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Trilla Pando:

Stirring up memories



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Thanksgiving treasures
November 21, 2006

I look forward to the first Monday morning of each month. That's when the women of the Owls get together.

We're also known as the Older Women's Writing Legacy (OWL) Circle, sponsored by the Arts Council and The Post-Searchlight.

After we write for a while, we share our stories.

At our September meeting, we clapped after Betty Williams read hers. There was a spontaneous and unanimous decision—I had to share it with this column's readers at Thanksgiving time.

Here is a wonderful, and true, story of a family growing up Southwest Georgia some 40 years ago.

The Dump Mall

There was a family of seven that lived in a house by the side of a dirty dirt road in Mitchell County, Georgia, in the 1960s—the mother, the dad and their small children.

Times were very hard. The dad worked on a farm. His wages were $3 a day. He worked five and one-half days a week. He and his wife were very young when they got married; she was 15 and he was 18. Although they loved each other, somehow that made matters worse because she carried and birthed five new babies during four and a half years.

After a few years of marriage, the responsibility of wife and children got too great for this young man. One Saturday morning, he left for work as usual, and he never returned.

The young mother did the very best she could; she loved her children very much. She asked for public assistance and was told that it would be three months before she could receive help. The neighbors knew of her troubles, and in different ways, and different times, shared what they had with her. So for their kindness, the mother and her children didn't starve.

The fact that she was seven months pregnant again caused her double hardships. After the three months passed, her public assistance started. She had money for the barest of necessities with hardly anything for clothing and shoes.

As time passed, her children had grown to be about 8 and 9 years old. One day the children went walking down the dirt road a little farther than usual. When they returned they were gladdened with all kinds of goodies. Their little arms were full, and they were dragging things. They were so excited, telling their mom about the wonderful things they had gotten from the dump pile.

They said, "Mama, we're going back again tomorrow."

"OK," she said, "but be careful."

The children were busy the rest of that day patching up their old wagon. They were going to use it to put their goods in from the "dump mall."

After this blessed discovery, they paid weekly visits to the "dump mall" to pick up and pick out the wonders left there, it seemed, especially for them.

That mom was me. Those children were and are mine.

I look back now, and I can clearly see that dump was a blessing for my children and me. That day so long ago as they walked and played they discovered a shoe store, a clothing store, a large appliance store, mixed all in between was a book store that carried an assortment of interesting books and magazines, which occupied their young, hungry minds for many, many wonderful hours.

To this day I thank God and the people in that community for using that dump to throw away things they didn't have use for anymore. Their trash was our treasure.

The "dump mall" was a wonder and a blessing for my young children and me.

Written by Betty Gaines Sheppard Grant Williams
Sept. 8, 2006

Tomorrow when I give my special thanks, I am certainly putting Betty Williams on the list for sharing her story and her magnificent attitude of thanksgiving—and for being my friend.

As we all get caught up in holiday excitement, let's remember the children among us who need our help. Share your abundance with a local church or the Salvation Army or give me a call, and I'll help to find a place you can share.

Remember, as well, Toys for Tots is looking for new toys. There are boxes at many stores in town. Check by Goin' Postal for more details. (If you will add on to your total at Dollar Tree, they will add a gift to Toys for Tots for you.)

I'm going to go down to the Book Nook and shop for new books to donate. There are many children who, like Betty's, have "hungry, eager minds" and yearn for a book of their own. Jim Smith has plenty and will help you choose one and he has a Toys for Tots box right there.

If you are a last-minute planner like I am, consider adding this harvest time vegetable mélange to your Thanksgiving menu.

Harvest stew
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
2 large onions, diced
5 medium summer squash, any type, cut in half lengthwise and sliced diagonally
2 fresh sage leaves, minced or about 1 teaspoon dried
3 ears of corn, kernels cut off cobs (or frozen or canned corn kernels, about 2 cups)
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth, or more as needed
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 medium tomatoes, diced

Heat the olive oil or butter in a heavy-bottomed shallow pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent but not brown. Add the squash and sauté until it just begins to brown. Add the sage and corn kernels. Stir for a minute. Add broth or water and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Add more liquid if it gets too dry. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes, then add tomatoes. Heat the tomatoes through, and remove from heat. Serve with a topping of sour cream if you like. I serve it plain with more pepper and Tabasco for those who like it spicier.

Post-script: Pam Immendorf and I (we co-lead the OWL-Circle) are considering offering a workshop for women of around 60 (or older) who want to tell their stories and have lots of fun doing it. If you'd like to join us, please let one of us know.


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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network