Mamaw’s Sprinkler

My life in appalachia mamaws sprinkler

We called Pap’s mother Mamaw and his father Papaw. By the time I came along there were seven grandchildren ahead of me so their monikers were already well established. Mamaw died when I was in 5th grade.

Even though I was so young, I have great memories of Mamaw. She babysat me for Granny so I spent lots of time with her. Some memories are sharp and clear, most are soft and hazy; but all my memories of Mamaw make me feel safe and loved.

One time Papaw told me he loved me because he remembered how Mamaw fell in love with me when I was born and that I was always her favorite. That made me feel so special…until I heard Papaw tell 2 other grandchildren the same thing! But that was Papaw-and in reality the statement was true in his mind. He loved all his grandchildren and I’m sure each grandchild was Mamaw’s favorite as well.

Pap was a lot like Mamaw-and I’d like to think I am too. She was quiet and reserved, but could laugh about stuff too. Mamaw never seemed to get excited even the time her bathroom door had to be taken down because Paul locked himself in there somehow-the little rat! Looking back, I can see Mamaw’s life wasn’t the easiest, but I think she enjoyed it.

Mamaw had heart problems. A week before she died (way to early at the age of 67), she told Granny she had lived a good life-she’d seen her children grown and married and even lived to enjoy her grandchildren.

One of my sharp Mamaw memories:

I was standing on the couch looking out the big window where the black crouching panther set on the sill. I see Mamaw getting her ironing board out; hear the screech of sound; notice the dust motes dancing in the sunlit air and smell the scent of fresh brewed tea. I remember the drops of water that plopped on fabric as Mamaw used her sprinkler to dampen the clothes before she ironed them. I said “Why are you doing that?” Mamaw explained why and then let me turn the glass coke bottle upside down to sprinkle the clothes myself.

I had been so focused on missing Pap that he had been gone a month before it occurred to me that he was back with his Mother and Father-reunited after being separated for so many years.

I saw Pap tear up many times over the years, but the only time I ever saw him cry big hiccuping sobs was at Mamaw’s funeral. I remember his sadness scared me. For days and weeks I watched Pap closely to see if he’d ever be happy again. I also remember the exact moment I seen him laugh out loud after her funeral.

There were a bunch of folks at Pap and Granny’s one night visiting. As always there was music being made and good food being eaten. There was also a little boy-Chuck. He was the grandson of Pap’s best friend L.C. Chuck got up in front of everybody and started showing out-seems like he might have even had a little guitar. As I watched Pap laugh that night I knew everything would be okay again even though he grieved for his mother, and it was.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    June 4, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    I remember those clothes sprinklers well. Our Mother had a Vernon’s ginger ale bottle with a sprinkler on top. I think both of our Grandmothers just used big bowls they’d dip their hands into to sprinkle the clothes with their fingers before ironing. As time went on, I remember they’d set to sprinkling the clothes the day before, rolled them into a roll, wrapped them in a big plastic bag and put them in the fridge. They said the hot iron hitting the cold wet clothes made ironing easier. Maybe it did.
    Just the other day I was drying clothes in the dryer, and I thought how close it smelled to the smell of damp clothes being ironed – close but not quite.
    Praying everyone has a safe happy weekend.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    caryn verell
    June 4, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    oh my goodness….my mama used a sprinkler bottle…it was purchased from the tinkerman back in the late 40’s or very early 50’s….a beer bottle painted yellow with a small picture of yellow and orange flowers on one side…the cork on the sprinkler head has to stay wet to stay on.. mama used this sprinkler bottle every time she ironed and let me use it when i took over the family ironing as a chore for an older girl…a few years ago i asked my mama about the sprinkler bottle as i had not seen it in years and she had moved to a retirement/independent apartment…lo and behold, she told me to get down on my knees in front of a lower cabinet in the kitchen and reach way in the back is where i found that old sprinkler bottle. some of the paint is chipped away and it is hard to tell what kind of flowers are on the front..but now that bottle has a place of honor on the windowsill of my breakfast nook and every now and then i fill it with water and iron the tea towels and tablecloths.

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    June 4, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    I remember those sprinklers! My Mom had one. I see them from time to time at thrift stores or antique/collectibles stores.
    I know how you miss Pap but just think, he is in Heaven with his Mom and Dad and they are all laughing with joy to be together again.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Miss Cindy is right, grief certainly must be observed, but more importantly it must be released. This enables us to remember our loved ones with joyful hearts. Still keeping all of you in our thoughts and prayers!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    June 4, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    my Mamaw had sprinkler, too, and there was an art to getting the clothes sprinkled just right!! And if she didn’t finish them, she put them in the refrigerator so they wouldn’t “sour”.
    Love the story of you worrying about Pap’s sadness and the joy of hearing his laughter again.
    Whenever we have had a loss I find that the memories that cause the most tears in the beginning have a way of causing the most joy as time goes on.
    I think of your family often but I do feel most akin to your mother’s loss and the complete change in her life. Life goes on and our children and grandchildren become more dear to us but the life as we knew it with our husbands hovers just outside our grasp, forever in our hearts.
    God be with you all.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Thank you Tipper for sharing memories,as alway it sends me down memory lane and I should be writing them down.God Bless you and yours. Jean

