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The Unadilla Water Song — More About Love

My maternal grandmother’s name was May Yon Dickey Freeman.  She married my grandfather, Henry Cuthburt Freeman, on December 4, 1918. She was 32 years old and teaching school at the Dickey School in Sugar Valley, Georgia, with her father, William Franklin Dickey. She had already entered the ranks of old-maid-hood when “Pop” popped the question; and to everyone’s surprise, she said “yes.”

The newlyweds moved from the North Georgia mountains to Weston in South Georgia. They gave up the Blue Ridge Mountains for gnats — Pop bought a farm there, and, of course, Grandmother Freeman followed.

Pop really wanted to be a doctor but that much education was out of the question both financially and logistically. Aunt Frances, my mother — Johnnie Blanche, and Aunt Rene were born in fairly quick succession. They managed, however, for Pop to acquire his pharmacist’s license, they bought a drug store in Unadilla and settled in the little town where they lived out their lives until 1962. Pop and Grandmother Freeman died two weeks apart in February, 51 years ago.

Mama always said Grandmother Freeman should have been a missionary because whenever someone in Unadilla was sick, in trouble, in grief, or destitute, Grandmother stopped what she was doing and went to their rescue. When the children living in Unadilla wanted to go swimming in the creek, Grandmother took them. When the First Baptist Church doors opened, Grandmother Freeman was there.

After she passed away, my mother would reflect on the past, get that twinkle in her eye, and surmise that perhaps Grandmother Freeman used her good “Samaritanism” as an excuse to get out of doing housework…she said Grandmother Freeman was not enthralled with cleaning and cooking. But mama would always laugh that special laugh of hers and add: “It doesn’t matter what the reason was. Everybody knew they could count on ‘Miss’ May for whatever they needed. She was a true Christian. She served others for the right reasons.”

I adored Grandmother Freeman. She told the best stories and she loved to watch me dance. I knew she thought I could do no wrong.

Once when I was about three or four years old, we went to visit Pop and Grandmother Freeman. I came down with a sore throat, and when the rest of the family went to the drive-in for hot dogs, Grandmother Fee (as I called her) and I stayed home. She doted on me since I was sick, read me books, told me wonderful stories, and even predicted that one day I would be a writer.

I remember sitting in her lap with her arms around me, dwarfed by the old Victorian chair in the music room as clearly as if it were yesterday.

Then she started singing in her low, alto voice, with perfect pitch, “Come Thou Fount.” Yours truly was not long for the world.

When we got back to Jones Crossroads the next day, and it was time for bed, Mama began her nightly ritual of reading me a book and singing a few stanzas of a hymn. When she began her typical rendition of “Footsteps of Jesus”, I began to cry. “I want to hear the Unadilla water song,” I wailed. Nothing would satisfy me, and I typically did not have to be prodded to go to bed. There were many nights I fell asleep while sitting at the supper table. (Actually, that tendency followed me into my teen years. Once I dozed off during the long, boring ride home from Columbus — with my date driving — very embarrassing). Mama could not figure out what I was talking about that evening, however. All I could say was that Grandmother Fee had sung it to me and it was the Unadilla water song.

Mama called her parents. My grandmother laughed and told her she had sung “Come Thou Fount” to me the night before. They both got an enormous kick out of my description of the old hymn. Mama gathered me up, sat down in the rocking chair, sang a verse or two, and that day was history for me.

The old hymn is still my favorite and when this video appeared on Facebook via my friend, John Adams, I knew I wanted to share it. It inspired me to pull myself out of my school books and begin what Grandmother Fee told me I should do — write.

Here’s to love…hope you enjoy this beautiful song:

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