My name is “Jeanette” and I have been a member of this family since the late 1940’s. I was a gift to Eddye Mae LOYD SWANN from her daughter-in-law (Jeanette MALPHRUS SWANN, wife of Otis “Bubber” Franklin SWANN, Jr.) I wasn’t a very big plant, but Eddye Mae nurtured me through the years. When she moved to 60th Street in 1962, I moved with her. There we lived in harmony, enjoying the antics of four generations of the family, until Eddye Mae moved to her daughter’s (Frances SWANN THOMAS) house on Wilmington Island to recover from a knee injury. This was about 1983, if my memory can be depended upon.
Eddye Mae’s move to the Island was intended to be a temporary arrangement, but it never worked out for her to return to her home. Twice a month someone in the family visited me on 60th Street and gave me water. I was so lonely and I looked forward to their visits. Only a few of them would take the time to linger a moment and talk to me. Their visits were all I had to look forward to from day to day.
I was sure I would have to start taking Prozac for my depression when suddenly the door opened and Bubber came in. He walked over to me, looked me over from top to bottom, turning my pot from side to side to get a better view. I thought for sure I was doomed. The family must have decided to rid themselves of the responsibility of my care. He propped the door open and came back into the room. I was so afraid and cried out to him, “What are you going to do to me?” Of course, he didn’t answer, he just walked over and picked me up. I could feel my leaves hitting the sides of the doorframe as I looked over his shoulder for one last glimpse of my home. Now I understood how Eddye Mae felt when she had to leave. I know she didn’t want to leave her home, and certainly didn’t want to leave me!
Suddenly, he set me on the ground. He opened his car door and pushed me in. My body was bend in order to fit inside the car. I was cramped and sad. My time had come. I watched as he locked the door to the house and returned to the car. He sat in the driver’s seat and started the car, pulling off for what I believed to be my last trip anywhere.
Bubber drove for a long time. I was disheartened and tired. I must have dozed off. The next thing I remember we were on the highway and a “Jacksonville, Florida” sign flew by the window as he drove along. He took me to Orange Park, where he unloaded me and carried me into his home. I settled in and was happy. It was nice having the television on, being watered regularly, listening to his telephone conversations, and seeing his movement around me. Life was good!
Suddenly one day in 1987 his life ended. I was alone again. I was getting depressed again. Just as I was about to give up, the door opened and Glenn and Ray (his nephews) entered. They gathered his possessions, took care of pending business, and loaded me in the back of a truck. I just knew I would be taken to the dump and “dumped.” Again, it seemed like they had driven forever. I was cold and tired. I don’t think at that point that I cared where they took me or what they did with me.
It was late in the afternoon when we arrived on Wilmington Island. “Wilmington Island,” I thought. “That’s where Eddye Mae went!” I felt my heart beating faster and faster. It would be so wonderful to find her again. I was taken inside and set in the corner of the room.
I cautiously looked around. There she was. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Eddye Mae had grown frail since I had seen her and was a little forgetful, but she seemed to know who I was. I was happy again. I watched the family come and go as I sat quietly in the corner of the room. Another generation had been born into the family. Having the little babies and children around made me feel very much alive again. Frances’ home was filled with joy and noise. The television was always on, people were coming in and out all though the day. Each night I said a little prayer for all of them as they one by one left me to go to their beds. I certainly wouldn’t be depressed in this household.
Eddye Mae died in September of 1988 and six months later her husband (Otis Franklin SWANN, Sr.) died. I guess he missed her as much as I had missed her when she left her home on 60th Street. I wasn’t worried this time, as I knew Frances would take care of me.
Frances was alone now in the big house, but she didn’t have a chance to be lonely. Not only did she have me, she had family and friends. She loved to play cards and four or five nights a week, friends came in for cards. They ate snacks, laughed and talked, and fused if they didn’t win. One of her friends had been in elementary school with her. Then in 2000, the doctor told the family that Frances' cancer had returned. After that she spent most of her time in and out of the hospital. In September 2001, she died. I was alone again. This time I knew no one would want me because of my age. I was old! I thought they would probably wish me well and drop me off at a nursing home.
Then, just as I convinced myself that my life was over, Eddye Mae’s great-granddaughter (Karen Marie HOLLOWAY PREVATT and her husband, Mike) came in and took me to their home in Rincon, Georgia—another long ride in the back of a truck. They put me in a nice, sun-filled house and I thrived. I was almost asleep one night when I overheard them talking about a move to Savannah. I wondered if they would take me. Well, they did. They moved me into another sun-filled room (so good for my old body) in a house on Wilmington Island and I have been here ever since.
Through the years, shoots have been taken and given to others. I wonder if any of them are thriving as I am. Just before Christmas, one of my limbs had to be clipped because it was pulling on my main stalk. I was afraid I would break under the strain. Mike said he would take the branch to work with him and see if he could root it. Hopefully, it will live. Wouldn’t it be nice if it did—mmmm would it be a sibling? I have another little plant coming up at my base--another generation of my family tree. Since I can’t locate a birth certificate (I think the Court House burned), I am assuming I am around 62-63 years old. Tomorrow I may check with the Social Security Office to determine if I am eligible for a pension check before they change the rules.
I look back on my life and have to say, “I am a product of family love.” Sometimes it was even tough love, but I am certainly blessed to be a part of this family. If you are ever nearby, stop and visit a while. I love seeing old friends and making new ones. You can sit in Eddye Mae's chair right by my side. That's the chair and stool her daughter (Mary Elizabeth SWANN BRINSON) gave her in 1936. She had the chair before I came into her life. The chair and I share family memories and would love to hear yours.