Sweet Martha Brown

I’m in love with an older woman. My wife knows about it. She says it’s okay. It’s not only me.  I’m just one of many in love with Mrs. Martha Brown, a perky and pretty 103-year-old lady.

She’s been “Miss Martha” to me since I was a child. We were neighbors, out in the country a few miles from Pinehurst. Now we are neighbors on 41 North near Vienna.

Miss Martha celebrated her birthday on February 23rd. Her church, Lilly Baptist, surprised her with a party. She loves parties, especially when there is plenty of ice cream.

Her short-term memory is measured in minutes, but she recalls a lot of things from earlier times. She has the same easy laugh and sweet disposition that have been trademarks for decades.

Her son, Marcus, lives with her, laughs with her, and patiently answers the same questions. Sometimes he helps her into his horse drawn buggy and takes her for a ride.

Early in her marriage she drove a Hoover Cart, pulled by a horse. She drove a real car before there was such thing as a driver’s license. Her last turn behind the wheel came at age 99, on her regular trip to Janis’ Salon. She smiles and says convincingly that she still drives. Marcus smiles back and changes the subject.

At 100 she was still putting up pear preserves. I don’t know any doctors that advise you to eat pear preserves and ice cream, but I don’t know any doctors that are 103.

Miss Martha sold Avon for 26 years. It must work as she could easily pass for 80. The year she turned 100, my mother was 87. Mama invited her to Harmony Church to hear a gospel group called Old Path. The bass singer walked back to the pew where Miss Martha was sitting, right beside my mother. With his mic in hand, he said, “I understand there is a 100-year-old lady with us tonight. Which one of you is it?”

In 1929 she eloped with Bob Brown, six weeks shy of her 15th birthday. She got off Mr. Henry Nutt’s school bus at Joiner’s Store. A friend named Johnny Mack had borrowed, without asking, a car from Horace Harpe. He drove them to Vienna where the Justice of the Peace married them. Then he took them to Cordele for a one-night honeymoon at the home of a relative, Jim Burgess.

The police came during the night, but they weren’t looking for the newlyweds. Jim Burgess had been arrested that day for selling corn by the gallon. The police were there to pick up the home brew. Mrs. Burgess let them in. The moonshine was hidden under the bed in the honeymoon suite.

The next day, Johnny Mack went back to Cordele and took them home. Miss Martha’s father, Mr. Jim Fullington, was not happy. She said he would, “cuss a while then cry a while.” The friction didn’t’ last long. Bob Brown was welcomed into the family.

Miss Martha and Mr. Bob raised two children, Mary Ann and Marcus. They celebrated their 50th anniversary on January 11, 1979. Mr. Bob died of cancer that same year in April.

Miss Martha was at Mrs. Jane Mason’s funeral on February 21st. My wife, Jane, and I sat on the pew with Marcus and her. It’s not often that a 103-year-old lady is at the back of the church for such occasions. Marcus reminded her several times who I was. Each time she was delighted to see me. It’s not all bad when you enjoy good moments more than once.

Miss Martha was the first born of ten children. She is the only one left, but is blessed with lots of other family and friends. She has a joyful approach to living. She has been that way ever since I’ve known her. There’s a good lesson there for the rest of us. If we picture how we want to be remembered, it should be how we already are.

Happy Birthday Miss Martha. Enjoy your ice cream.

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