Driving Miss Georgia


I’m anti-social.

Sometimes, living in this old house is hard. Not because the pipes are frozen but because I’m never alone. This farm, like so many family farms in West Virginia, is populated. Family farms commonly have two, three, even four homes. Grandma and Grandpa in one, their child or two in others, then their child or two in yet others. There’s higher home ownership in West Virginia than any other state because every other family has a big farm and everybody lives there. Junior needs a house? Build one on the family farm. On this farm, there is my cousin (who I call my cousin for short, but he is actually my second cousin) and his wife and their son in one house, my cousin’s mother in her house, and the 100-year-old farmhouse where I live with my kids, which was formerly occupied by my great-aunt, my cousin’s grandmother. Three houses. I am never alone. The kids go to school, my cousin and his wife go to work, but even then my cousin’s mother is always here.

She is cute as a bug in a rug.

She is my stand-in mother, my adoptive grandmother, my constant friend, my waking nightmare. She is the lady of the manor, a workhorse, a slavedriver, Miss Marple, and Martha Stewart rolled into one. She comes over ten times a day. This is her going-to-town outfit. (She has an outfit for every occasion.)

She has macular degeneration and she can still drive, but she likes me to drive her places, especially if I’ll drive her there in her $200 car. (She has more money than you can shake a stick at but pshaw, she wouldn’t spend that on a car, don’t be silly.) She likes to come over and say, “What time did you say you were going to town?” Because I’m slow, I always say, “I wasn’t planning to go to town.” She says, “Yes, you were. I need to go, too. Let’s go at 10.” So we go to town in the Georgia-mobile and it’s like I’m escorting the Queen. There are only a couple hundred people in town and she knows them all and she’s probably bringing them some kind of food basket, so we have to make deliveries. I play her Secret Service detail, chauffering and hanging around outside, waiting. I take her to the bank and the post office and the little store, then we run out of places to go on parade because the town is that small. Then sometimes I ask her if she wants to joyride and find a bar. I just say that because it makes her laugh. I think nobody else talks to her like she’s a real person. I guess that happens when you’re 78.

You wouldn’t believe she’s 78 when we go home. It’s time to hoe. Or time to can. Or time to climb up on ladders and clean out the gutters. Time to rake, time to drag branches to the brush pile, time to sweep something. If it’s not time to do something, then she comes into the old farmhouse, walks into my bedroom where I’m sitting at my computer trying to write, and she just stands there. I say, “What are you up to?” She says, “Nothing.” Then I know she just wants to talk, and I have learned to be patient and to listen even though I have 10,000 things to do.

Any time I go anywhere, when I come home, she is right there, like she transported herself to my porch from the Starship Enterprise. She has radar that way. She brings me my mail whether I want her to or not, and she brings me all her leftovers, whether I want them or not. She checks on my teenagers, whether they like it or not. And none of them can get away with anything because she has eyeballs everywhere. She is half-blind with laser vision.

I barely knew her two years ago when I asked her if I could live in the empty old farmhouse. She didn’t blink, just said, “Of course, you are family.” And since that day, that is how it has been, one big family on the communal farm. I’ve paid my way here, but for Christmas, she gave me a card that said, “I have decided that until you move into your new house, you will pay no more rent here. That is my gift to you.” But of course that is the least of her gifts to me.

In spite of every time I hear the creak of the old front door and know she’s walking in without knocking, for every time she’s made me hoe, even across the hill and down the road through three creeks only a couple of miles away on our new farm where when the kids go to school I will finally be alone, I know I will miss her walking in without knocking and making me hoe. Because even when she’s standing outside the bathroom, waiting for me with my mail, I love her.

And when I come home to my new house from a long trip and I go straight to the bathroom, and I know that when I come back out, she won’t be standing there with my mail? I’m gonna miss her.


  1. Marianne says:

    It’s wonderful that you value the time you have with her… so many people forget that we won’t have our family around forever. Despite how frustrating or annoying or disruptive they are, they’re FAMILY.

    I didn’t spend enough time with my dad before he died. I’ll never do that again.

    And, dang it, you made me cry.

  2. Biddy says:

    That made me smile and cry. She truly is family if she inspires all those feelings in you.

    Have a happy New Year and here is to 2008 in your new house (and I hope to meet you in SF in August)

  3. Margery says:

    Georgia was waiting for me, too. And having gotten to know her just a little, I can see why you’ll miss her even though you’re only a couple miles away.

  4. Carmen says:

    Isn’t that the best. There are times I would give my eye teeth to have a family member drop in like that. We live out 20 miles from the closest town and only see family when we make the trip, both of our families think we live too far away to make a trip. Now that’s anti-social!
    Have a Happy New Year!

