About Mrs. Kelly
What a wonderful lady!
Mrs. Kelly and her husband came to be caretakers
of the County Farm
across the road from my childhood home.
I was young when the Kellys came to live in the neighborhood.
I adored the majestic building
easily seen from our front yard.
It was a very large, very old building
in which folks who couldn’t afford a home
came to live.
Some called it the Poor Farm.
But to me it was never poor
and always displayed a dignity
which deserved the regal title,
When I first began to visit the Farm
there were seven people living there.
A section was set aside for their comfort.
Mrs. Kelly cooked all the meals.
One of the more able ladies, whose name was”Rilla”,
helped with setting the long dinner table
in their dining room at meal times.
Mother wasn’t happy when I set the dinner table the same way
at our house.
It seemed quite picturesque to me.
I could never understand Mother’s disdain for it.
On the side of the house I passed
on my trips to visit with Mrs. Kelly,
there was a porch.
The older folks often sat there in rocking chairs
watching the world (and me) go by.
I noticed a time
when one of the ladies had a newspaper
spread out across her stomach
as she sat in her chair.
I asked her why she had it there and she said
“It’s to keep my bowels warm.”
Now that’s a remedy I would never have thought of on my own.
The Kelly family had a grown son and daughter
who were pursuing careers
in other parts of the country.
The youngest daughter still lived at home.
She would soon graduate from high school.
I don’t remember what unnecessary thing I said,
but it offended Mrs. Kelly.
She banished me from the farm for a year
when I was twelve.
It was to be a lifelong lesson.
Be careful what you say.
Be aware of how the other person may be receiving your words.
For the next year,
I didn’t follow my favorite path to the County Farm.
At the age of thirteen, I ventured a return.
There were no ill feelings shown toward me from Mrs. Kelly.
Our friendship continued.
Mrs. Kelly was never to be found sitting down or standing still. She was a busy hard working woman, and it seemed she never tired.
Bread rising on the old black kitchen range, would soon be ready to bake. Many times I watched her kneading that large pan of dough. Though I now bake my own bread, I would never be able to knead that much dough at one time. My bread recipe dictates kneading the dough for ten minutes. I’m sometimes able to stick with it until five minutes have passed.
Mrs. Kelly would no doubt suggest that the bread would be finer if I followed directions.
When visiting at just the right time, the aroma of the baking bread greeted me near the kitchen door. Not far behind were her bread customers waiting to purchase their next wonderful loaf of Mrs. Kelly’s home made bread. As I recall, she charged them $1.00 per loaf.
Long gray hair,
carefully braided and wrapped around her head,
was always perfectly in place.
Mrs. Kelly never walked anywhere slowly.
Always on the move,
she hurried to get things done.
The kitchen and her family’s living part of the house
were always neat,
the dishes done, everything in place.
In the pantry, just off the kitchen,
sat a basket of eggs
waiting for customers
who wished to purchase the freshest eggs in town.
Sometimes Mrs. Kelly allowed me to go to the chicken coop with her,
to gather the eggs.
I loved it.
During one visit,
I watched Mrs. Kelly prepare a bountiful meal for eight men
who had come to help Mr. Kelly with the threshing.
Never have I seen nor smelled such a wonderful array of food.
I remember the table and the men filling their plates again and again.
Surely no one left her dinner table hungry.
As the years went by,
Mrs. Kelly and I became closer friends.
When I graduated from high school near the top of the class,
as had her son and daughters,
she invited me into the room
where the graduation pictures of her children
were displayed on an old upright piano.
She was very proud of them.
There sat my graduation picture,
now displayed next to those of her children.
This was her way of showing that she cared for me
and was proud of my achievements too.
There couldn’t have been any clearer proof.
After high school, I became employed in the same town
in which I had grown to adulthood.
Arranging to arrive for work a half hour early,
I could spend time visiting with Mrs. Kelly
in the County Farm kitchen.
She still baked bread for her special customers.
The aroma of those wonderful baking loaves
continued to greet me at the door.
A few years later,
I married and went to live in a neighboring town.
Opportunities to visit Mrs. Kelly were few.
I was lonely and sad without the friends I’d left behind.
I often shared my lonely feelings with Mrs. Kelly.
She offered me the understanding of a caring friend.
At the birth of our first child,
Mrs. Kelly came to the hospital to visit.
She put her hand on my arm as she stood near my hospital bed
and said; “Now you’ll never be lonely again”.
I needed to hear that.
One day, while visiting in my former hometown,
I decided to go and spend time with Mrs. Kelly.
She wasn’t home.
I was told that she was in the hospital.
I went directly to the hospital.
I sat down in the waiting room
just as Mr. Kelly came through the inner door.
He was crying.
I was informed
Mrs. Kelly had suddenly gone into cardiac arrest,
Our times together had ended,
but as you can see,
the memories have not.
Photography By Mary Anne Tuck