A Jar Full of Hugs
by Bobbie Shafer of Troup, TX
Living in the country in the 40’s and 50’s was a joy and delight for me and my friends. Most kids our age who live out in the country or in town weren’t aware of hard times or of the sacrifices our parents made so that our lives were comfortable. I can’t really say we were poor as we ate well and between Mother and Grandma sewing all our clothes, we were always cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Shorts and sleeveless shirts were no problem to make for my mother and when her coat became too frayed to wear, she and Grandma would tear it apart, snip here and there and before you could say abracadabra, they had fashioned a coat for my sister or I.
My parents, grandparents, uncle, sister, and I all lived in a rambling old farmhouse on about one hundred and sixty acres and farmed about thirty acres besides running cattle on the rest. We had pigs, chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, goats, milk cows, hunting dogs, and a number of barn cats that lived in the barn, outhouses, pens, and coops out behind the house.
We rose early and worked late and loved the being together with laughter and tears. Daddy worked at a plant on the other side of the nearest town which was about ten miles away, but spent every minute he was off helping Daddy Joe, my grandfather tend the farm. They fed, vaccinated, repaired barns and fences, and tended to the sick or hurt animals and their only relaxation was their weekend hunting trips they made in the fall and winter to replenish our freezer with venison, quail, squirrel, and duck.
Our gardens gave us all the vegetables we needed, our orchards provided peaches, pears, and plums, and there were pecan trees and hickory nut trees nearby. Our cattle, pigs, turkeys, and chickens kept meat, eggs, and butter on our tables, and the sale of our livestock and crops, along with Daddy’s salary bought all the rest.
If we were poor, I didn’t know it. Mother and Grandma managed the budgets and they made sure that each dime was stretched to the limit. I wish we had people like that in our government now. My sister and I always had a joyous Christmas, baskets of goodies at Easter, and our birthdays were something to look forward to. I was allotted twenty-five cents every two weeks for an allowance for doing my chores of egg gathering, barn cleaning, chicken feeding, hog slopping, and taking care of and feeding my horse, Amigo. That twenty-five cents could get me in the Ritz Theater every Saturday to see my favorite heroes defeat the outlaws and I always brought a sucker or candy bar home to my sister.
As most of my friends, I’m sure, I thought everybody lived a similar life to mine. I knew my friends that lived in town bought their milk in glass bottles and eggs in cardboard cartons and I knew that most of their vegetables came in a can. I realized that they didn’t have gardens, but other than that, I felt the world was basically in the same boat we were. I saw pictures of the very rich in the news reels at the movies, but I figured they were all movie stars, royalty, or such as that. I didn’t know there were any rich folks living in our little, old, bitty, nearby town. It didn’t matter one way or another, I was happy.
On a particular high kitchen shelf in our big spacious country kitchen there sat two large Ball canning jars. One jar held all the spare dimes that my parents and grandparents dropped in for things we would like to have, but didn’t really need and the other jar held assorted silver change that my dad put in. The money in that jar was used each summer for gas when we drove to Stephenville to pick up Granny House, my dad’s aunt, and brought her back to spend two to three weeks with us. Granny House was a special lady, who practically raised Daddy after his mother passed away, and her every thought was to make someone smile. She would wrap her arms around my sister and I and hug us as if we would disappear if she let us go. She would spend hours playing house and dress up with my sister and I and would sit on the bank of the stock pond all afternoon watching her little red and white bobber jerk and twitch as the perch nibbled off her bait. All the while she was fishing, she would tell Terrilyn, my sister, and I stories about when she was a little girl and all the joys of living in a cabin in the woods.
Each night, Granny House would tuck us in, kiss each cheek, tap our forehead, and hug us tightly before she tiptoed out and left the door opened just a crack.
Each morning when she heard us stir, she would pop in our bedroom, gather us up in her arms, and sing, “Good Morning, Good Morning“, to us before she gave us both a breath-squeezing hug and let up out of bed.
She usually didn’t stay three entire weeks. Daddy would have to take her home when he was off work and he worked four days on and two off and that way his weekends rotated.
Sometimes after a little over two weeks with us, Daddy would kiss Granny on the forehead and tell her he was off in a couple of days and would have to take her home. She would smile and tell us she would have to have double hugs until she left so they would hold her until she returned.
Granny House passed on the summer I finished the fifth grade. Still Daddy kept the jar on the shelf and continued to put in his loose change. It took a while before my little sister finally understood that Granny wouldn’t be coming each summer, but we never forgot the jar that Daddy saved his change for the gas he needed to make the trip to pick her up.
It was my sister that first called the change jar the jar of hugs because it meant Granny was coming, still that name stuck and Daddy started using the change to take us on little trips and this time we gave the hugs… the hugs that Granny taught us were so precious and special. As I sit here recalling this memory, I glanced at the Mason jar on the shelf beside my printer… I grin. It’s a jar filled with loose change… and whoever I spend the money on, I’m sure I’ll get a hug… and I’ll think of Granny and the jar full of hugs.