A woman remembers the sights, sounds, smells, and events of her Florida childhood in this memoir.
Baxter (Write Your Memoir: One Story at a Time, 2017, etc.) was born in the front room of a Florida “cracker” house, named for its open-air dividing hallway. An unexpected surprise for her parents after the births of her sisters Patsy and Anetha, the author was raised by a caring and loving clan. Like almost everyone else in the rural community, the family made its living growing tobacco, corn, and other staple crops; relied on trading and planting more than store-bought commodities for the day-to-day needs of its home; and didn’t have any next-door neighbors. Trees and fields separated the homestead from the next one. This isn’t to say that Baxter didn’t grow up in a close community—some of the most touching portions of the book describe her regular visits to her grandparents’ house down the road, where family members gathered their mail, baked holiday fruitcakes, and caught up on gossip. The author had an especially warm relationship with her great-grandfather Tip, a gentle soul who spent most of his time smoking on the front porch and singing to the children before dementia incapacitated him. In 75 chapters, broken into 6 segments describing important phases of the author’s childhood, Baxter uses anecdotes to provide a comprehensive, striking picture of her life, from her babysitter/dog Tommy to her father’s series of automobiles and her combative sibling relationships. Her pragmatic, whip-smart, and loving mother, Ethel, is captured with particular vibrancy (“Mama read stories to us and taught us how to do things, like make windmills with construction paper and a stick”). Baxter’s early years were not uneventful—a series of chapters covers the flood of 1948 while others examine the adjustment of attending school for the first time and her struggle to stop wetting the bed. But anyone looking for an account of trauma or seismic changes won’t find it here—the author provides a charming, sunny story of a childhood (complete with photos) that seems to have been a largely stable and happy one. This means that Baxter’s recollections of how her family lived day to day take center stage in chapters that are largely enjoyable thanks to her clear and vivid writing style.
A light and sweet account of a rural upbringing.