Sweet memories of Mom

Published 8:55 am Wednesday, September 25, 2019

As the humid summer air suddenly gives way to the crisp Fall in the mountains of East Tennessee, I am always reminded of The Apple Festival held each year in Erwin. Many gather on Main Street and peruse booths spilling over with homemade crafts, baked goods, and fresh produce. My childhood was filled with making sweet memories as I scurried from vendor to vendor; carefully choosing which one would get my allowance money. Hours were spent underneath Mama’s booth table coloring, writing, and imagining. I would look at people’s shoes as they stood at the table and try to guess where those shoes had taken them.

I always anticipated The Apple Festival because I knew that Mama and I would be able to buy a good haul of groceries the following week. A single mother and with the weight of the world on her shoulders, Mama’s small craft business had been born out of necessity. My earliest memories are of her buying antique quilts as cheaply as she could at local yard sales and then going home, cutting around the holes, and making something new. I began looking at things with a new perspective. Mama taught me to see that there isn’t much in this world that was completely broken or unworthy of a second chance.

Quilts that had suffered at the mercy of moths became new handmade angels. Doilies and hand-embroidered cloth napkins that had once been stained one too many times at a tea in the past, could be reimagined into something beautiful again.

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Sometimes the refrigerator shelves would be nearly bare, and snow would drift underneath our front door without any kerosene to put in the heater. Mama would simply get out her needle and thread and create more to sell. She would work hard into the early hours of the morning until the sun rose and the sky gave way to a new day. She never complained to me but would lead us in a small sincere prayer every night. When I was eight years old Mama’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a short six weeks later. Through the pain, Mama continued to create and provide our way of survival. On the other side of that mountain of grief, Mama officially named her business “Sweet Memories of Mom.”

Over the years I have seen her business grow both in customers and in-depth. She has made lifelong friends through the work of her hands and her heart. I have watched her selflessly help those in need of hope. One customer, who later became a dear friend of hers, requested that Mama make an angel from her daughter’s quilt—the sole thing that survived the house fire that took her daughter and grandson’s lives. Her business became more than a way to produce an income but became an avenue to love those that were hurting.

Now that I am a mom I look back on my childhood and am able to see how exhausted Mama must have been. I see that a business born out of necessity became her chance to help the hopeless.

The leaves are beginning to spark and will soon be fiery hues of red and orange. Twenty-something Apple Festival seasons later and I cannot be prouder to have my own “sweet memories of mom.”