The Ugly House
I remember the ugly house very well. It was the house that became my home for a while. You can see a little of the house in this photo and that’s my cute little sister.
When I was 8 or 9 years old, I learned a very valuable lesson: that you do not judge a book by its cover! My Mama Grace and I rode with Annette and Lowell to his mother’s house. My little sister Genia was with us and my cousin Jim. The kids stayed in the car while the adults went in to see Lowell’s mother about something. (A little side note: at this time in my life, Annette was my sister and Genia was my niece and Jim was my nephew…since this is before I found out that Connie was my mother and not my oldest sister.)
The house had this rough, gray and black shingle siding on it and sat way up on cinder blocks. You could see under the house all the way to the other side. There was very little grass around the house. To the left of the house was a very large tree and a well near the tree.
I remember saying to Genia and Jim, “Wow, this is really an ‘ugly house’. I would not want to live here.” They both laughed and agreed with me.
Well, can you guess where we moved that summer!?
Yep, “the ugly house”. At that age, I just knew God had heard what I said and was teaching me a lesson! Looking back now, I wonder if the adults were discussing the renting of the house that very day, making what I said to stand out even more! I really did learn a lot living in “the ugly house.” Annette and Lowell rented the house along with Mama Grace, so we had a house full.
Genia and I slept in the same room with Mama Grace. Annette, Lowell, and their son Jim shared a room. The house was not large. There was one bathroom, three bedrooms, a kitchen, and living room. We did not have central heating or air conditioning. For heat, we had a wood-burning pot-bellied stove in the living room. Summer was not that bad, but winter was another story. I remember Mama Grace getting up early to start the fire so it would be warm enough for us to get dressed for the day. There were times I remember having so many blankets and quilts piled on me that I had to have help pushing them off so I could get out of bed! I would get dressed close to the pot-bellied stove and sit in a ladder-back chair near the stove to eat my breakfast before school. Jim and Genia were not in school yet, so they could sleep later if they wanted to.
For breakfast, I had a cup of coffee with lots of cream and some mornings a melted butter and strawberry jelly sandwich. Yes, you heard me correctly, I started drinking Luzianne percolated coffee with lots of cream at a very young age. I still take lots of cream in my coffee! I usually had my coffee with the melted butter and jelly sandwich; and sometimes, we had homemade buttered biscuits in the coffee. We called it “soakie”. Occasionally, we had scrambled eggs, cantaloupe, and toast…it just depended on what we had.
This is me dressed for school, eating my Melted Butter and Jelly Sandwich. I am sure my coffee was close by!
There were lots of fruit trees on the property. We had pear and plum trees, fig bushes, muscadine vines and blackberry bushes. I remember Mama and Annette made homemade jelly and a few cobblers out of all the fruit. They made the best jellies! That homemade jelly was so good on a hot homemade butter biscuit and of course, with a good cup of coffee!
The good the bad and the ugly
I have a few memories of the ugly house that was not so good. Connie went through withdrawals from meds she was trying to get off of. She had given her heart to the Lord and wanted to be free from her addictions. She succeeded and that was wonderful! She said that she felt guilty after she got saved for lying to me about being my sister instead of my mother. I think she really wanted to do the best thing for me; and at that time, they thought I was too young to know or understand the truth.
Another memory was when Jo Jo lost her baby. She had a miscarriage (Jo Jo is Connie’s sister; so at this time in my life, she was my sister as well. She will always be my sister in my heart). I remember her coming to the house, being upset and telling Mama (Mama Grace) something. Back then, the children never knew what was going on. Children were very sheltered… They made us go out and play and Mama (Mama Grace) stayed with Jo Jo and helped her. Jo Jo had to go to the hospital. I remember Lowell carrying her in his arms to the car. The hospital wanted to keep what they called the fetus, but Jo Jo wanted her baby to be buried near our house, so they buried her little-underdeveloped baby in the watermelon patch behind our house. She was not very far along when this occurred and she was very heartbroken.
The cat has to find her own kittens?!
Back then, when someone was expecting, people would whisper and say, “so and so is P.G.”, as if the word pregnant was rated R. I also remember that even when the family pets were expecting and the time for delivery arrived, they would put the pet in another room and tell us for example: ” The cat is “trying to find her kittens””. Of course, I wanted to help her look for them. This made perfect sense to me … but they said she had to look for them by herself. It seemed to take forever and I was concerned she might not be able to find them all. I told Mama it wouldn’t take so long if she would just let us help her look for them. This was a time of innocence.
We actually called the ugly house “The Flat” because you drove down a long, sloping driveway down to a leveled out, flat area where the house, barn, and garden area were. In the winter, it was cold in the house except for in the living room and kitchen. We kept the doors that led to those closed so the heat would stay in. This kept the living room and kitchen warm. When it came time to go to bed, it sure was cold in the bedrooms and freezing in the bathroom. Once you got under the covers, got warmed up, and fell asleep, the last thing you wanted to do was get out of bed until the next morning.