  5. MARY says:

    :butterfly: What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful lady! A very wise lady!!! Happy new year, everyone! Peace and love to all! :treehugger:

  6. Laura says:

    Too bad WV is so far away from Northern Illinois. My 93 year old Mother-In-Law lives upstairs & she has they same radar! They would be best buds & MIL still drives!!


  7. Dru says:

    That was simply a beautiful tribue to a beautiful woman.

    Happy New Year! May 2008 bring you joy especially when moving into your new ho me.

  8. catslady says:

    That was very touching. More people need people like her around. Our world has turned into an isolated kind of place.

  9. Cherlyn says:

    That truly was a beautiful and touching stories. People like that leave an imprint on you for a lifetime!

  10. Lauren at Faith Fuel says:

    :sheepjump: I know this woman!! What I mean is, I’ve seen aspects of her in some of my (dear) extended family members- (and I won’t name them)and in the old sweet lady I will be one day. I will be eccentric, demanding, sharp as a tack, difficult, and ready to love, more than ever.

    What a great post.

  11. trish says:

    Ahh, Suzanne, my TN family farm is eerily similar (though the 100 year old farmhouse burned to the ground when DH was 2). On the one hand, you wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world, but on the other hand, it would be nice to walk out on my porch and not have the whole family know it. :mrgreen: But you take the good with the bad, and if you are lucky you can see that what can drive you craziest, is often the best of blessings.

  12. Susan says:

    What a wonderful lady! You are so lucky to have her in your life. :heart:

    Wishing you a magical New Year full of love, light and laughter!

  13. Jodi says:

    That was really beautiful, thank you.

  14. Estella says:

    She is what I would call Family!!

  15. Lis says:

    Awww, what a sweetheart!!

  16. Lori says:

    Your Georgia is adorable. Makes me think of “all business, no frills” Grandma. Enjoy her.–Lori

  17. Brandy says:

    What a beautiful love story, of family. Georgia sounds like a wonderful woman, you are blessed to have her.

    Have a Happy New Year!

  18. shgrsweet says:

    ohhh what a wonderful story! I just love Georgia too! Shes definitely cute as a bug in a rug!!! :mrgreen:

  19. Ro says:

    That was such a touching, lovely story.
    Thanks for sharing your feelings about her.
    I never had someone like her in my life and after reading your post, I’m not sure how to feel about that.

  20. Ellen Lyn says:

    Loved reading this post (and the rest of your blog) and ADORE your cousin’s grandma!! Give her a hug for me when you see her next (outside your bathroom, maybe?? :)). Wish I had one just like her!

    HAPPY 2008!!!!!!!

  21. Bayou Woman says:

    You’re reeling me in one sentence at a time. I have a million things to do today to get back on a non-holiday schedule; instead, I’m going for a hot cup of something and picking just one more post to read. I love your writing style. Thanks for sharing . . . your writing inspires . . .

  22. Angie-la says:

    That was possibly one of the most touching things I have read in a long time. Truly.

    What an awesome tribute to a breed of lady that no longer exists in this modern, 60 mile per hour existence we call ‘life.’

    Georgia and my MIL would probably be best friends!!
    Miz Catherine is very much like that, but we live 40 miles away from her.

  23. Renna says:

    Your story of Miss Georgia was delightful. :mrgreen:

    I can’t help but feel sorry for her when you move. :no:

  24. Cousin Sheryl says:

    Well, Miss Georgia is my MIL…I am the cousin who lives next door to Suzanne. Georgia has been part of my life since I was 13 and started dating her son. So, you could say that Georgia helped raise me. Sometimes I have driven her crazy over the years but she has always been there for me. She has gently and lovingly “corrected” me about 3 or 4 times in the 34 years that I have known her. But, the most wonderful thing I can say about her is that I am GLAD that I live beside Miss Georgia (instead of my own mother whom I love dearly but who drives me crazy!). How many daughters-in-law can say that about their mothers-in-law?!?!?
    But, talk about that radar! Every evening when I come home from work, I am dying to go to the bathroom (you know – – post-childbirth bladder syndrome). I take off my coat, put my purse down and walk through the house. On the way, I grab the cordless phone off of the base. I go to my bathroom, sit down on the throne and RING RING, it’s Georgia! It is uncanny how she knows to call the minute I sit down on the toilet. So, I sit there and talk until my butt goes numb and then I have to tell her that I must hang up now! It never fails, even if I deviate from the routine, she always calls when I am on the throne! LOL

    I wouldn’t trade her for a million bucks!

