Favorite Nursery Rhyme, Childhood, and Turtle Eggs

This is the transcription of a conversation between Christine, Willene, and John during Thanksgiving week 2014. This way Christine’s grandsons Elijah Robinson and Gabriel Robinson will know more about Grandma Chris’s life as a child.

John: So what is your favorite nursery rhyme or fairy tale?

Christine: Mine was always Old McDonald Had a Farm.

Willene: Mine too. I’m sure there were others but I can’t remember now.

Christine: Old McDonald Had a Farm was always, always, ALWAYS my favorite because we lived on a farm as kids. Remember when we went to live with Mama Lily and Papa Walter and they lived on a farm? It was also my …

Willene: favorite time of living?

Christine: Yes, my favorite time.

Christine: I had an extremely special relationship with Papa Walter. He drank a hot toddy every morning, and because Papa Walter and I were so close, I wanted a hot toddy, but they would never give me a hot toddy. So finally, they told me we what was in a hot toddy. It has a little bit of bourbon in it, so I could never have a hot toddy. They finally decided to make a version that I could have, without the bourbon. That was just a special, special, special moment. What was the question again?

John: What’s your favorite nursery rhyme or fairy tale?

Christine: Old McDonald Had a Farm was always, always, always my favorite.

John: Willene, why was it your favorite?

Willene: Because we heard it a lot, that’s all. Just basically that was said all the time. That was the word…. those were the ones that….

Christine: We memorized. And we lived on a farm. She and I lived on a farm together with Papa Walter and Mama Lily. She was Mama Lily’s favorite and I was Papa Walter’s favorite.

Willene: I wasn’t Mama Lily’s favorite neither! Nobody liked me.

Christine: You always went shopping with Mama Lily.

Willene: I was a little bitch, as they say. [Laughter!]

Christine: Really? I don’t remember that!

Willene: I was the one who spoke my mind as a kid.

Christine: That’s true, you did, but I always remember Lucille as being the one who spoke her mind.

Willene: No she wasn’t, she was the scary cat.

Christine: Really?

Willene: She was very scary in everything she did.

Christine: I don’t even know. I think I was just there. I was just there. Do you ever remember me as a … You know, I would love to see videos of myself as a kid. I can’t even remember what it was like being myself as a child. I can’t remember.

Willene: You were as you are now.

Christine: Really?

Willene: Yep! Flip flop.

Christine: [Laughter] What do you mean flip flop?

Willene: same as you are, your personality now, as you were when you were a kid.

Christine: Really?

Willene: Yeah, absolutely.

John: Specifics? Characteristics?

Willene: She’s very… What ever she wanted she went after, she was just going to do it. That’s just how it was.

Christine: Interesting.

John: What are recollections from that time? How do you see yourself?

Christine: I always see myself… The earliest I can remember really is… I always saw myself as being very dependent on her. Not dependent, but reliant on her.

Willene: But you were very fun. You were a lot of fun as a child. A lot of joy, a lot of bubbliness and happiness. Nothing seemed to bother you.

Christine: Really? Wow. I always perceived her as sort of matronly. I looked up to her probably more than I did my mother. She and I always shared rooms together. I remember when I was a kid we shared bunk beds and my covers always fall off the bed in the middle of the night, so I’d ask “May I please come down and sleep with you?” and she’d always say “Yes,” always.

Willene: We always shared the same room when it was cold in the house.

Christine: We’d snuggle together.

Willene: Mama would make these big big quilts, and no matter what she got she’d make these thick, thick quilts, but they weren’t sewed together like that, they were patched…. the word is tacked…. they were tacked together but they were so heavy on the bed you couldn’t turn. She made sure you were warm even though that room was ice cold.

Christine: I remember her as a kid…. One of my favorite stories about her is when we were kids, we were hiking in the woods–we didn’t call it hiking then, we were like roaming.

John: Just walking?

Christine: We were roaming, actually.

