© 2019 Walt Hampton
It would take a few volumes to talk about my mother, her childhood, education and life, and to try to encapsulate her in a column such as this is useless; let me just say that when it comes to mothers, I had a great one. Although I have a hundred stories of my time with her, I do not have many artifacts of her life to which to point, and that is just as well because in my selfish way I do not want to share her with the uncaring world, lest she be under-appreciated. I know that I am who I am largely because she was my mother; I hold her grace, intelligence, humor, compassion and wisdom as the finest gifts this boy ever received, and I did my best to pass on the best of her to my own sons. It is a comfort that her lessons will live on through them and their children.
I am a collector of sorts, of things Appalachian, and whatever the object I try to see past just the utility of the thing. The butter press, biscuit cutter and muffin pan in the accompanying photos are family pieces, used by mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers of the Hampton and Rukavina clans, and yes, two of them are still used today. The women that held them knew them for the work they preformed; but passed along in that butter, and in those biscuits and muffins, was a mother’s love. Today because of its fragility the butter press is relegated to a place of honor on the kitchen shelf, but Cecelia, my wife, still cuts biscuits with the walnut cutter, and pops out a few corn muffins from the cast iron pan. Just knowing the history somehow seems to make the results taste a little better. I bring these kitchen tools to you today, to remind you of your own mother; I cannot look at them without remembering mine.
Born in 1923, my Mother was raised in a log and clapboard house up a deep hollow near Speedwell, Virginia, just a stone’s throw from Cripple Creek. She traveled the world with my father during his service years, bore four children (two of which were lost in infancy), became a registered nurse (operating room and emergency room), a girl scout leader, and was considered “Momma Hampton” to a score of my sister’s and my friends. She was uproariously funny, fiercely loyal to our family, deadly protective of us kids, and compassionately tender to the helpless things. I try to live my life as she would have me live it, and I remember her work ethic to help me in hard times.
As I write this in mid-June, it has been 28 years since her hands touched me.
I hope she would be pleased with who I am.