Maw and Dad Junkins 1952

My latest book, HALLEY, awarded 2015 Jefferson Cup Honor for Historical Fiction, awarded the Moonbeam Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction, and awarded the 2016 Frank Yerby Award for Fiction. Available at: NewSouth Books: and Amazon.


Everyone’s heard the joke about why Southern Baptists don’t make love standing up—Someone might think they’re dancing!  My mountain Georgia kin felt that even square dancing was the work of the devil. My father’s mother was convinced of it.  However, that didn’t mean she didn’t love music.  Most of what she heard on the Grand Opry was acceptable.  Anything sung by the Chuck Wagon Gang was first rate.  While driving home from a dental appointment recently I listened to a CD of Gospel music, and thought of my grandmother.  You’ve heard the songs, or I hope you have.  Songs that my older son says sound like a truck driving down a bumpy dirt road.  Titles like “Turn Your Radio On” and “Some Glad Morning.”  In my mind’s eye, I can still see my grandmother tapping her foot and smiling—as close as she ever came to dancing.  Her special favorite seemed to be “After a While.”  It begins, “After the sunshine comes the rain, after heartbreak, grief and pain.  There will come a better day after a while.” And then there is that wonderful spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” She nodded her head all the way through this one. Check out the link to Dee White’s wonderful rendition of this one.

Except for the joy of those wonderful songs, Grandmother Junkins never allowed herself much of what little fun was available.  Maw, as we always called her, was always trying to “get to a better place.”  She read the Bible every single day, though with less than one year of hit-or-miss schooling, I’m surprised she could make sense of it—and more surprised she didn’t find some of it X-rated.  She took everything seriously and always seemed uneasy if someone was having a good time in her presence. Once as a child when I laughed at one of her family stories and asked her to tell me another, she frowned and said, “Well, one time they was this girl that allus thought about having a good time, when what she ort to be studying was how to git to a  better place.”

That wiped the smile off my face!

I don’t mean to condemn her.  Now that I am older than she was then, I understand her better, and know enough of her hardships to be amazed she could find anything to be cheerful about.  She was born into a large fundamentalist religious farm family.  At fifteen, she married a neighborhood boy who was known to be a jokester and a prankster, and maybe that’s what drew her to him.  If so, she was sorely disappointed.  He believed in a good time, all right—for himself—but, as far as I could tell, he was never considerate or kindly toward Maw.  Without a doctor or a midwife, she birthed ten children and managed to raise the first nine to adulthood.  By the eighth, she much later told my mother, she was hoping to goodness and mercy that was the last of them.  It wasn’t.  When she told Dad she was expecting the tenth, he said, “Why did you want to do that for?  I didn’t aim to have no more.”

I have long realized that I inherited a lot from Maw.  I have her height, her straight back, and her bony feet.  Unfortunately, I seem to have inherited most of her health problems—fallen arches, hammer toes, heel spurs, knee problems, hip problems, bone spur in the neck….I could go on, but you get the picture.  But here’s the difference:  Thanks to Medicare and Blue Cross, I have been able to get relief and sometimes cures.  There is also the fact that I birthed only two children—with the help of an obstetrician —and have had a loving, supportive husband for 55 years and counting. I ought to be happier than Maw.  I have much more to be happy about.

In addition, I have come to appreciate her deep faith, which brought her most of the joy in her life.  And Maw, I’m sure you are looking down with relief that I’m working on achieving the level of faith you wanted for me. Those wonderful Gospel songs are helping me get there. Sing on, Dee White: at this link:

Maw, you’ll just have to look the other way when you see me dancing!   Everyone else already does.


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