The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Little Patches Of Blue

By Nancy B. Collins © 1989

Issue: December, 1989

Most older people have had more stormy times than calm and easy times. But, they have had what I call "little patches of blue" that came shining through.

I want to write about some little patches of blue that came into my life from time to time. They were little patches of blue skies after a bad storm. When I say storm, I mean having a lot of things to deal with and not knowing how to work them out.

I was brought up in the quietness of the mountain country near Meadows of Dan, Virginia and I would not take anything for my life there in that country. We were poor and carefree most of the time. I look back and realize there are worse things than being poor, such as having too much to fall on a person when they are not prepared for it and that is just what happened to me. By little patches of blue, I finally worked my way through it.

One nice thing that came into my life was when our church asked me to be a mother to a college student away from home. I said I was afraid I would not know how. I finally said I would try. She was a very sweet girl. We had her over to eat with us on Sundays. Sometimes we, all as a family, went out to eat. I did what I could for her as if she were my own daughter. I did not feel that I was obligated to do anything for her, I just loved her and the rest was easy.

When she graduated, she asked me if I would make a little talk at her graduation party. I said, "No, no." The old mountain shyness rose up in me and I did not think I could. I finally said I would try. I worked about a week on what I could say in five minutes. I dressed neat and nice and went on and did the best I could. This was a little patch of blue in my life. It gave me confidence and caring more and got me into doing more things. I ran into some things that were hard for me to deal with because I was lazy and did not want to think my way out of them.

I have had some laughs along the way. When I was about 20 years old, my husband and I were down in town. It was a cold day in March and I went into a nice department store to get out of the wind while my husband did some shopping. I was standing by a big window, waiting for him to pick me up. I was wearing a long blue cape with a blue scarf tied on my head. A woman came in the door and came over to where I was standing. She tucked my hair up under my scarf and straightened the seams in my cape on the shoulders and said, "These people never did know how to dress a manikin." I said, "I beg your pardon," and she threw up her hands and ran out of the door. In a short while she came back through another door and went down the other side of the store. She sort of looked over my way and I waved at her, but she did not wave back. She just kept going. This was a little patch of blue. I got a good laugh out of it. I must have looked pretty good at that age for the woman to believe I was a manikin and not a real living person.

One of the best things I ever experienced was when our youngest daughter graduated from William and Mary College in the year 1948. She dropped out of college and joined the armed service, but the war was over before she had to leave. She went back to college and finished in the middle of the winter. Her father and I went down to Williamsburg to her graduation. There was a big snow storm the night before we had to leave that lasted up into most of the day we left. There was one train leaving that day late in the afternoon. A friend took us down to the station and we finally got started. Nothing had traveled all day on the tracks. The old cow catcher was just plowing the heavy snow as it went. I can hear that old train puffing and blowing around the bends.

The train was late and we got there after dark. Our daughter and a friend met us at the station and we walked over to the college. She had made plans for us to stay at the school. The graduation service was to be the next morning at 10:00 in the big auditorium. We had a good night's rest, got up early and ate breakfast with our daughter and some friends. The weather was so bad we just put on a lot of clothes; boots and the warmest clothes we had. We sure did not look very nice, but we thought we would attend the services and get on out and no one would see us or pay any attention to how we looked.

We got into the auditorium and were seated about midway of the big building. Our daughter had already gone out and dressed in her cap and gown. In a few moments she came back into the auditorium and climbed over to where we were sitting. She was crying and said to us, "Mama and Papa, you have been chosen to be the parents of the year for the girls of William and Mary College." She said the faculty wanted us to go out and have our pictures made for the yearbook.

I was happy, but very embarrassed. We were bundled up and did not look our best. This was really a patch of blue after the storms we had been through, in so many ways. Our pictures came out in the yearbook. They were not very good, but I am glad they honored us as the parents of the year.

Things settled down and I went on with my cooking, sewing, and cleaning house. When spring came, we planted a garden and lots of pretty flowers. I had pretty geraniums. Everyone that would see them said they were the prettiest they had ever seen.

One of the ladies from the nicest garden club asked me if I would speak at her garden club. My shy mountain bringing up said, "No." She wanted me to speak on how to raise pretty geraniums. I could have told her all you had to do was to have good soil and fertilize them a little and they would be all right. Just to be asked was a little patch of blue.

It was not altogether laziness that made me say no. I am not prepared to make speeches. Lincoln said go to school and get all the education and prepare yourself and if the time ever presents itself, you will be able to do whatever it is you are asked to do. I think he proved it. He was one of the best presidents we have ever had. I wish all young people could know how hard it is to do things later in life without much education. I am not going to look back and complain about my education and training. Back when I grew up things were very different to what they are today in so many ways. It was hard then but I believe it is even harder today with all the things youth has to face.

I think our grandchildren and great-grandchildren would like to know how we dealt with little and big problems. Just think what anyone might do with a good education.

The storms of life are just as bad today as any age, only people deal with them differently. I'm afraid some people would not know a patch of blue if they saw one.

To read more stories by Nancy Collins click here.