Grist For The Mill
When I meet her in the office of Brockwood Senior Housing, Lillian Brock Flemming is perched at her computer, typing away. I’ve come to get a photo of her mother-in-law’s handwritten holiday recipe for a Jello salad, and she shuffles the papers on her desk looking for the half-piece of notebook paper. “I just pulled it out of the Bible,” she says, but she’s afraid she’s left it at home. We walk across Oscar Street to where the Bible in question sits on a sofa table in her gracious living room, tucked full of cards, ephemera, the bits of paper worth saving through generations. But she finds the recipe in the big, open kitchen, where her husband, the Reverand J. M. Flemming, is hoping she will help him tuck his tie beneath the back collar of his shirt. “His mother was God’s gift to cooking,” Lillian says, “and now he’s God’s gift to cooking.” The Reverend has an event to attend off Woodruff Road, and they bluster about the best ways to avoid the five o’clock traffic. I take my picture, and we walk back across the street.
I ask Lillian what she does at Brockwood, and she laughs. “Nothing,” she says. “It was named after my mom.”
Brockwood Senior Housing is named after City Councilwoman Lillian Brock Flemming’s mother, Lila Mae Brock. Both the apartment complex and the Southernside Community Center across Washington Street were founded by her husband and her mother. A native to this very Greenville neighborhood, Lillian was one of the first three black women to attend Furman University. She was the first black woman to be elected to City Council, and the first person in recent history to have been elected for five consecutive terms. She is a mother, and a foster mother, to 10 children, was a math teacher at Southside High for 23 years, and now serves as the Employment Specialist for the Greenville County School District.
The idea that she does nothing, anywhere she finds herself in this life, is laughable.
But I think that’s often how we feel. We undervalue the strength of our presence, the simple acts of care we make every day: taking time, making a meal, offering advice, straightening a tie. We look ahead much more than we look back. And maybe that’s a good thing.
Looking through this holiday issue of edible Upcountry, Loaves and Fishes (page 32) is celebrating its 25th anniversay of feeding Greenville residents in need. The Kraus family of Upcountry Provisions (page 24 ) will be ushering a treasured family recipe into its fifth generation of holiday honor. Page after page, I am moved by the strength and spirit of the people we highlight, the communities they work for, and the good (large and small) they have done this year, in years past, and what they will do, years to come.