90 Years of Cotton

Today is my grandmother’s 90th birthday.  My mother asked me to write a poem for the occasion. I had written one 10 years ago for her 80th birthday as well.  In that poem I paid homage to each of her children.  I decided to focus on her alone for this poem.

I recall my mother telling me once, “No one could pick cotton like Mama.”  That has always stayed with me.  Since she also worked in a fabric factory in the 80s, I thought a poem about cotton seemed appropriate.

I’m sorry I can’t be there today for her party, or to see her face when they read the poem to her, but I’ll be thinking about her today.  And so, I wanted to share my poem with all of my readers.

90 Years of Cotton

Christmas 2009

It is 1921 when…
The first baseball game broadcasts on the radio that August
Two months later, a young man sits on his porch enjoying a cool breeze
It’d been a long hot and dusty summer that year
He looks across the barn yard and sees his two plow mules grazing
It’d been a good year for cotton.

Inside the house, a newborn baby cries
Their eighth child – another girl, another mouth to feed, to clothe
The war is over and there is little money in the bank
Lena had worked hard canning food for the winter
Otis plowed, picked and dreamed of the day he’d hold his new baby girl
Aslee, wrapped in a cotton blanket, in his arms for the first time.

Some day, she’d teach her own girls how to sew and how to pick
How to mend a button on Daddy’s cotton shirt
To patch a quilt for their new baby brother’s bed
The Deep South sun burned the back of their necks
When cotton bolls burst open with bright white
Nobody could pick cotton like their Mama.

When combine harvesters did the picking instead of people
When machines made fabric for clothes and quilts
Aslee got a job at the mill and earned a paycheck
The kids were older, Paul was gone to heaven
And picking cotton by hand was what dreams were made of
Like fluffy white clouds drifting over the barn yard of yesterday.

It is 2011 when…
Baseball games show on television, and are still broadcast on radios
Long retired, Aslee sits in her rocker under a cotton quilt and dreams,
Kept warm by her cotton pajamas and cotton lined house shoes
She remembers a day when the cotton was high and living was easy
Some ninety years ago, ninety years of cotton.

-Happy 90th Birthday, Grandma!
Love you, Shannon
© October 9th, 2011

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