The More Things Change (part 2)

imageAs I hold my tiny granddaughter, I remember melting into Grandma’s pillowy softness, smelling her Cashmere Bouquet Talcum Powder, unaware she’d ever played any role but “Grandma.” Though I’d always heard Mother address her as “Mama” I stung with jealousy when I found out Grandma actually was her mother. Sure, I was her favorite grandchild, I later learned the other kids thought the same things, the mark of a good grandmother.

We only visited Grandma In summers, since she lived a few hours away.  I loved following her to tend the chickens where She made that praise Della, her Dominecker Hen for laying a double-yoked egg yesterday, remarking to the others they might consider doing the same. She told Sally not to start acting “Broody.” She didn’t have enough her eggs to “set” her yet. She counted her chickens and found Susie missing. Grandma got a long stick and poked under bushes till she flushed Susie out from her “stolen” nest. I felt so important crawling way under the bush bringing two warm eggs. Chiding Juanita, an ornery red hen, she threatened to invite her to Sunday Dinner, saying “You’ll make some mighty fine dumplings if you don’t lay a couple of eggs this week!” I wasn’t that invested in Juanita and don’t recall whether we had dumplings or not.  Once I had the thrill of seeing Grandma fearlessly make short work of a black chicken snake lounging in a nest with an egg in his mouth.  Unbelievably, she grabbed him barehanded and slung him to the ground, where she dispatched him to snake heaven with the shovel she always carried outdoors.

Daily, we walked her yard, shovel in hand,checking out the flowers, moving one or two that needed a better home, filling a hole here, rooting out a weed there.  She gathered tomatoes, okra, and squash from the garden, later serving them at lunch, tomatoes still warm from the sun.  Before one, we made the ritual walk to the mailbox with a letter or two.  Grandma often got two or three letters a day since she wrote to numerous friends and relatives.  She’d read these to us as a group, “Oh!  Winnie’s girl Opal’s little girl is a princess in the school play.  She’s your third cousin.  All of Winnie’s kids did good.  They were all smart as whips!” going on to tell us stories of her girlhood with the distant Wiinie.

I envied my unknown cousin, though I’d never wanted to be a princess before or since.  Sometimes, the letters included pictures, which we poured over.

As my granddaughter and I relaxed in a dear friend’s garden, I collected cleome seed to share with her sometime down the road, a reminder of this day.  I do hope my little one recalls sweet stories of our our times together.

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The More Things Change

 

family6Grandma slipped silently out the back door.  The last I remembered, I’d been asleep on the train.  Not wanting to be left alone, I rolled to my belly and hung off the edge of her high bed, my pudgy feet peddling till I thudded solidly to the unfinished wood floor.  Following her out into the dewy grass of the early daylight, I saw her lurching one-sidedly under the burden of a heavy bucket of corn in one hand, a shovel in the other, totally unaware of being tailed.  As I padded silently behind, sandburs pierced my baby feet.  Dropping to my round bottom, I screamed at the insult.  The grass at home was soft and welcoming.  Startled by my banshee cries, Grandma turned.  “Oh my Lord.  I thought I shut the door behind me.  You could have gotten in the road!”

Dropping the bucket of corn, she rushed over to comfort me, seating me on the shovel blade to pick sandburs out of my feet.  By the time she’d finished, I pointed out a huge yellow road grader a few yards away on the side of the dirt road.  “You want to see that?  Okay.  We’ll Go over.  It’ll be a while before the workers get here.”  I stood on the shovel blade and bent to hold the handle as she pulled me over to have a closer look, lifting me as high as she could to get a closer look at the gigantic tires.   I am still fascinated by heavy machinery. 

After I had my fill of the road grader, we went back for her bucket of corn to feed her chickens.  I liked the chickens just fine, though they weren’t nearly as interesting as the road machine.  We had chickens at home.  The barn next to the chicken yard was a different matter.  Since the grass was worn away between the two, I toddled over to have a look.  A chain with a padlock ran through two holes in the big double doors, denying me entry.  I peeked through into the shade of the barn to see a child-sized table and chairs, rocking horse, tricycle, and a red wagon.  Grandma’s little black and white dog dropped to his belly and wiggled into the barn through deep, sandy hole worn under the doors.  I dropped to my belly tunneling right behind him.  Had Grandma moved just a little slower, I’d have earned my prize.  Instead, she pulled me by my bare feet back into the barn yard. 

I howled in protest as she explained those things belonged to the child of the landlord and were off limits to me.  I couldn’t wrap my thoughts around that, having no idea what a landlord was, but I knew what toys were, and meant to have them.

Back in the house, after that major disappointment, Grandma cooked breakfast, and I met my first true love, bacon.  I have not tasted anything that wonderful before or after.

That is my first conscious memory, though I must have been familiar with Grandma.  Mother dated it to around the time I was eighteen months old.  I am older now than Grandma was then, and  like her, carry a shovel as I putter in the yard, an excellent implement to have on hand for a little impromptu digging or snake-killing.  Some things never change.

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