I Never Picked Cotton

It seems like forever since I’ve posted. You would not believe what I have been doing since arriving in Atlanta a week ago last Thursday. I’ll share some that later, but first I want to tell you a story my friend Patrice told me when I spent the night with her not long after I got here.

Patrice bought a cool older home in a great old Atlanta neighborhood not long before I moved to the UK and she spent some time showing me around and telling me the significance of all the little ” pretties” as she likes to call some of her mother’s things that she inherited, as well as some of her own special possessions.

When we got to the room in the picture above, she pointed to the stalk of cotton you can see on the left and said that every day when she goes to work she looks at that cotton and thinks that as difficult as her day might be, it won’t be as hard as that of her grandparents who picked cotton as sharecroppers on someone else’s farm to feed their families.

Patrice and I are alike in many ways and I completely get the appreciation she has for the struggles of the generations before her and her everyday gratitude and acknowledgement of how their efforts helped to provide her with a different set of opportunities for her own life. Due to the hard work of those cotton picking grandparents, her parents both had a chance to graduate from college and she herself went on to get advanced degrees from several universities.

I can look back at my family history which is filled with similar stories of folks doing hard work or doing without and while I’ve never picked cotton, my brief stints in a chicken factory, chocolate factory, and textile mill while working towards a university degree made me appreciate the difference in doing a job every day that involves hard labor versus one that might be less physically demanding.

We all do what we can to make things better for our children and for the generations to come, but sometimes when we’re grumbling about how hard we have it it’s nice to remember the folks that came before us and what they did to help ensure that our lives were a bit easier as a result of their actions.

I was thinking this morning about the stories my grandmother told me about cutting fields of sugar cane and how the sharp stalks cut her hands and the stooping and bending made her back feel like it was breaking. I need to confirm the details of this in a few days with my Aunt Betty, but I feel sure she told me this story more than once when I was a teenager. I wish I had paid more attention back then.

Feel free to share a family memory if you’d like of someone in your family who made it easier for you to have a better life.

Here’s a little Johnny Cash singing ” I Never Picked Cotton. “