Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mama's Poems...and more!

Reunion in Watertown/Commerce, Tennessee

On Friday I journeyed back to Murfreesboro to stay with Mother for a few days while she is recovering from a fall and many other blows life delivers to us when we grow older.  Saturday was a day of long-standing tradition (the third weekend in October): we got up early and traveled an hour or so to enter the doors of the old Commerce Church, in Commerce, Tennessee, which once again received the descendants of the Floyd Family for their 15th annual reunion!

Floyd Family members have gathered from miles around to honor their deceased, tell their stories, share their crafts and adventures and entertain one another with their music and games.  These activities are outdone only by the kitchen staff, who work diligently, preparing and serving many delectable potluck dishes, desserts, cold drinks and huge pots of hot coffee…Of course, none of these things happen before a prayer is said, the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America is recited, and the National Anthem is sung.

This year featured:  Family Sharing Time

                                    Special music by brother Hugh, Cousins Mike and Nicholle.

                                    The cutting of a special cake that was designed to disclose the gender of Aunt Polly’s (now called Mimi) first grandchild.  (IT’S A GIRL!)

                                    A Tribute to Uncle Edsel Floyd, who died this year and after whom a local bridge was named and dedicated by state officials.

                                    Paulette shared her journey of receiving a miracle; the Cochlear transplants!   She told us that she is learning to hear sounds that she hasn't heard in years; and it is getting better with every day that passes!  Unlike her father and her grandmother before her, she hopes to recover up to 78% of her hearing loss in time.

                                   Then a wonderfully illustrated lecture about quilts was offered by my sister-in-law Natalie, as she told us about her introduction to quilts, and the way her hobby grew into competitive quilting, guilds, forums and a business!  (I love this lovely Ukrainian lady who makes the most out of everything she touches…including her family!)

                                  Because I had the good fortune to know at least something of the above material, the next item on the program I had been waiting anxiously to hear…Mama’s Poems.

Uncle Kenneth stood up to tell us about a very special woman, one responsible for many of the Floyd family members that came this day to honor her.  Uncle told of a brave and dignified woman that came to the Floyd family with “fine” things, who dressed for dinner and who had an eighth grade education.  “She accepted whatever was happening in her life”; but it seems to me that her life wasn't at all easy after marriage, though she remained dedicated to Christ and family and was determined to use her God-given gift of rhyme to glorify her Lord and Master.  She wrote on every scrap of paper she could find, woke up in the middle of the night to write down what came to her in a dream, wrote every chance she got, then put the rhymes away in boxes and other places out of sight.  Never did she write for her own glory, just for God’s …and for the joy of it, just because she could!

Well, long story short, these poems were retrieved by my Uncle Kenneth (her grandson) and he re-typed the brown, torn, faded scripts as he found them, and compiled them in three separate volumes of ‘Mama’s Poems’, the Poetry of  Ethel Mai George Floyd.

I only knew Ma as an ancient, old great-grandmother who couldn't hear, and who was therefore hard to talk to.  She was always kind, and gave us packaged sweet cakes and strawberry soda brought down to her from my grandfather’s grocery store.  I remember her loud, deep voice and the way she pushed strands of her gray hair back up off her face and into the bun on the back of her head and later at the nape of her neck.  I tell these things because it never ceases to amaze me that I was not told what an incredible great-grandmother I had, and that she never read her rhymes to me…I guess because I never asked her to.  I don't think anyone else did either.

“Ma” (great-grandchildren’s name for her) died in 1958.  I was eleven years old.

Today, along with each grandchild and great-grandchild who attended the Floyd Family Reunion, I got to read aloud one of the poems from Ma’s collection.  As each descendent read a poem, chosen and meaningful to the individual, there was a powerful and sweet sense of pride that we could honor her work at last.

Thank you, Ma for the gift of your poems.  Thank you, Uncle, for painstakingly putting them together in book form and offering them to us to read.  They are now among my dearest treasures.


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