Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What I Learned From Granny

Granny and Papa holding meeting their first grandbaby, my oldest. My mama is in the background.

It’s been a sad time lately. My Granny Kate passed away last week – just four months after Papa, her husband of 67 years. She was 84. I’ve written about Granny and her biscuits here before, and truly she was one of my favorite people in the world. When I was a little girl and even on into adulthood, I was always happy to go to Granny’s house. You never had to call ahead, knock or ring the doorbell. You just walked right in because the door was always unlocked if they were home. Granny and Papa would usually be sitting in their recliners in the living room or sitting in their rocking chairs out in the sunroom overlooking the pasture. Sometimes they would be sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner – which is really lunch. Granny would immediately get up and fuss to get you something to eat. It didn’t matter what time of day.

Of course, as kids, we knew where the candy stash was. She always kept a full candy jar with peppermints and hard candies. One time my brother got a butterscotch candy stuck in his throat – probably from shoveling too many into his mouth. We knew where the “hidden candy” was too. It was in the kitchen cabinet by the door. We would climb up on her bright green Formica counters and pull down a pack of Wrigley’s Doublemint gum, orange slice candies, coconut patties and sometimes old-fashioned chocolate drops. If she knew we were coming, there might be a cake or some tea cakes on the counter. When I was very little, I called her “Granny Cake” because I was pretty certain that was her name. Later in life, she kept an even bigger candy stash that the great grandkids enjoyed. My boys knew to go directly to the top drawer in the buffet for Reese’s cups and mini-Snickers. And, still -- there would sometimes be cake on the counter.

Aside from a love for all things sweet, here are a few other things I learned from Granny:

Granny on her 83rd birthday, I believe.

 Take care of others.
Granny was always the last one to sit down at the table and the first one to get up. My grandparents were definitely of the generation that housework was woman’s work – which used to aggravate me and my feminist sensibilities. However, I really do think it’s just how Granny loved. She was a doer. She loved taking care of Papa, her children and grandchildren. You never heard her complain or talk about being “unfulfilled” – she worked hard keeping the house and helping out on the farm. The moments she did take for herself were spent reading a good book. That’s another thing I learned from her.

Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.
Granny had no pretense about her whatsoever. If she ever did anything silly or stupid, she laughed. She was also not too dignified to enjoy a fart joke. I think I played with my first whoopee cushion at her house. (In truth, our whole family enjoys our potty humor.) She also used to take her dentures out and make faces for us when we were kids. She was just plain funny.

Granny as a girl.

Girls can play sports.
In my short-lived softball career with the Coal Mountain Cuties, Granny would get out and play catch with me. She would play ball with all of us grandchildren. Had I any athletic prowess, I’m sure she would have supported me all the way. She loved watching the Atlanta Braves and NASCAR. When she was young, she was quite a hit playing stickball in the pastures. She also played basketball in high school when she and Papa first starting “sparking,” as they called it.

Granny and Papa, circa 1945.

Southern words and sayings work in most conversational settings. 
“Lord” or any variation thereof (Lord-a- mercy, Lordy, Lord God) is an exclamation that works for most any occasion. Other favorites I learned from Granny:

fixin' to= about to
ain’t no count = not any good
yonder=over there
chawed out =embarrassed
plumb=entirely, as in “She was plumb chawed out!” or “I’m plumb worn out!”

And of course …
Bless your heart, bless his/her heart, bless their hearts=meaning varies depending on the situation

Music is good for the soul.
Granny grew up singing gospel hymns in the Baptist church. She knew them all and instilled a love of sacred music in her children and grandchildren. Her girls took piano lessons and knew the hymnal by heart. I’m a piano failure, but I do know how to sing the hymnal thanks to my family’s love of music. Music was also important in Papa’s family as his daddy, Jim Corn, taught Sacred Heart or shaped-note singing. Granny was always humming and loved to rock and sing to babies. When it came to church or family singing, Granny belted out the alto part with gusto. Probably the last time I sang with Granny was with when my mama was very sick seven years ago. Granny sat by her bedside humming. I brought a hymnal in and we sang together. It’s all we knew to do.

Granny rocking my baby - and I'm pretty sure she was talking baby talk.

A New Era

As were cleaning up dishes after the funeral my cousin lamented about Granny’s candy jar being empty. “It’s the end of an era, girls,” my aunt said wistfully. And truly it is. Now all of my grandparents are gone and my heart aches for the way things used to be. However, I had an epiphany in that moment:  it’s also a new era. It’s my turn to be a mama and hopefully one day, a granny. Because my mother was taken too soon, in my own little family, I’m the matriarch now. It’s my turn to organize the family get-togethers, to bake the cakes and fill the candy dishes. It’s my turn to pass on life skills and the time-honored traditions of family and faith on to my boys. I just hope that I can do as half as good of a job as my Granny and Mama did with me. This little blog is one of the ways I’m trying to do my part. Thank you for following my journey!

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