The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge


By Josephine K. Boehm © 1988

Issue: October, 1988

"Girlie! Girlie! Come home for supper," Ma (Grandma) called from below the stairs. "Girlie, your Mom is calling."

Coming down the stairs, with its shining polished old wood paneled banister, while holding my battered tin headed doll carefully in my arms, I felt the cool air in Ma's spotless living room.

Ma reprimanded my cousin Babe and me. She said, "Why do you girls play in the attic on this lovely summer day?"

We played mother's with our dolls for hours, in a tiny attic room, with a low ceiling, that we called our play house.

I loved my only doll for as long as I could remember. It had a cloth stuffed body and a molded tin head that had some nicks and paint chipped off, especially on its nose, but I thought it was beautiful.

Then I went skipping across the narrow mountain road to my rambling home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Pop and Mom were both waiting for me on our big front porch with my little brother, Arthur, and Babe played with her doll while Ma prepared the evening meal.

Babe had been given the name Caroline at the time of her baptism, but everyone called her Babe because she was Ma's little Babe since her mother died after her birth and we all loved her.

Arthur, Babe and I used our own ingenuity in making toys. One of our favorite pastimes was playing with old iron barrel hoops. We used a stick to push them around and the chickens in the barnyard squawked and scattered when a hoop rolled among the flock.

On many warm days we played under two big oak trees in Pa's back yard and when the jasmine bloomed, the fragrance enveloped the yard and filled the air with a sweet perfume.

Pa had hung a rope swing on a huge limb in one of the trees, and Babe would sing and swing all day and sometimes into the night with her shining braids flying in the breeze. She swung higher and higher, trying to touch the oak leaves with her toes. Doves, which came in the yard during the day, would whisper, "Coo-o-o, coo-o-o." Sometimes at night, owls looked down at her with big shining eyes from a high limb in the oak tree. It seemed odd but they would say, "Who, who," it sounded as though they were trying to talk to her. Pa fed them yellow cracked corn and they all flew down under the tree to eat together.

On many summer days, Babe and I wandered up and down the mountain slopes and to the forest. A breath of wind eddied into the green forest, stirring waves of coolness among the trees. The black leaf mold ground was cool, moist and always mysterious.

We gathered daisies when they were in bloom, braided them into wreaths to fit our heads and wore them until they withered and died.

When wild flowers bloomed in the mountains, I braided some in my long blond hair then picked large bouquets and took them home as a gift to Mom. She treasured the lovely flowers I'd bring and always had a gorgeous arrangement in her best blue vase.

Sometimes Babe and I ran down to the brook gurgling on its way to a river. Listening to a waterfall tumbling over stones farther down stream made us feel cool on a summer day. I could feel slimy algae squishing between my toes as we wade barefoot in the brook. It was interesting to watch insects with long, thin legs walk upon the water. Spotted green frogs played leap-frog with each other. Some sat croaking in chorus on a stone ledge embedded in the bank near the water. Sun rays shining through the trees beside the brook shone like a spotlight on tadpoles and fish swimming in the clear cool brook. Birds swooped down skimming the water and then flying higher in the air, they repeated their dipping. Harmless dragon flies with long slender bodies and wings of many hues flew over and beside the brook like airplanes. They rested their exquisite wings outstretched in the air. Once we were frightened by a snake slithering down the bank from the high grass toward the brook. One day as I jumped from stone to stone, I slipped on a moss covered stone and fell into the water. With clothes dripping wet, I went crying home to Mom. As I changed my clothes she consoled me by saying, "Honey, don't cry or feel sad; a little water isn't all that bad."

I had the best Mom in the world. She was a very good cook and the neatest homemaker in our neighborhood; her windows were sparkling clean and every room in our house was neat and tidy. Even though we had no inside plumbing we looked forward to bath night every Saturday evening. Mom heated water on a kerosene stove and we children took turns bathing in a galvanized wash tub. There was much activity in our kitchen as we splashed in the water.

After we little folks were tucked in bed at night, we could occasionally hear the sound of the treadle of Mom's sewing machine as her foot pumped it up and down. She sat in the glow of a kerosene lamp sewing pretty matching dresses for my doll, Betsy, and me.

The wonderful summer was over and there was a slight nip in the air on a sunny fall day as I ran to the forest. The black ground underfoot was covered with crackling, varicolored leaves. Overhead the trees were in their splendor with glorious fall colors, and I felt as though I was strolling through an autumn fairyland.

When walking near the brook, I saw a little orange colored fabric among the leaves and high grass. Much to my surprise, after removing some of the leaves, I found a big beautiful doll. It was dressed in a brilliant orange colored organdy dress and bonnet with orange colored socks and lovely black patent leather slippers. I couldn't believe my good fortune. It was just like Christmas in October. But when I picked the doll up it made a noise like kittens crying inside the body. The blood rushed to my face and I felt hot all over. With outstretched arms, I held the doll as far away as I could, and would have dropped it but it was so pretty and Mom would take the kittens out. Very frightened, I ran up the slope and was gasping for breath as I reached my home. I could barely speak as Mom met me at the threshold. I muttered, "Mom, take this doll; it has kittens in it."

She turned it over and said, "This is a ma-ma doll. Hear the doll say ma-ma for you, my dear?"

I had never seen a ma-ma doll, nor held such a beautiful doll in my arms.

When Pop saw the doll, he said, "The little girl who lost this doll is probably heart broken. I'm sorry, but if we see her looking for it you must return it to her."

I prayed the unknown girl wouldn't return, and she never did.

It was just like a dream come true. The lovely ma-ma doll was mine and I loved it for a long, long time.