Memories are some kind of wonderful

Brenda Cannon HenleyBy Brenda Cannon Henley
These thoughts came about this week as I was speaking with my children about the importance of choosing good, solid names for children. I am not certain, after all these years, if my three fully comprehended why they have the names they have had all of their lives. I said to my eldest, “That is why you are DeAnna because you are named after the best Christian I have ever known, our Aunt Anna Lee and for DeAnna Jane Bailey, a girl I went to school with and later worked with at Retail Credit. Aunt Anna was my “other” mother after Mama Cole and she was my hero, a hard worker, kind, compassionate, caring about others, helpful, and she loved her Lord. She faithfully attended every church service and read her Bible every morning and every night. I have never heard anyone say a negative word about Aunt Anna to this day. Her funeral service saw an amazing number of people travel to our little town in Georgia and each had an “Anna” story of help and encouragement. She would give you the shirt off her back or a bowl of her best potato salad, green beans, or a Bundt cake right out of the oven. Even in her later years, if she knew I was coming into town, the warm Bundt cake would be waiting. I long to see her in Heaven and just be near her again.

Brent’s “real” name is John Walker after Uncle Donald Walker Baughcum, a man I loved dearly and one that invested in all of the nieces and nephews. He married my mom’s baby sister, Aunt Minnie, who is a RN and served many years in the medical community. Aunt Minnie ran a tight ship, but loved each of us in her own way. She is in her 90s now, but in poor health. Uncle Donald instilled in me the love of learning and my value of books. He walked to the library and brought me book after book to read. I had to read it completely and then give him a brief verbal report to earn the quarter or half dollar he held in his hand. I truly miss him day after day and especially on my birthday. He always was the first to call and sing me happy birthday every December 23rd. The nurse in the hospital suggested I add the “Brent” as a legal nickname because I was torn about wanting my son to share the root word for both our names and the John for my brother, John Davis, who was serving in Nam at the time. She said to add it so there would be no question and I did. Brent just suits him and he has honored Uncle Donald with his life as a pastor, speaker, teacher, and writer.

Nikki, whose name is Elena Nicole, was named to honor my precious Mama Cole, (Lena Darby Cole), who reared, sustained, loved, guided, and cared for me all the days of her life. Mama Cole started work in a heavy-duty cotton mill at age eight to help care for her family. Her own mother died early in life when Mama was only 12. She continued to work to help provide for her brother, Lewis, and her dad. The men of the mill built her a long step stool so that she could reach the big loom that spun cotton fibers into material. Mama would come out of the mill late and night with lint matted all over her clothing and in her hair. I loved that smell then and I love it now. Some day, I plan to write a book that I will call, Lintheads, because they are good people and have done much to change this old world for the better.

I was born at Mama Cole’s house on her kitchen table (and that is another story for another time), but she and Granddaddy Cole and Aunt Anna and Aunt Minnie were very protective of me because my father had gone away to war. I was born on my dad and mom’s third wedding anniversary, but I never saw him. My dad was killed on New Georgia Island on July 2, 1943, and our world was changed forever. Mama and Papa did not want anyone to keep me, so they arranged for Papa to work the first shift, and Mama to work the second. They got the super to let Mama go in 15 minutes after the shift started and she took no breaks to allow Papa time to get home to keep me until Aunt Anna got home from work. I had a good life.

Mama Cole never had the blessing of education as we know it, but she was highly intelligent. Along with the hard, hot job, she kept a wonderful home, cooked heavenly tasting food, helped many in our community, and reared me. I never heard her complain or fret. By the way, she continued working in the textile mill until the owner and her good friend, came to see her one day and said that she was going to have to retire because he would get in big trouble if he allowed her to continue on at her age. She had just turned 86. Not even five feet tall, and about three quarters Cherokee Indian, she threw her hands on her hips, looked Mr. Scott straight in the eye, and said clearly, “Well, you can make me quit, but I can still outwork any half dozen of those little hussies you have been bringing in to the floor.” She let him see himself out of the house.

Mama could not write in cursive, but she could recognize block letters and “mark” them on paper when she needed to do so. I have often signed checks and other documents for her to which she would proudly affix her big “X” signifying it was her deal. From the hospital on December 2, I took the sheet given to me with Nikki’s name and her little footprints, and sent that to Mama anxiously waiting at home. I underlined the L E N A and the C O L E, so she would recognize that she had been honored in the highest manner I knew. She was the first person, outside of me, to hold Nikki, and she loved her dearly.

Heritage is so important and I feel we are somewhat lacking in instilling it into our children and our families today.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788, or
brendacannonhenley@yahoo.com

[4-8-2019]

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4 Responses to “Memories are some kind of wonderful”

  1. Patty says:

    I love this story. It really is a thoughtful piece!

  2. Susan Clack says:

    I love strong meaningful names as well. My mother was a “lint head” at Scottsdale Mill too. She met my father there. My grandfather and Several of my aunts and uncles worked there and lived in the mill village. Lots of history and sweet memories there. It’s a bygone era that will never be repeated, sad to say.

  3. Linda says:

    A beautiful story!

  4. Barbara Barraque says:

    I really enjoyed your story.

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