Momma Was a Storyteller

by | May 19, 2008 | Testimony, Witnessing

Momma loved music. When she was younger, I can remember her singing as she washed dishes, or did the Spring cleaning, or washed the laundry on the wringer washer, or as she hung sheets on the clothesline. She loved to have the radio on as she worked. It seemed to fill the room with a sheltering calmness. We knew Momma was happy and everything was right in our little world.

These were the times when Momma would tell her stories. I never remember her sitting down and telling them. She was always about doing something that needed doing. One such day lingers forever in my memory.

The air was scented by the freshly ironed, delicately flowered, sheer curtains as the gentle breeze blew through the open windows. The bright sunlight streaming through the white Venetian blinds made patterns on the wallpaper and the linoleum rug.

This was HOME to my younger sister, Linda, and me; a small four-room house on the Weaver Pike. We sat in our little rocking chairs facing the “entertainment center” which in the fifties consisted of a four-foot tall wooden radio/record player console. It was much taller than we were. There were slat-covered speaker slots in front and the top lifted up to change the records or the radio station. It sat catty- cornered in the living room over from the front door.

We could see and hear Momma in the bedroom just through the open doorway. Momma was singing as she smoothed out the knotted white bedspread she always kept on the bed. She sang along with Jimmy Dean to “Big, Bad, John” as she told us stories of her father, our grandfather we never knew, who was nicknamed Big John Nichols. Stories of working in the coal mines to feed and clothe his family of twelve children. Momma told of the penetrating coal dust which settled deeply upon the miner’s clothes and bodies. Everything in their homes, even the innermost parts of their being was coated with the ever present black dust. Her father and my Daddy’s father would go into the mines before daylight and come out after dark, living without seeing the sun, day in and day out.

The next song was “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford. Momma told us that he was from our own hometown, Bristol, Tennessee. She explained to us what the company store was and how the miners were paid with script that could only be spent there. If you went in debt there, you stayed in debt and could never get ahead. When Momma went to buy groceries, she always referred to it as “going trading.” She never asked for a bag, she always called it a “poke.”

My mother was a story teller. These stories gave us our first glimpse into our family’s past. Through Momma’s stories we learned about her life before our family of four. These accounts of our “people,” that is her term for our kin folk who were raised in the coal mining towns of Virginia, would be the only way we would come to know our maternal grandparents who had died when Momma was very young.

Momma was faithful to recount these and many more as we grew older. I wish I could hear her tell them to me just one more time.

As Christian mothers we are to tell our children of our spiritual past. We need to tell them how God has worked in our lives. We must set up memorials in their thoughts that will point them to the Truth, Jesus Christ. How faithful as storytellers are we to tell our children of their Spiritual heritage?

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Shirley A. Cox


Momma Was a Storyteller