with a good crust all around. The better to fill with homemade syrup, after punching a hole down into the center/from the crust edge. That was a perfect snack after school, anytime you were allowed in between meals. I just can't recall any being left..if they were then they were used for the next meal. Left over biscuits at Grandma Mobleys became something else for the next days' breakast. She cut them in half, dipped them in beated & seasoned eggs and toasted in a hot 'spider'..or iron skillet. I often heard Grandma Mobley refer to a frying pan or skillet as the "spider." Many years later as I pondered exactly where did that word spider come from. After a little research I discovered it was a brand name for a specific 'frying pan.'
We may have to do this in 'chapters'.. Family Gatherings at Christmas or Thanksgiving. We have already covered sleeping arrangements. Now let's go to what it takes to have a great Christmas or Thanksgiving.back then.
As the big holiday approached friends and neighbors often would ask "Ya'll gonna have a big Christmas/Thanksgiving?" The answer would depend on whether you were expecting a big crowd of family. If lots of folks were coming the answer would be : "Yeah, expecting a good Christmas/thanksgiving."
After the holiday when someone asked: "Ya'll have a big Christmas?" Again the answer would depend on the crowd. If it was a big crowd of folks/family, the reply came: "Yes, Big Christmas, Plenty of good food."
The only time I can recall anyone ever asking: "What did you get for Christmas?" was at school..it became a ritual at some point upon returning to school after Christmas break to share "What you got for Christmas." That could be a problem -truthfully this was probably the inspiration for a lot of children 'telling lies" about Christmas and Santa Clause. It didn't 'feel good' to have to participate in this bit of sharing.
About growing up in our era and children telling lies: When I was I think in the 4th grade I remember sitting in the lunch room at school on benches eating our sandwiches. People at my table were playing "what you got in your lunch" and when the question was posed to me by the girl seated next to me, I didn't feel comfortable telling her there was just mayonaise between those two slices of white bread and quick as a wink I said: "I already ate the meat." And people say children won't lie. Actually I remember that everytime I just have to have a plain old mayonaise sandwich. During that time I remember that lunch for school was a daily thing to deal with. When Daddy had the money [ we lived in a 'town' invironment then] he went to the nearby grocery store and bought as many slices as he could of something called spiced ham, I think. Those were good days. I don't buy or eat anything called Lunch Meat now.
Another Chapter: ....any days when we didn't have to go to school or work things like tobacco harvesting days my cousin Eulita and I often sat on the porch rail waiting for the train to come by. The Engineers and other RR workmen never failed to wave to us and us to them. Those same railroad tracks were part of games we played..as we ventured out to explore. We climbed fences, picked fruit, discovered little violets in damp areas ..funny I don't ever remember running up on a snake in the woods. No one ever called out after us as we left the house: "Be Careful, don't talk to strangers.'"
It was usually just: "Don't be late for supper" or "Be home before dark"
Still Another Chapter: The farm life in the deep south was considered to be a hard life. People worked hard. Women had to work hard. Even the children had to work. Imagine that. They had a hard life.
True not all families had the same level of poverty or wealth. A farm family like Jack and Laura Mobley with 6 children were certainly not considered rich or wealth land owners. Aunt Laura told me when they bought their place from Mr. Youmans it was for $5,000.00 and without a dime down payment.
Common in those days the deal was sealed with a handshake and a plan to make payments yearly when the crops came in.
Then there were families like mine who for various and often obvious reasons were easily recognized as a poor family. To me my Mobley relatives [Jack & Laura's family] were as good as RICH. They had to be. At one point I noticed Eugene and Eulita actually had paper napkins to wrap their lunch sandwiches in for school. They had to be rich.
And Uncle Jack bought a new truck regularly. I THOUGHT looking back that it was every year..could be wrong. Of course that truck was a necessity to a real farmer.
From my viewpoint they had to be rich too. Look in that pantry at the end of the side porch..wasn't there usually a burlap bag with pecans there. and in the barn loft or one of the outbuildings weren't there stacks of cans of homemade syrup?