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 4, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    I remember watching my mother sit her hot iron down on a piece of waxed paper, then rub it on a worn out bedsheet or towel she had just for that purpose. The iron would leave an imprint of itself on the waxed paper. I suppose the wax from the paper made the iron smoother and the ironing easier. I was wondering if anybody remembered their mothers or grandmothers doing that.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    June 4, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Thank you for this, Tipper. I really enjoyed it and it brought back long-forgotten memories of my Mom’s Coke bottle sprinkler. I haven’t thought about that in a few decades!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 4, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    My mother had one of those sprinklers but rarely used it. She would usually get a bowl of water, dip the ends of her fingers in it and flick it on the clothes. Sometimes she would pretend to miss and flick it on my face.
    My grandmother Ammons died in 1958 when I was barely seven. In the only clear memory I have of her, she is sitting on the porch of our old house with her purse in her lap, digging through it to find Cin-Cins to pass out to the little beggars circling around. Not long after that all the little beggars had to spend the night at our other grandmother’s house. We were never told why but now I know.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    That was one of the best and heart-wrenching true stories you’ve ever written. Thank you! I’m so sorry for your grief but we all got to go thru it, I know. I’ve been to most of my aunts and uncles’ funerals, but the ones that bothered me most was my daddy and mama’s. I don’t recon you ever get over it, but God gives us those wonderful memories, and time does heal a broken heart.
    Hope you all had a good time at the Folk School last night…Ken

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    June 4, 2016 at 10:40 am

    My Dad is gone on to heaven too.He had told me he didn’t want me grieving over him just on and on.He did tell me he wanted me to visit his grave from time to time.Dad had a personal belief that the soul visited the grave.He never claimed this was bible,so I do visit his grave and talk to him whether he hears me or not,I don’t know. Time

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    June 4, 2016 at 10:14 am

    I’m not the one that can comment about the grieving process, maybe in a few years. Sometimes
    the “sprinkler” tips over and I can’t seem to get it upright for several hours…When the flood of memories begin it just goes on to wash up more memories until finally some thoughts begin to slowly dam up the water for a while….My life is changed forever, as other Mothers feel as well, because of course, I am not the only one that has lost a child. Even though he was a grown man with family, I saw him frequently and talked with him every day. It’s hard to bare, very heart and memory consuming on a daily basis.
    I understand somewhat you are feeling, but one can have similar circumstances but never able to walk In another ones shoes.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2016 at 10:07 am

    I’m so glad you are writing about your memories, Tipper. It may be different for you, but I sometimes find myself remembering only the sad parts of life and loss, and over time, without me really noticing, those memories almost get “recorded over” many happier memories. Even though putting things into words and writing it down can be a painful experience, over time I think the result is like the sun breaking through after a thunderstorm, helping me see life for the miracle and glory it is, every day.
    I’m not expressing this very well, but I just wanted to say I’m really glad you are writing, and thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Very well written. It brings back a lo5 of similar memories.

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    June 4, 2016 at 9:46 am

    tipper&” sightless piggies” losing a loved one is gaining a little piece of heaven for his or her kinfolk. blessing to all in the great smokey mountains. k.o.h.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Your Papaw reminds me of how I used to do something similar to my five grandsons. When they read their Christmas or Valentine card, they tried so hard not to let the others see that I had written “To my favorite grandson.” As they got older and wiser, I lost the enjoyment of watching their little faces trying not to give our secret away, but the memories will last a lifetime.

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    June 4, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Grieving is hard, but we must go through it for our healing. We all do this in different ways…it must come at our own pace. We have our precious memories that help us.Be blessed.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2016 at 8:28 am

    My Mom told me many years ago that God did not design us to grieve forever. We cannot ever forget those dear to us, but somehow it becomes a pleasant part of life to share stories about them. Our grieving must be done at our pace. It seems to soothe if we can carry one of their old key chains or personal items with us.
    My family arrived there finally after losing my Dad and my baby sister with same diagnosis almost exactly a year apart 2001 and 2002. It certainly made us treasure and overlook faults in the remaining family. Laughter together did much to mend our hearts.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2016 at 8:22 am

    ‘Showing out’ seems to be a new phrase used commonly used in the Applachain word bank. I got the jest, but that jumped out at me. The memories you shared are so precious. My mom used one of those sprinkler type bottles. I remember my mom ironing just about everything she washed, hung out to dry, then folded and then the ironing board came out. I am so thankful not to have to iron sheets. Among your thoughts do you remember washing sheer type curtains and then stretching them on frames with small nails, hundred or more? We had an attic and that is where the curtains were stretched to dry. My mom would wash the curtains in the bath tub. It is fun to bring back such precious memories and sharing them.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    June 4, 2016 at 7:41 am

    A tender and memorable story of Tipper’s grandmother reminded me of my own grandmother, Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer, the “wise woman” of Choestoe, whom everyone loved and who delighted her grandchildren (of which I was one of very many!) with stories of “how it was” when she was a child. This is how we have a flow of love and appreciation from one generation to another; stories, memories and experiences we’ll never forget tie us together.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 4, 2016 at 7:21 am

    You were a very observant child Tip. You recognized the grief and your young mind noted that it passed, eventually. That’s very useful information for a child to collect and remember now that you are the one experiencing the grief. Grief in meant to be observed and then released because life goes on. It always goes on.
    The girls did a fantastic job at the Folk School last night and I felt Pap there, right there on the stage with you all. It felt a little sad but more than that it felt like a celebration of him.

  • Reply
    Cullen in Clyde
    June 4, 2016 at 6:03 am

    I recall the first time I laughed after the death of a particular loved one. I almost felt guilty for it.

  • Reply
    Sunny Shores
    June 4, 2016 at 5:09 am

    Incredibly touching story. It’s hard to grieve – but laughter does heal the soul. Blessings for you & your family.

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