MEMORIES OF AMANDA JANE MEADOWS COOK
My memories of Amanda Jane Cook, my grandmother are divided into two areas, up till I was in the second half of the fourth grade, when we moved to Maryland and started again when I returned to Matoaka to start in the eighth grade. She was a happy, buoyant person who would always greet you with a smile. She did have a little trouble "getting it together" after the death of her husband, Reverend H. I. Cook in 1934 and would wake up in the middle of the night crying. What I most remember about her was when she was doing the housework she was always singing hymns. She went to church up until the time when she was not able, physically to go and even then was faithful in sending in her tithe. I can still hear her singing "There's a land beyond the river, when they ring those golden bells, in the sweet by and by, etc. (Remembered phrases, not titles)." All the hymns she sang were of the joyful type.
I am of the firm belief that modem church music of the style of today will in the long run prove harmful. Any education program always requires reinforcement to get what you are teaching across and to help in committing it to memory. When I was going to an instructor's course, before teaching in the Marine Corps they told us to "Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them." This is reinforcement. As memories fade, many times old familiar hymns will bring back the desired memories and act as a reinforcement for old lessons. I doubt if many of the new church music selections will stand the test of time and this reinforcement feature is lost.
Now grandmother was always busy at something, cleaning, doing laundry, washing, quilting, sewing, etc. One of the favorite things for her was her flowers. At that time, florists were scarce or non-existent. When there was sickness or a death, grandmother could always be depended on for her basket or vase of flowers when they were in season. Out of season, she always took something she had cooked or baked. She took special pride in her dahlias and when she was planting the bulbs out or digging them out for next year's planting it was my honor to come and help her dig them and talk with her. I would also help her dig up her vegetable garden and remember once she was planting cucumbers and asked me if she could have some of my pipe tobacco to put in the hills to keep the bugs or worms away.
Grandmother was one quarter Cherokee Indian and in the late summer would ask me to go and get her some mullen leaves, which is a low growing weed that has fuzzy leaves. I would go pick her about a grocery bag of them. She would boil them down, add I do not know what and make her cough medicine for the winter. She had several herbal remedies that she would prepare. When I was a little bit younger, one day I had a toothache. She got a ball of alum, scraped off some into a teaspoon, melted it over the stove and poured it into the cavity. It worked. I guess the astringent action of the alum did it.
There was a sugar maple tree in each comer of her front yard that had been planted by my uncle, O'Ferral Quillin, when he and his family lived there. He had also filled in and leveled the front yard and put in a goldfish pond. She loved those trees and each year I would whitewash them for her up to about four feet from the ground.
One year she noticed a place that had started to dry rot and was worried about it. So being I was the tree expert, (I didn't know a darn thing about it), I decided that in order to make grandmother happy, I would have to do something. I chiseled out all the dry rotted wood that I could find and that left a pretty good sized hole. I then got some sand and cement and mixed it up and filled the hole with this mixture, praying that it would work. It did. About forty years later, the tree had almost grown around the cement and was still thriving. The only problem I can see is that if they decide to cut that tree, they had better have a lot of saw blades.
Ah yes, the goldfish pond. This pond was located by a low door to the basement and in the winter, she would store her tomato stakes down in the cellar. One really cold day, I came to the door with an armload of stakes, stooped to get through the door, one of the stakes hit the side of the door, knocked me off balance and I ended up in the pond. Man that was cold.
While we are on the basement, one year when grandfather, Rev. H. I Cook was still alive it was unusually rainy and the basement flooded. When the water had subsided, I went down there with grandfather. He was carrying a claw hammer and I was curious to see what he was going to do. There was an exposed drain pipe of the type before plastic made of clay I suppose and baked. He took this claw hammer and started gently tapping. He would tap, move a little and tap some more. After what seemed to me like an eternity, he had finished tapping, removed a plug of clay pipe from the hole he had created in the pipe and now had a way for the basement to dry. You could not have created a smoother hole if you had drilled it.
Up until I went into the service during World War II, which was at the start of the second half of my senior year, I tried to do all I could for this sweet lady. Then you could graduate if you had finished half of the senior year. My father would not sign until I had a high school diploma. I joined the Navy. On the date of my high school graduation, I was sitting on my bunk, sewing on a few of the 13 buttons that were on Navy trousers in those days. Seems I cannot make a graduation ceremony. The year I was supposed to graduate from Concord College, I was called back into the Marines because of the Korean War. I was then in the Basic School at Quantico, Virginia learning to be a Marine Second Lieutenant. I was selected to go to the University of Michigan for graduate work and when I was due to graduate, I was headed to Camp Lejeune just in time for the 1958 Lebanon Crisis. Luckily they did not need someone of my military specialty and I ended up as an instructor at the Marine Corps Supply Schools.
Looking back, I missed the times I had sprayed grandmother's grapes, talked with her and tried to do things to make her life easier. By that time I was married and my wife, Margaret Ann adored the sweet little lady.
One weekend MSgt, Bill Midkiff and I came to Matoaka over the week end for him to visit his family and my wife was still in Matoaka. We stopped by grandmothers first for some reason and she insisted on cooking us breakfast. We were sitting around, giving her time to cook it and she would keep popping in and telling us, "It will only be a few more minutes." Now Bill had married a kissing cousin of hers and she and he both got a kick out of him saying that if she didn't hurry, we would have to leave.
I have many pleasant memories of my grandmother and know she is in a better place but that doesn't make up for missing her.
There cannot enough be said for this hard working, spiritual, loving grandmother who gave so much of herself to her children, grandchildren and her fellow man. I am sure that God is pleased to have her with him and I know she is where she earned a rightful place to be and that He wishes there were more like her on his creation, earth.
To me she personifies the thoughts expressed below. Rest in
I know three things must always be
To keep a nation strong and free.
One is the hearthstone bright and clear
With busy, happy loved ones near
One is a ready heart and hand
To love and serve to keep the land.
One is a worn and beaten way
To where the people go to pray.
So long as these are kept alive
Nation and people will survive.
God keeps them always everywhere
The home, the heart, the place of prayer.
Musings by Henry T. Cook, Lt. Col., USMC (Ret.)