  25. Earlene says:

    You are wonderful! I am 70 and left CA to be with my daughter, her hubby and 2 teenagers. i really thought I would be a help. Not!!! After 5 mo. I packed and left. I moved 400 miles away and rented an apt that I cannot afford and will have the company of my cat, Emily. Thank God for women like you. Hang in there.

  26. Melanie says:

    Having visited the old farmhouse you are living in, I can only imagine the history and memories that run through there. I visited with Mrs. Sergent, as she was known to me, Bob’s mother when she was the Queen of the Farm. What a lovely person. Ms. Georgia has never been described more accurately. I’ve never known a person that has such little tolerance for laziness. What a worker. The old Sergent farm was the gathering of MANY a political rally and the beginning of “bean” season, (policital dinners held in EVERY community, serving brown beans and cornbread). It isn’t that politicians are windy, it’s theh beans that provide the fuel.

    Good luck in living in Roane County. I left there about 3 years ago and while I miss some of the people, I do enjoy the privacy of living in a county where only a few know my name. I have often said, “I did the un-Cheer’s thing.)

    Many happy memories for you and your family.

  27. Lisa Carper Stott says:

    Such a great little story! I never got to meet Georgia or Bob, but Bob was such a great person, we talked on email and I purchased a book from him. He was so kind and helpful. When I first started researching my family he was one of the people who helped me most. I am sure he would be proud to know I now have over 22K folks in my family tree. We are related way back when. Someday I hope to photograph the cemeteries in the area there I haven’t gotten to yet. I just love that old house. I always make sure I drive down old Johnson Creek Rd. when I am in town. There is no other place like it to see deer at dusk!

  28. Ruth Shingleton says:

    Georgia has been a wonderful friend. I first met her when my husband was assigned to six churches in Roane County until his credentials were properly transferred. We, along with our two teenagers were dumped into a parsonage in Gandeeville to sleep in beds other people’s kids had peed in. We drove in and out of hollows that were very different from our eastern panhandle upbringing. We had a grand time those four years. My husband took a third cut in salary from his church in southwest Kansas and I went from a salaried position to just above minimum wage at Roane General Hospital. Our children left their color-coded school hallways to finish their high school days in Walton (the fortress). On the first day our sixteen year old son announced they had a smoking area (that meant they were allowed to stand where the buses were parked and smoke.) The excitement wore off after a few days and he became a non-smoker once again. Our daughter reported that each classroom had its own stove. Even at that she wore gloves in typing class that winter. After providing both teenagers with cars and sending me to work in his truck, he rode his bicycle into a used car lot and bought me a car so he could have his truck back. His needed a truck because it was necessary to drive up a creek bed to make a visit.

    We grew a big garden and folks shared with us as well. I went home one day to find Eldon standing in front of a huge pot on the stove. Bob and Georgia had given him some maple syrup which he cooked down to half a pint. It was good. We wanted to try everything available in Roane County including eating brown beans and cornbread. Mark gave us some seed called Bloody Butcher. We grew it for several years and took it to have him grind it at the Art and Craft Fair. We also grew cane and Eldon helped a guy from Speed make molasses. The neighbors liked to talk about the preacher raising cane. We grew peanuts, popcorn, rhubarb, horseradish and everything else we would hear about. It was a hard life for our kids to get accustomed to. Our daughter asked her daddy to hang some flypaper in the tree across the fence from our backyard because the flies were after the cows.

    One summer Mark went over to an old farm we had bought in Jackson County and cut up and removed an old junk car that was there. I’m sure after all that hard work he didn’t make much but it made us very happy. Our last year there the Conference added on two more churches, making eight. Knowing he couldn’t do it alone Mark was the first one he prevailed on to help him out. I understand from Georgia he is still at it.

    Years later we retired and bought an old hundred year old house in Ravenswood to restore. The floors were so slanted my computer chair rolled across the floor. A trip under the house with a jack solved that problem. We were hankering for some stone-ground cornmeal and called Georgia. She said, “Come for lunch.” We did. When we arrived, Bob had already written a poem for the occasion. We toured your old farm house with the wonderful glassware in the kitchen, the family photographs, and the slanted floors. (I think the cornmeal was in a freezer there) and were invited to come and stay there for a few days. We hoped to some time. A couple of weeks later Georgia called and said Bob had died and would Eldon do the funeral.

    We sat in Georgia’s house reminiscing about so many things that we had done together. A.J. Manchin presented himself in the room we were sitting and as Eldon stood up to shake hands he (Eldon) recited ver batim the quote that was in the National Geographic Magazine, June 1976. A.J. was standing in front of 100,000 junked cars he had rounded up in the state’s REAP plan — Rehabilitation Environmental Action Program. It was born, he said “to wash West Virginia’s pretty face and plant a honeysuckle on her crown.” Soon we wound our way up on a beautiful knoll where Bob was buried under a huge tree. Eldon invited A.J. to say a few words. He waxed eloquently as he gave a tribute to Bob. It was a wonderful funeral. Other state dignitaries were present and Bob got a good send off.

