Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mamma Fore

When I was a child, my grandmother, who passed away eight years ago this past Sunday (June 28), spent a good hour on the telephone talking to "Mamma Fore" nearly every day.

I have no idea who Mamma Fore was. I don't know how my grandmother and this woman met, or how long they knew one another. My aunt and uncles may know, but I was too young to understand anything other than if the phone rang, and it was Mamma Fore, you went and amused yourself for the next hour. You didn't ask for anything unless blood was involved, because Grandma was talking to Mamma Fore.

This came to mind to me recently while I was mentally listing folks I could call in the event of an emergency, followed by folks I could talk to just to chat.

The list for emergencies was pretty extensive; the list just to chat, however, was not long.

I know a lot of people and interact with them every day via the computer. I have hundreds of friends on Facebook, one person I have emailed at least twice a day for almost 15 years, and others that send me funny videos or bits of information, and to whom I return that favor.

But to call and chat? Very few people do that anymore. They chat via Facebook and/or text all day long - why would they need an hour-long block of time simply to focus on one person and one thing?

I daresay not many children today have Mamma Fores to worry about, because their mothers don't have that kind of time. They are too busy carting Junior off to a ball game or texting Dad about thus and such.

My grandmother had a small world. I remember my mother used to fuss because my grandmother could easily spend a half-hour on the phone with a salesperson, talking about everything from TV shows to the actual product in question. She invited the Fuller Brush Man in when he made his regular visits, and she always bought something from him.

Otherwise, her world consisted of her two young sons, one of whom was younger than I, and me and my brother.

Sometimes she talked to neighbors while she hung clothes. Occasionally she would go see Aunt Elsie, but not often - nobody went to see Aunt Elsie much (though they became great friends in the nursing home in their late years) - and every Friday, like clockwork, Grandma would walk the three blocks up East Riverside Drive to her old home place.

That's where one of her sisters lived.

She hauled us along and we played in the yard while Grandma did Aunt Neva's hair. The place always smelled like beans, mostly because from what I remember there was usually a big potful on the stove, simmering away all day with a big hunk of fatback in there for flavoring. Nobody ate beans that weren't cooked nearly to nothing in that household.

Sometimes Aunt Susie (my other great-aunt) would join the two sisters for her share of hair makeover. Apparently my grandmother gave great home permanents. They stunk terribly and made your eyes water, but gave you soft curls. Or so I gathered.

That was pretty much my grandmother's world, especially after my grandfather died. She had three TV stations to watch, and she watched the news regularly. She read every word of The Roanoke Times & World News, because even though she only had a fourth grade education, she seemed to think being well-informed was important. When those folks called to sell her something, she could converse about the topics of the day if the situation called for it.

And of course, when Mamma Fore called, the news could take up a bit of time. Back then the news was more than a sound bite and an emotional jab in the ribs; it was real knowledge made up of truth, facts, and science. Those are things we've lost along the way, so much so that I strongly suspect my grandmother was better informed than half of the population living today, in spite of the information at our fingertips.

I don't recall when Mamma Fore died. I suppose by that time I had become a teenager, one of those selfish persons who didn't visit grandmas much and who had no time for older folks. I'm sure it broke my grandmother's heart whenever Mamma Fore passed on. Shame on me for not knowing this.

Her loneliness, I know, increased a thousand-fold. Everyone's loneliness increases as we age, and our friends begin to leave us, dropping one by one. Younger people don't understand it.

I'm just beginning to.

I am missing those days of Mamma Fore, those simpler times of telephone calls and conversation. I am now old enough to reminisce of another time and place, I guess.


  1. i enjoyed this post anita...yes, i agree...i had a friend that i used to work with years ago and we both ended up relocating to georgia...she'd call me every afternoon on her way home from work, we'd talk for about an hour a day...i eventually ended our relationship though because she was so negative and draining i just couldn't deal with it anymore...she was the last person i'd have long phone conversations with though...i remember the days of my mom sitting at the dining room table chatting with her friends on the phone!

  2. I am old enough, too. I find myself really missing the times I spent sitting with my Nana on her porch or in the backyard on the swing talking about everything or nothing. It didn't really matter. Being together and loving each other was what was important.

  3. That older generation knew a thing or two about people skills. They were more patient than our current generation. I also remember spending hours on the phone when I was a teenager. We had a long phone cord so we could stretch the phone out to the porch or into a closet for privacy. My parents were always yelling at us to get off the phone because we were tying up the line. Ah, the good ol' days.


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