New Year’s Eve brings memories of past and hope for the future
by Rebecca Johnston
Columnist
December 30, 2012 12:00 AM | 931 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rebecca Johnston<br>Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor
Rebecca Johnston
Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor
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My grandmother was born on New Year’s Eve on a farm just a mile or so from downtown Canton.

The year was 1884. Her name was Lola Belle Cochran and she lived to be 96 years old.

I have no idea what the weather was like that long-ago night. I think it must have been cold and dark when Gran, as I always called her, made it into the world.

I think she was born close to midnight as the minutes were winding down in the old year.

By the time I was born, she was more than 70 years old and had seen many changes in her lifetime.

She lived through two world wars, a great depression, and saw more changes than could ever be named as the roads were paved, homes got running water and electricity and the telephone became a common-place device.

She spent her entire life living fewer than three miles from where she was born and the farthest she ever traveled was to Birmingham and Newnan where her children would later live.

She, along her sister who died as a teenager, an infant brother, her parents, husband, brother and son and his wife, are all buried in Riverview Cemetery behind the old Methodist church that now houses the Cherokee Arts Center.

As a child I loved to sit in one of the old rocking chairs in her front bedroom and listen to her talk about when she was a girl.

She grew up on the Brown farm where her father worked. She was friends with Judge James Rice Brown’s daughter, Elizabeth, who later gave my grandmother her upright grand piano that graced her little parlor all her life.

Gran would tell me about walking to school in a one-room schoolhouse and how she and her sisters and brother had to cross a train trestle to get to school each day.

She would tell about sitting around the fire each night during the winters, stitching on needlework in the dim light.

And how, when she was a young girl she fell off a fence where she was sitting when she saw a lizard and broke her leg.

It took the doctor two days to get to her house to set the leg because the rain had swollen the creek and made the dirt roads impassable.

While they waited for the doctor to come in his horse and buggy and patch her up, her father had to secure her leg to keep it still and she lay flat on her back.

In another incident, her father was struck by lightning while he was trying to get the teams of mules in from the field one stormy summer afternoon. He lived, but he was knocked unconscious and his pocketknife left a brand on his skin.

Her father seemed like a strong man, her mother a small woman who must have been tough to give birth to and raise six children. Generva Hughes Cochran lived to be 99 years old.

I loved visiting my grandmother, and spent as much time at her house as I did at home.

Sitting on a stool in front of her old Hoosier cabinet in her kitchen and watching her knead biscuit dough in her wooden bowl and then roll it out and cut in into tiny “city” biscuits that were her specialty was a favorite way to spend my time.

I loved her chicken and dumplings, fried chicken and pound cake, which she baked most weeks.

She spent most of her days in her simple routine, dusting and cleaning, perhaps doing some sewing, talking on the telephone to her friends and reading her Bible.

She loved Canton, our church, our friends and family. I never saw her mad or ruffled. She was always kind and believed in the Golden Rule.

My grandmother was in many ways a simple woman, but in the ways that really counted she was a giant.

I sometimes wonder what she would make of the world today.

She never even owned a television. She got her news from the radio and the newspaper, and that was all she needed.

I wonder what she would make of our cellphones and computers and Facebook, and all the so-called modern technology we depend on today.

She stayed at home most of the time, and seemed content within her four walls. She loved to sit on her front porch in nice weather and talk with passersby and neighbors who would drop by.

The mailman was a welcome sight, often bringing a letter to her door from a far-away relative or friend.

I know she had loss and hardship in her life, but she always seemed calm and happy to me. She gave me the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.

As 2012 slips away and a New Year dawns, I remember her for all the joy she imparted to me as a child and I know she would want me to embrace the future while respecting and honoring the past.

Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.
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