February and March were birthday season when my mother and her three siblings who survived to adulthood were alive. For many years, they had special get-togethers to celebrate their February 10 to March 15 birthdays.
Mother was was the eldest. She was born on March 13, 1932, in Robertson County, Tennessee. Mother’s grandmother, Ollie, was a midwife who delivered 200 babies during her lifetime. Two of those babies were my mother and her twin sister. My grandparents named my mother Ollie Evelyn and called her Evelyn. Mother’s twin sister survived only a short time.
Two years later on March 9, 1934, another little girl, Nannie Lou, was born. Evelyn and Nannie Lou lived with their parents, Hassell and Lorene Farmer, on Lorene’s father’s farm. Lorene was a hard-working homemaker who washed her family’s clothes on a washboard, carried water from a spring, and made her clothing and her daughters’ clothing on her mother’s treadle sewing machine. Hassell was a farmer, who farmed as a sharecropper for his father-in-law. Another sister was born while Evelyn and Nannie Lou were little, but she lived only a few months.
When Evelyn was six years old, she began to walk two miles to the two-room Sandy Springs School. Evelyn didn’t like walking to school, because the other children left her behind. When time came for her to start second grade, her mother let five-year-old Nannie Lou start to school early, thinking that having her little sister walk with her would help Evelyn like school better.
When Evelyn and Nannie Lou were eight and six, they welcomed another baby girl into the family. Lavon was born on February 10, 1940. The family of five soon moved from their maternal grandparents’ farm so that Hassell could sharecrop for another farmer in the area. Lavon is the only one of Mother’s siblings who is still living on earth.
On March 15, 1943, Lorene gave birth to her only son, Joel. At ten years old, Evelyn was responsible for the laundry and cooking while her mother recovered from childbirth. When Joel was one month old, the family moved to yet a third farm where my grandfather again farmed as a sharecropper.
Mother’s home was not far from what was then Camp Campbell and is now Fort Campbell, a military base which includes land in both Tennessee and Kentucky. Though Robertson County was not one of the counties involved in General George Patton’s Tennessee Maneuvers, soldiers did do some sort of training in Robertson County because soldiers once camped near the Farmer family home in Robertson County. Evelyn’s mother earned extra money by washing laundry for soldiers. This work couldn’t have been easy for a woman with two babies and two young girls. The family was grateful when the soldiers left them a large bag of dry beans when they departed their camp.
My mother stayed close to her parents and to all of her siblings. Mother came to live with us after experiencing a stroke that affected her speech. Her ability to talk improved somewhat, but talking was a challenge for the rest of her life. One time when Ray and I were out of town visiting one of our children and their family, my brother took my mother to her annual cousin reunion. I hated to miss it, but I couldn’t go because I was with family! Both of Mother’s sisters were at the reunion, but their brother wasn’t. Mother and Ray and I were all back at our house on the day after the reunion. In her struggling speech, she told me, “Call Joel.”
My mama and my daddy, too, taught me how to love my family—grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—everybody. On your list of things to teach your children, don’t leave out that one. That’s a lesson they can carry with them the rest of their lives.
Sometimes relations with relatives can be tough. It’s worth working it out if we possibly can—for the sake of our children and for our own sakes, too.
Jacob’s son, Joseph, had a very tough time with his brothers. They got along so poorly that the brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph ended up in Egypt. When a famine caused those brothers to travel to Egypt to buy food, they found Joseph in a high position in the Egyptian government. Now Joseph had an opportunity to have all of his family together again and that is exactly what he wanted.
On the second visit
Joseph made himself known to his brothers,
and Joseph’s family was disclosed to Pharaoh.
Then Joseph sent word
and invited Jacob his father
and all his relatives to come to him,
seventy-five persons in all.