musical lives, remembered in story & sound

Lella Todd -- 3. Laughter


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Lella, said Letha, was “a little heavyset lady. She wore glasses. And giggled all the time. She laughed, yes, she was like a kid, you know.” She would spend her days with the neighborhood children. She’d take them into the garden, to pick greens; into the river, to fish; into the road, to play games.

“I remember walking down the road,” Letha remembered, as she drove me down Forge Mill Road, some 60 years later. “It was just a sandy road then… and we’d play hop scotch. I think every little girl’s played hopscotch. So, Lella would hopscotch too… and she just laughed, when she’d jump. She’s so jolly.”

We sat in Letha’s car, Letha pointing to the road where it took place, Lella’s presence so clearly felt in her mind. She’d be right there, Letha said, standing and laughing at the edge of that road, a crow on her arm.
 “She loved birds and animals,” Letha said. “She caught a crow, and split its tongue and taught it to talk,” she said, laughing. “Can you believe that? And she would go out and stand, and hold her arm out and it would come fly and sit on her arm.” Caw, caw, she would cry, and it would fly down and land on her shoulder as she stood in her driveway.
She and Claude had a dog, and cat they called Kitty Puss. In the mornings, Letha said, “She’d have these big, wonderful biscuits, homemade jelly and jams, and the cat would sit between her and Claude. They would butter the biscuits, and feed the cat. She’d feed him one, and Claude would feed him one.
She was a master teller of ghost stories, as Letha recalled. And on Halloween, “she’d try to scare us to death,” remembered Letha. She would dress up in scary costumes, and slip out behind the barn, jumping out with a yell.
She was a hard-working woman, handy with a fishing rod and a rifle. “Squirrel hunting… she could whip the hide off them things faster than a man could.”
She was a craftswoman, and did “very beautiful embroidery,” said Letha. “She taught my sister how to embroider and crochet… and still to this day, she does it.” She “was good at handwork, just ‘bout like most housewives,” remembered Serena, too.
She was a woman who “loved flowers,” and tended a flower garden around the house, in addition to a vegetable garden. She was a good cook, and canned vegetables, like all those around her. She had a jersey cow, Letha remembered. “She used to milk that cow and make butter, oh my goodness.” The best butter, Letha bragged, was Lella’s. Exceptionally fluffy.