Willene: That’s where we lived, out…

Christine: It was where we found solace and peace. So we were roaming in the woods and came across this dog that had all these puppies. She chose one of the puppies to take home. We took the puppy home but Mama said no, you couldn’t have it. The back part of our house was really high off the ground, like it was on stilts. We thought… I thought even… that Mama said we had to take the puppy out back and put it under the house or something like that. Do you remember this?

Willene: Of course I do.

Christine: So you put it… But rather than putting it out…. Did you put it out during the day? what I remember she and I slept in the same–at this point she and I had a full sized bed together. She would take the puppy in the bed at night with us and sleep with the puppy like this so if the puppy had to urinate at night it would urinate in her hand. Then there was a milk truck that came along and we’d get our milk from, and my mother had established an account with the milk driver so we could get popsicles or whatever we wanted from it, so she started getting little cartons of milk for the puppy, right? She started feeding it to the puppy. It was really funny. I’m thinking about it, it was very colored, in my opinion it’s very colored, childish, you know? Those are things I remember about her, how much she loves animals and how caring she was.

Willene: Remember when we had a dog named Coco?

Christine: Coco, yeah. She always…. Coco was a beautiful dog, almost like a ….

Willene: I found out… I was looking at something the other day. It turns out she was a shepherd dog, but not a German shepherd. She was a collie shepherd, like that.

Christine: She was beautiful, black with big white spots, really hairy and fluffy. We named her Coco. She was a stray dog that came to our house. I don’t know. My sister was always, the person I looked up to, that I looked to for information about our family. I mean, she’s really special to me.

John: Are you still the …

Christine: She’s the matriarch.

John: Are you still the biographer, the repository of family knowledge …?

Willene: No!

Christine: Yes, she is!

Willene: I’m trying to get away from that. I can’t deal with all that. They still come to me for everything, they still do. Whenever they’re down and need to talk to someone they still call and talk.

Christine: I try not to because I realize it takes a toll on you also. She’s definitely the….

John: In terms of the birth sequence, are you the eldest?

Willene: Yeah.

John: Then was Lucille?

Christine: No, me.

John: So you [Christine], then Lucille and then Alice?

Willene: Yeah.

John: And the distance between you and Alice?

Willene: Eight [years].

John: And you two are…

Christine: A year and six months.

John: So about 18 months. And then another 18 months….

Christine: No, it was one year and a month between myself and Lucille.

John: And then Alice was another two years….

Christine: No, six years.

Willene: Alice came along a long time after.

Christine: I think the only, I wouldn’t say only, but we kept asking our mother for a brother. “We want a brother, we want a brother.” At the time we had no idea what having a child meant. I remember walking through this forest of beautiful, a beautiful forest, and it was us and Mama. We were talking to her, we were asking her–I think we were in Chastaing at the time–and we were asking her for a brother. “We want a brother, we want a brother, we want a brother, we want a brother, we want a brother.” That was before Alice was born.

Another time I remember as a child…. I don’t know where we were, but there were two incidents that relate to this occasion. One, I was very, very sick, with either the measles or the mumps, I don’t remember which. Two, there were turtle eggs that my father had… he’d either caught a turtle and got eggs from it, or somehow…. Do you remember that?

Willene: No, I don’t. I remember something about turtle eggs, but I can’t remember they coming from him? What were going to do with them?

Christine: We ate them.

Willene: We didn’t eat them!

Christine: Yes we did, we ate them. It was because… at first we were thinking, ew, turtle eggs, and then they were cooked and we ate them and then we were thinking oh how good these were.

Willene: I don’t remember eating turtle eggs.

Christine: It was in the same …

Willene: I remember them having something they chose, and talking about making a soup out of it, but I don’t remember eating no turtle eggs.

Christine: Where was that?

Willene: At that Chastaing thing.

Christine: It was in Chastaing that I remember.

Willene: I don’t remember eating no eggs.

Christine: Do you remember that I was really really sick at that time?

Willene: We both were. It seems like whatever it was you had then I always had, or I had and then you had. But I don’t remember eating any turtle eggs because we were very picky eaters.

Christine: But I remember eating them and thinking they were good.

Willene: I don’t remember that.

Christine: Our lives were very complicated.

Willene: Very.

Listen to the conversation


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