Simple things bring family pleasure
By Bobbie Jean Burnett

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

Growing up in the backwoods country setting of the deep South does not always present the most pleasant memories for me. I was born on an icy, cold January day at the end of the Depression years into a family of five children. Counting Mama and Daddy, that made a lot of hungry mouths to feed when your family are only Mississippi sharecroppers.
However, there is one event that is quite vivid, especially now that I am more "well off," as my Southern upbringing would probably have me say. Here's what happened:

Almost everyone in our section of the county subscribes to a prominent farm journal, The Progressive Farmer. My closest friend, Frances Louise Lane, and I receive this publication, and both of us relish the
section for the "Littlest Folk" by "Miss Kate."
It is a glorious spring day in the mid-1940's when the issue arrives announcing the art contest for the little folks. Frances and I excitedly decide, "We will enter this one." She is really a talented artist while I am sorely lacking in this area. Yet, I refuse to let that stop me because my teachers always encourage me to try to excel in everything. I labor over "My Flower Garden" scene. "How can I get the centers of my flowers even?" I ask.
"Use a penny," Frances Louise suggests.
When completed, Frances Louise's picture is so realistic that you can almost smell the daisies while mine seems primitive, resembling weeds.
"Has it come yet?" Mama hears daily after our entries have been mailed, and we anxiously anticipate the news of our being winners.
Several weeks later as Daddy returns from the long walk to the mailbox, he brings a letter from Miss Kate. Hurriedly we scoot to the "front room," as we call where we gather as a family, since we are too poor to have a parlor or living room.
As the bright sunshine filters through the tiny windowpanes, we stand on the hearth as Daddy reads, "You have won second prize money in the "Littlest Folk" art contest for your "Most Unusual Flower Garden."
It was like a dream come true, for never before had I ever had much money of my own. "Now I am a little rich girl," I remark. My long red curls bob up and down, and my hazel green eyes sparkle as I let out a belly laugh and jump for joy.
"Let's look at the catalog to choose what you would like to order," Mama says.
My brother gets a pair of blue jeans while there is a blouse with brilliant green grosgrain ribboned sleeves for me. There is something ordered for each of my sisters as well.
Excitement prevails the day the order comes, and I am "bursting at the seams" with pride for being able to provide all those gifts for my brother and sisters.
Frances Louise does not win anything, but she is certainly happy for my family and me.

Nowadays I find it hard to realize that a mere challenge of drawing a picture could bring so much pleasure to our home. However, when you grow up poor in the backwoods setting of the deep South, you learn to find pleasure in simple things.

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