    Then in a few years Eldon developed a brain tumor and died. There is no more making applebutter and cider, harvesting honey from our bees or taking care of his horse at the farm he loved so much. I had him buried in the eastern panhandle along with his relatives and made his grave marker from some old foundation stones he loved so much. I’m still living in the old house with my cat and bird. Last fall one Sunday I was hankering for some stone-ground cornmeal again so a friend and I went to Spencer, had lunch, shopped in an antique shop and headed out to Johnson Creek Road. We had a great visit with Georgia, doing some reminiscing and getting caught up on each others lives. Madison showed up wielding a malicious looking tool of some kind but left when he saw that it was just two old ladies. We observed one of your cats stalking a bird at the feeder out the window. The bird got away. Of course we came home with the best cornmeal ever.

    I bought Secrets Rising, read it in two evenings and have passed it on to friends. I can tell your living conditions on Johnson Creek Road have inspired your writings. I hope to read some more in the future.

    Ruth Shingleton
    [email protected]


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    Checked by AVG Free Edition.
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  29. Kerri says:

    I was taking a break from doing the church bulletin today and decided to surf some. I landed on one blog to another and ended up here. I enjoyed my visit, but especially this post. It was very sweet! :wave: Thanks for the smiles but now back to work.

  30. Nancy Burford says:

    Ruth Shingleton sent me your website to enjoy. Ruth is such a dear friend (as was Eldon); she truly inspires one to savor each day and to find joy in each of those days. She and I may just have to wend our way into Roane County for a visit once the spring thaw has hit, taken effect, and done its job. Wishing you well with your move, Nancy B.

  31. midwestmom says:

    What a great story!!

  32. Donna says:

    Ohhh, she sounds sooo precious and I LOVE your humor!!!! You are so good at describing things – events, recipes, ect.I would love to have that in my life…someone sweet like a mom/grandmother…a CLOSE sister…famly near…sigh

  33. Donna says:

    LOL I Just read Cheryl’s post above..that is tooo funny!

  34. Donna says:

    I’m sorry, that was Cousin Sheryl’s story.

  35. Amanda says:

    I am so jealous! It must be wonderful to have family, land, a heritage. To be able to walk the same lands your ancestors did. Have any room in the cellar for a woman with 2 young helloin children who are in need of some good old digging in the dirt and swimming in the creek – catching tadpoles?! I will be on the next bus! :treehugger:

    I can feel it in my bones..turning the soil, tending a few goats, and sheep. I would be in HEAVEN.The world would be such a nicer place if we could all just worry about things that actually matter. Get the kids out of the TV room and outside! Thank you or the wonderful story of your Aunt, I bet she will miss being able to stop by so often!

  36. MIKE SERGENT says:


  37. Laura says:

    Oh, my gosh! I love her! I am sitting here crying after reading this. Bless her heart, and yours, for sharing :mrgreen:

  38. Leah says:

    :typing: Georgia,is a very special person. Tell her she got rave reviews from Indiana, etc. :thumbsup:

  39. Jean says:

    I just love Georgia 🙂 What a great life you have.

  40. Carolyn A. says:

    I wish Georgia was mine, I just love that woman! She would teach me so many things and she and I would get along just fine. Thanks for sharing that sweet lady with us. xxoo

  41. JoLinda Flemister says:

    I would love to have a Georgia!

    My Grandparents all passed by the time I was in the 8th grade Big Granny and Little Granny within two months of each other. They always had me out picking and canning with them. The other kids never wanted to and they don’t know what they missed.

    My father’s Mom I didn’t meet until I was 22 and I only had her for three very short years. I adored going to her home and cleaning the fridge (she always had butter tubs filled with something) and helping her around the house.

    From them I have learned to have patience and love for people of all ages but especially the elderly. They hold the knowledge of the world and wisdom for the future. I wish I had a Georgia right now.

  42. Chic says:

    I LOVE Georgia and Chickens In The Road….Suzanne you have a way of making us all feel at home and part of your life and family. Thank you for that.

  43. Mildred Adkins says:

    I thought this was truly awesome – I wish I had someone like that!!! Your site is wonderful – I just found it and have already made a bunch of your recipes! Thank you so much.

  44. Maggie Carraway says:

    There’s a place in Heaven for you Suzanne. The world needs more people like you.

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