Softly and Tenderly – Old Gospel Song by Ti Maria

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From Ti Maria: When I was very little, I learned this old Gospel song from my grandparents. My grandad led the singing in the little white church down the road. In between the phrases he would sing the next phrase. So they learned it by “Rote”.

A simpler time it was. There was a piano, An old country upright. A few Gospel song books, but no “Hymnals”. There were wooden pews, and no cushions. No overheads. No sound system. Two little, tiny rooms were added on for “Sunday School Rooms”

The Little White Church – Back in the day – All across our land.

Strange as it is, my parents took me to the church in town every Sunday of my early and later childhood days. But it is the music in this little chapel that hangs in my memory. People sang from the heart, in all earnestness. Not automatically fulfilling their congregational duties like in the town church. And you could feel the Spirit of God hovering close in over this little group who sang in such earnestness.

They all lived close to the land. They had lived through The Great Depression, and World War Two. They knew challenge, going without and the daily struggle for food.

They also knew blessing. An extra chicken for Sunday Lunch and for “Dinner on the Grounds”. The long primitive tables laden with fried chicken, backed beans full of fatback, country ham and biscuits, green beans again with fatback, slaw, potato salad, deviled eggs, Pimento and cheese sandwiches. Chocolate layer cake, coconut layer cake, pecan pie, and chess pie. And before every meal, regular as clockwork they thanked the Lord for his provision for their needs.

This was no different from my grandmother’s table. NO ONE would ever go hungry at Etta’s house! I could add at length to the list above and then more. But even if you arrived between meals, you could be sure of getting a piece of cake, sugar cookies, or a fresh hot roll, or fresh biscuit and butter, and jelly, and honey, and molasses…

And a steaming cup of coffee. Any minute of any day. There was always a pot simmering on the back of the woodstove – ready for making coffee.

Yes, she worked HARD in her kitchen, with her piggies and chicks and milking the cows. Putting up apples, peaches, corn, shelling beans, canning green beans, tomatoes, sauerkraut and pickles. AND making sure my grandad had all the fuel he needed for all he did to keep the farm and crops producing.

They were both up every day at 4:30. While she cooked the days breads and started the bacon, sausage and eggs, he was out the door feeding all the animals, BEFORE he sat down and had his chicory and breakfast. Then the day would commence with real work. After the lunch, that Grandma spent all morning preparing, was eaten by one and all who just happened to come by at lunchtime, and all the dishes washed, leftovers stored away, floors swept and mopped, Grandma would lay down on the sofa just long enough to watch “As the World Turns”. Grandpa was back out the door to work in the fields, or repair the tractor, or the shed, or the truck, or the fences…

He would come in just in time to eat a bit of supper – a snack pulled together. Sometimes with fresh food for tomorrow in hand. And then they would sit quietly by the fire and chat, who came by that day. What was the latest news they heard, What came in the mail? And took a glance at numbers in their separate accounts till they stirred the fire down for the night.

Except…

On Saturday nights when they would go out in the neighborhood for Gospel sings, or Bridal Showers, or Baby Showers. And my earliest childhood memories of Saturday nights when sometimes it was Richard and Etta’s house everyone came to and brought their guitars and banjos. Grandad would pound out the keys on the old upright, my uncles playing guitars, and everybody would sing southern gospel and Elvis’ new song, till late in the night. Etta made popcorn in the fireplace over the fire. – And I would go to sleep with the old gospel songs ringing in my ears.

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