Food for Thought – Ode to “Mudbound” and Memory

I was going to post about salt this week, but I watched a movie instead. The movie is profoundly moving and made me start thinking about my past and present. “Mudbound” is  the movie I am talking about. Have you seen it?

Personal memory can often seem like a movie script. I think we all  carry images that seem like they are both real and unreal, with a filmy overlay softening what our minds can cope with at any given time. Good memories and troubling ones at the same time. Movies can provide structure and meaning to memories, movies can bring light to those  things kept hidden, movies are coping mechanisms.

These are the things that were remembered while watching “Mudbound”….

Riding to my “whites only” school in my “whites only” school bus in the early morning passing the “blacks only” school. Looking out the window, on my way to a classic American style brick school with new books, a packed library and good hot lunches….at what was basically a shack set up off the ground on brick-o blocks sitting on a flat dirt yard with no trees for shade, no ceiling fans, no new school books, no kitchen for hot lunches. No paint and barely a front door. A few black children playing in the dusty yard. I did not know until much later that the new books we were given at the first of every school year…the social  studies, history, geography books…would be the books used by those children next year. The cast offs, the written in. Our doodles and marks would be passed on.

My best friend’s grandfather owned the Esso station in our small community. It was where, on long summer days and after school we would go to get a Coke and Moon Pie and just hang out a bit listening to gossip and goofing off. It was where the bathroom door marked “Colored” was seldom used.

I had never been inside a black person’s  home until an accident called for it. While  riding in car…a big, old black Ford that still had the scratchy seats,  roll down windows and no car seats….that I accidentally, while the car driven by my uncle was slowly making a curve in the gravel country road, pushed down on the front door handle and fell out! Not completely, as I held on to the dashboard for dear life. My eyes were full of dust and debris from the gravel. Stopping the car he took me to the nearest house. I do not know who the woman was, but her house was like a “Mudbound” shack. She welcomed us in and she washed out my eyes and soothed me. My uncle knew her and she was kind. I had also never really looked at an elderly black person before as we were always told “not to stare”. But this woman’s face is forever etched in my memory. She was white-haired and very dark with lovely soft eyes that were bloodshot. Her house smelled like woody smoke and was dark with few windows, but a front porch and flowers. No electricity nor indoor plumbing. Her light was kerosene lanterns. There were doilies on all the furniture. I have always had a silly and ridiculous affection for the idea of a “shack”.

For me “Mudbound” was personal. For Wouter, who is from Amsterdam, I think more a horrify bit of American history that never ceases to stun him. It is a heartbreaker, it is a historical sore laid open, it is both very beautiful and ugly. It is so worth seeing. It’s Oscar time…watch a movie.



14 thoughts on “Food for Thought – Ode to “Mudbound” and Memory

  1. Thank you for sharing this moving and personal tribute to a kind person who came to your aid in time of need Teresa. Mudbound is the only film I needed to watch before tomorrow. I hesitated because of the difficult subject. Not growing up in the US either I also find this history hard to watch. You have inspired me to push myself and watch.

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Johanne, it is a heart wrenching movie, and still beautiful…every frame a painting. Thankfully much of the South has changed since the time depicted in the movie and since that time. We are so much more a melting pot and tolerant to all people. Great to hear from you. T

  2. Wow – loved hearing this story Teresa. As you said, the movie is so ugly, so moving and timely! Thanks for sharing : )

    1. Licia, so wonderful to hear from you. Thanks for the comments and thankfully things are so very different now in the Southern part of the United States. Big hug and kiss. T

  3. I am so glad I did not grow up in the south to see that awful, ugly, prejudice against people of color everywhere…I believe it is the reason so many southerners are still of that mind set. They weren’t allowed to go to school with, let alone have relationships with anyone but other prejudiced, ignorant, white people. I know the south has changed somewhat but I still would never want to live down there as alot of that deep seated prejudice is and always will be there. Ugh!

    1. Hi Chris and thanks for stopping by. I agree with parts of what you say, but since growing into an adult I now know prejudice and racism is not about a particular part of our country but is everywhere. The South has a long and painful history of prejudice of course, but there have been giant changes for both poor blacks and poor whites since the time of this movie’s setting. The deep seated prejudices of people who are not like ourselves in no longer necessarily about the color of one’s skin, but can be about so many other things and places. “Mudbound” is a movie about a certain time in our country that truly no longer exists..the people who lived in this time are no longer alive…the younger generations are more open and integrated I believe.
      The Southern USA has no more racism today than the North, West or Eastern regions of our country. There will always be racism as long as there is ignorance and lack of education.
      I understand your passion and thank you for your comments.

    1. It really is an unforgettable movie, not only for the horror it depicts of a certain place and time in our history, but it is unforgettably beautifully shot and the dialog is just perfect. Thanks and enjoy your March.

  4. Very personal indeed. Although as your daughter I spent time in the same area 20 years later, much of those remnants of separation were still very present in the 70’s and probably still are, but that is not a representation of “The South” everywhere in every time and is not to say progress hasn’t been made. To those out there in the world that haven’t spent any time “down here with those Southerners”, please come and have your eyes opened. There are backwards, bigoted, hateful people EVERYWHERE, not just in the South. I have actually experienced a larger, deeper sensitivity to this subject of race here in the South as our history makes us not only aware, but determined not to repeat these ugly, hate-filled, preconceived notions of those who don’t look exactly like us, but rather embrace, enfold and celebrate our differences. There is much ugliness in the world, but also much beauty of spirit and diversity…come on down South and see it for yourselves!
    Thank you for making us think Mom!!!

  5. I appreciate your heartfelt and powerful words, Teresa……Mudbound is definitely beauty + heartbreak at the same time…..a part of the American story, no matter how ugly……thanks for inspiring all to see + think……hugs, b xox

    1. Oh Barbara, thanks very much. I just cannot stop thinking about the cinematography…it is so beautifully done. A history lesson via a movie is always a good and powerful thing. Much love to you and Johan. T

Leave a Reply