As 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.