Born In the year 1900, my Great grandmother Effie Johnson will always be “Big Momma” to our family! In the images above she’s sitting out in the pasture reflecting after church and preparing dinner in the other with three of her sons. Although she stood just under 5ft and barely 120lbs most of her life, her name represented her character and the respect held for her as a role model in every aspect of her 100 years on earth. I miss her dearly. Lately, there hasn’t been a moment throughout my days when something occurs that makes me long for the ability to go back in time to have a conversations with a family member who have transitioned. The next few weeks I will be honoring my ancestors by sharing the lessons and beautiful memories of my precious time with them.
I was told stories of how when I first began to crawl, I had a habbit of scooting around Big Momma’s kitchen floor pulling all her pots and pans from the cabinets and she would discipline me by lightly tapping my thick ‘lil thighs with her huge wooden spoon. Probably the reason I’ve never used one of those wooden spoons myself. There were also stories of how she helped bring me into the world by aiding my mother during delivery. Big Momma was the mid-wife to many folks of color during her time. When we visited her for family reunions during my childhood, she and I would sit out in the pasture among the animals to snap peas or work in the garden. She’d share stories while I listened with anticipation. She never spoke much about the challenges she faced in her life, but mainly about the importance of family and how she enjoyed raising her children, being a wife and taking care of people whether they were kin or not. Once she reached the ’90’s (her golden years), she talked to me about how happy and thankful she was to have lead a fulfilling life recalling her numerous blessings over the years. I didn’t quite understand the part about a “fulfilling” life because she never ventured from the small town of Wilmar other than a few visits to the closest hospital which was 7 miles in the next county. There was no need for her to go into town to buy much as she utilized the land and nature to provide everything they needed.
My childhood was filled with fun memories of her as well as some lessons I learned the hard way. She’d always warn my younger brother’s and I not to go out there where the barn was. One year during our visit, I was about 10 years old and had to see what was inside that old barn, not realizing my youngest brother who was only 5 at the time, had follwed me. After my investigation and disappointment of not finding anything other than bunches of hay, my brother and I found ourselves being chased by that mean ol’ bull. His short legs wouldn’t allow him to gain any speed, so as I went to grab him, we escaped the dangers of the bull but unfortunately I didn’t escape the barbed wire fence during our get-a-way. My scared knee’s still bare a reminder of that day which my brother’s and I laugh about all the time. My fondess memory of times with Big Momma was being in the kitchen preparing suppa (she still used the big wooden spoon, but only for stirring now). She sang these old negro spirituals that were passed down to my mother who Big Momma helped raise and have always stayed with me which I’ve shared with my children and grandchildren while preparing meals during the holidays. My favorite is called “Great Change in Me”, here’s a snippet!
“There is a great change in me, great change in me. I am so happy and I am so free. Since Jesus brought me out of the darkness, into this marvelous light and oh oh oh there’s a great change in me”!
I learned that these songs were Big Momma’s way of lifting not only her spirits, but also the family in times of struggle. She had spent her life as a faithful servant to the Lord and knew His devine power. This was her way of letting us know that God is always with us. I love you Big Momma! I am thankful for the time I spent with you and I pray I make you proud, for I now know that all your sacrifice and the struggles you’ve endured were so that I could be here today and continue moving forward!