While we lived in the ugly house, we had cats and dogs. At one point, we had a goat that got out of the pen one day; so Mama Grace (my Mom/grandmother) asked if I was afraid to take the food and let it follow me back into the pen and I said,” No, I can do it!”… so I went outside and I had a pot of food and the goat started following me. I thought how brave and grown up I was, but as the goat was following me, I think he got upset that I wasn’t actually feeding him as we walked toward the pen, so he started getting demanding and aggressive towards me. He started nudging me with his head! The goat was white with brown spots and had horns and my courage went right out the window! I started walking a little faster and so did the goat. I then started running and so did the goat! I looked for a way to get away from the goat. I saw the cars but they were in the opposite direction of the pen, they were back in the direction of the house! I started running even faster and so did the goat. Well, I ran fast as I could with the goat hot on my heels! I got to the car, dropped the food on the ground and hopped on the car, the goat stopped and immediately began eating the food. I watched from the roof of the car! He had gotten what he wanted when the entire time I thought he had been after me! I thought,” Wow, I should have dropped the food a long time ago!” I looked up and this was the first I was even aware of anything other than the goat being after me, I had forgotten that Mama Grace was on the porch watching and she was evidently enjoying the show! She was laughing so hard, she was bent over from laughing, her face was red and I think she got a kick out of the entire episode. I can still picture her laughing. It brings joy to my heart now to be able to remember how tickled she got even though it wasn’t funny at the time! I was embarrassed and just smiled shyly and shrugged my shoulders, lol … remember I was only 8 or 9 ☺
Time To Play
When summer came, we played outside a lot! We had a couple of little barns and we made one into a playhouse. We really used our imaginations. We made our own Barbie house using things we already had like matchboxes stacked on top of each other as Barbies chest of drawers and a bed from a cut up towel. We had a dune buggy and lots of animals: cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits.
We had such a good time that summer. My cousins Gloria and Cindy would stay with us and we all played to our hearts’ content. When Gloria came over, we would talk about what we would do when we were grown. I said I was going to wear things in my eyes that would make my eyes match my clothes. I invented colored contacts in my imagination before there was such a thing! We could talk for hours about our clothes, hair, and careers for our future.
All the kids would play kickball in the turn around area (where the cars parked and turned around). It was perfect for kickball. Gloria chased the ball into some high weeds and cut her foot! She had to have stitches…that was not fun.
We would ride our bicycles up and down the long slanted driveway. The incline was steep enough that you could coast all the way back down and pick up pretty good speed. Sometimes I stood up on my seat, a female Evel Knievel! We had a good time that summer!
There was also a dune buggy and an old abandoned car that we pretended to drive. The car was big enough we pretended it was our playhouse. There wasn’t a lock on the trunk and you could climb through to the backseat. There was no front seat at all and the glove compartment made a perfect cabinet. You just had to use your imagination and we did, there was an endless supply of that! We ate watermelon, homemade ice cream and chased lightning bugs, played ball and ate homemade pie. I cherish all these memories with my cousins.
Genia and Jim were close in age and were so cute. They wandered off one time and got lost, they had crossed the creek and went into a pasture to pet some cows. When Annette and Connie found them they said they saw a worm in the creek (which was probably a snake?) and that they had walked and walked … the owner of the pasture said it was a good thing he saw them when he did because there was a very mean bull out there. The owner of the land said he was out feeding the cattle when he saw them, I can’t exactly remember how Annette and Connie found them but I’m glad they were alright.
Thanks for the Memories
Looking back, “the ugly house” in the flat was one filled with some of my fondest childhood memories.
Isn’t it funny, that the place I had said that I would not want to live was actually a place that I hold dear to my heart to this day? I learned a lot about appearances being deceiving and that its not always whats on the outside that counts, the old saying don’t judge a book by its cover was true in the case of the “ugly house”.
When I think back I can still hear our laughter as we rode our bicycles and played kickball.. and I can almost taste the melted butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches, they were one of my favorites!
I can smell the aroma of homemade jelly cooking in the pots on the old white stove while mama sliced the fruit and Annette washed the mason jars at the white porcelain sink filled with white sudsy water.
I can see myself walking through the kitchen just like it was yesterday, pushing open the screen door and running down the steps going outside to play.
It was sorta like I imagine the Walton’s family must have felt like at times, except our house was ugly lol. The house was a place filled with love, not because of how the house looked but because of the people who lived there and made the ugly house a home, My precious family!
Good night, Genia, good night Jim Bo, good night Mama, good night Nanie (our nickname for Annette), good night Lowell, good night Connie, good night Jojo, good night Gloria, good night Cindy… Sweet dreams, I love y’all!
Words that are now just distant sounds in my memory, but treasured forever in my heart♥
She Chose Grace
Recipe for Melted Butter & Jelly sandwich
To make this sandwich you will need a frying pan, butter, jelly, and bread.
In a frying pan:
Melt a few tablespoons of Land of Lakes butter over low heat
Add a few tablespoons of Smuckers Strawberry jelly
(*or your favorite jelly)
the amount of each will depend upon your personal taste
Simmer and stir over low heat until melted together.
It will be the consistency of flavored syrup
Spoon over 2 slices of your favorite loaf bread
until it covers the entire slice let it absorb then go over it again.
Put the 2 slices together to make your sandwich,
I like mine to where it’s coming through the bread a little 🙂
Slice in half and serve with coffee (add lots of cream)
My Grandmothers recipe
* I would like to thank all my family members in this story for your permission to share this memory. I love you ♥