Today is Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week for many denominations in Western Christianity. That means, of course, that Good Friday is in five days. And next Sunday is Easter.
Good Friday and Easter always bring me fond and fun memories of my paternal grandmother, Maude Ward Osborne.
Momaw, as my siblings and I called her (“mama” plus “reverence”), was a devout Christian.
However, Good Friday also meant that Momaw marked a tradition that had nothing to do with the church. It was the day she was sure to plant something in the garden first. Usually it was beans. Pink Tips to be exact, according to my sister Pamela. She says she vividly remembers helping our grandparents plant a row or two of pink tip beans on Good Friday when she was eight or 10 years old.
My memories of Momaw’s annual bean planting come from 30 years later when she no longer had a large garden. On Good Friday, she planted some beans in planters and pots around her porch, front yard, and side patio.
From the way she talked about it, I got the impression it was a long-held practice that she learned growing up with “Ma and Pa” Ward in Stickleyville, Virginia. I wouldn’t swear under oath, but I think my Uncle Paul, a biology professor at the University of Lynchburg, would ask Momaw what she planted in his weekly Good Friday letters “home.”
Since leaving the family farm in Blackwater to attend Lincoln Memorial University, he has been writing regularly until failing health prevented him. Momaw wrote back. Always. Stamps and stationery were important items to have on hand at all times. Momaw and Uncle Paul died within months in 1997. I have boxes of his letters to her. Every year he and she raced to be the “first ripe tomato”.
A few weeks ago I asked mom about the planting on Good Friday. She knew Momaw did this, but did not recall any such tradition from her own childhood on a farm in the Flower Gap township of Lee County, Virginia.
I had them call some of my Wallen cousins, especially the ones who actually “raise” large gardens every year. None of them plant anything on Good Friday.
Next I searched online. I learned that there is an old custom some people follow: planting potatoes on Good Friday. Another source I found said that “across the South” this caused some to plant as much as they could in their garden on Good Friday.
So, dear readers, do any of you know that planting on Good Friday existed in our region now or before?
I also mentioned “fun” Easter memories with Momaw. The biggest thing is of course her absolute love for dyeing eggs. She was an experienced colourist. Her turquoise just couldn’t be beat. Whether she was making a dozen or three dozen, and especially if one of us grandchildren was around, she would have almost every teacup in her kitchen on the table in a different color, in shades from pastel to rich.
One Easter, when I was young enough to want to look for eggs, I got sick. Momaw stayed at my house while the rest of the family went to church. I, of course, asked her to do my very own egg hunt. in the house She did and hid a large number of her perfectly colored boiled eggs in all parts of the house.
I hunted I found. I searched and found more. By the time everyone got home from church, I had refilled the basket with eggs. Nearly.
We didn’t realize the “almost” part for a few days. That’s when the one egg I’d missed really started to smell like… a rotten egg. We’ve searched high and low. Dad finally found the rotten egg hidden behind logs in the living room fireplace.
And that was the last time Momaw and I got to hide eggs in the house.
Speaking of nature, I’m looking for suggestions for sunrise Easter services in the area. If you know one let me know.
Have a blessed Holy Week. We’ll see each other at Easter.