“I don’t remember what it was I said one day. I must confess, from a very young age I was prone to say things without thinking. Whatever it was, it offended (her). I was banished from the farm for a year when I was twelve.”
* * * *
What a wonderful lady!
Mrs. Kelly and her family came to be caretakers
of the County Farm
across the road from my childhood home.
I was young when the Kelly family came to live in the neighborhood.
I adored the majestic building
easily seen from our front yard.
It was a very large, very old building
Elderly folks who couldn’t afford a home and needed someone to care for them, came there to live.
Some folks called it the Poor Farm.
To me, it was never poor.
The home always displayed a dignity
which deserved the regal title,
When I was very young, and began to visit the Farm,
there were seven older people living there.
A section of the large house was set aside for their comfort.
Mrs. Kelly cooked the meals for the residents. One of the more able ladies, whose name was “Rilla”, helped with the table settings of the long dinner table in their separate dining room.
Rilla always turned plates and cups at each place upside down before the meal. First the plate, then the cup. I was fascinated.
Mother wasn’t happy when I tried to set our dinner table the same way. It seemed quite picturesque to me.
I could never understand Mother’s disdain for it.
On the front side of the house, which I passed on my way to visit with Mrs. Kelly, there was a porch.
The older ladies often sat there in rocking chairs, watching the world (and me) go by.
On one such occasion, I noticed one of the ladies with a newspaper spread out across her stomach as she sat quietly in her chair.
I asked her why she had it there and she said,
“It’s to keep my bowels warm.”
Now that’s a remedy, to this day, I would never have thought of on my own.
The Kelly family had a grown son and daughter pursuing careers in far off parts of the country. Their youngest daughter still lived at home and was soon to graduate from high-school.
I don’t remember what it was I said one day. I must confess, from a very young age I was prone to say things without thinking. Whatever it was, it offended Mrs. Kelly. I was banished from the farm for a year when I was twelve.
It was to be a lifelong lesson.
Be careful what you say. Be aware, if you can, of how the other person may be receiving your words.
For the next year, I didn’t follow my favorite path to the County Farm. At thirteen I ventured a return.
No ill feelings were shown toward me from Mrs. Kelly.
Our friendship continued.
Many times I watched Mrs. Kelly kneading a very large pan of bread dough in the County Farm kitchen. I now bake my own bread and would never be able to knead such an amount of dough at one time; although now in my adult life, I am a larger woman than Mrs. Kelly was.
(She was strong and determined with many responsibilities in life; perhaps I should think about that.)
My bread recipe dictates kneading the dough for ten minutes. I’m sometimes able to stick with it until five minutes have passed. Mrs. Kelly would no doubt suggest that the bread would be finer if I followed directions.
When visiting at just the right time, the aroma of baking bread always greeted me near the kitchen door. Not far behind me, there were bread customers waiting to purchase a wonderful loaf of Mrs. Kelly’s homemade bread.
As I recall, she charged them $1.00 per loaf; they were huge.
Long gray hair, was always carefully braided and wrapped around her head.
Mrs. Kelly never walked anywhere slowly.
Always on the move,
she hurried to get things done.
The kitchen and her family’s living quarters were always neat and very clean.
The dishes were done, everything in place.
In the pantry, next to the kitchen,
always sat a basket of eggs
waiting for customers
who wished to purchase the freshest eggs in town.
Sometimes Mrs. Kelly allowed me to go to the chicken coop with her, to gather the eggs. I loved it.
One summer, I observed Mrs. Kelly preparing a bountiful meal for eight men who had come to help Mr. Kelly with the threshing.
Never have I seen nor smelled such a wonderful array of food.
I remember the table and men filling their plates again and again.
No one ever left Mrs. Kelly’s dinner table hungry.
As years went by,
Mrs. Kelly and I became closer friends.
When I graduated from high school near the top of the class,
as had her son and daughters,
Mrs. Kelly invited me into the room
where graduation pictures of her children
were displayed on an old upright piano.
She was very proud of her children.
There sat my graduation picture,
now displayed next to those of her children.
This was Mrs. Kelly’s way of showing how much she cared for me.
She was proud of my achievements too.
There couldn’t have been any clearer proof.
After high school, I became employed in the town
in which I had grown to adulthood.
Arranging to arrive for work a half hour early,
I could spend time visiting with
in the County Farm kitchen.
She was often baking bread for her special customers.
The aroma of those wonderful baking loaves
continued to greet me at the door.
A few years later,
I married and went to live in a neighboring town.
Opportunities to visit Mrs. Kelly were few.
I felt lonely and sad without friends I’d left behind in the town
where I’d grown to adulthood.
I often shared my feelings with Mrs. Kelly.
She offered me the understanding of a caring friend.
At the birth of our first child,
Mrs. Kelly came to the hospital to visit. As I recall, that was the only occasion on which I saw Mrs. Kelly outside the walls of her home at the County Farm.
Putting her hand on my arm as she stood near my bed, she said;
“Now you’ll never be lonely again”.
I needed to hear that.
One day, while visiting in my former hometown,
I decided to go to spend some time with Mrs. Kelly at the Farm.
She wasn’t home.
I was told she was in the hospital.
Going directly to the hospital,
I sat down in the waiting room.
Just then, Mr. Kelly came through the inner door.
He was crying.
I was informed by a nurse,
Mrs. Kelly had suddenly gone into cardiac arrest,
Our times together had ended,
but as you can see,
memories have remained.
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Photography By Mary Anne Whitchurch Tuck