Meg..."...I will be at the beach for four days with my boyfriend...."
Man, Grammie's divorced too! We grandmothers aren't supposed to be talking about our boyfriends...we're supposed to be baking cookies or something Grandmotherly. Oh well, I guess this is what happens in the new millennium. My grandmother never strayed to far from Grandpa and they were always at their house when I went to visit. They were the anchor of the family and whatever happened, Grandma and Grandpa were in the same house that they always had been in.
On the 4th of July, Grandma would have a huge get-together for the family so we always kept in touch with cousins and family that we never saw for the rest of the year. My grandmother would direct the shows that we kids would put on. Her clothesline held the sheet that was part of our stage. She wore a grass skirt and a straw hat and sang along with any kids who were too shy to sing alone. As you might guess, I was never too shy to perform, I knew that I was entertaining and I would belt out Second Hand Rose as though it was closing night at the Met.
One year she had a huge birthday party for me and rented a small merry-go-round that I was so proud of…it was MINE! Since my birthday is the 29th of June, she would occasionally let me think that the huge 4th of July reunion was all for me. No wonder I spoil my grandkids so much…I was taught well how to do it from the best of all grandmothers.
I spent most of my summers with her and I never got sick of accompanying her to work. How could a little girl get sick of that? She owned a group of businesses and two of them she ran herself. She had a Mary Carter Paint Store that had a door which led into the restaurant that she also ran. There was a bell in the restaurant that told her when she had a customer in the paint store. My job was to listen for the bell as I sat at the counter, drinking down as many lime sherbet and 7-Up floats as I could drink.
Grandma sold arts and craft supplies in the paint store and she let me make whatever I wanted to make. Nothing that I made was as good as the stuff that she would make…but she told me how good I was anyway. I would proudly put my own creations on sale in the paint store and I would stand next to them, waiting for some unsuspecting customer to buy them. Funny, it seems as though my grandmother’s friends bought an inordinate amount of my artwork.
Grandma had one friend named Nadine who would come over to visit often…wearing her scarab beetle on her chest…just to freak me out. Nadine wore a lot of make-up and I thought that she was beautiful, her eyes alone had at least 4 colors on them. The scarab beetle had jewels in the back…I don’t know where she got that thing. I doubt that anyone would be allowed to do that nowadays.
Grandma and Grandpa had another friend name Billy Richmond. Billy would take me to stores all over the place and give me cash to go buy whatever I wanted to buy. I had been raised better than to spend a lot of someone else's money on myself so I would spend no more than $2 on myself until I got a bit older and was told that Billy was a store detective and I was supposed to spend more than that. When I got a little older, I was Billy’s partner…we were both store detectives. I would drive with him to whatever store he was supposed to be working at and sometimes those stores were far away. During one trip, I lied to Billy and told him that I could drive. How was I to know that he would pull over and let me take the wheel? I stared at it for a minute before I said, “I’m sorry Billy, I lied, I can’t drive!” We were up on a mountain and if I had taken the wheel, I probably wouldn’t have been here today. I may have been a liar, but I wasn’t a stupid liar.
On Sunday’s after church, we would go driving in one of Grandpa’s huge cars and there was no telling where we might end up. One Sunday we went to a house where my cousins lived. They were cousins that I had never met before that day, but we figured out that they were my first cousins, 8 times removed, whatever that means. Apparently, Great Grandpa’s brother became a doctor and lived in this house. The foyer still held his roll-top desk and looked like an office. I wonder who’s living there now? Grandpa's big cars always had a "granddaughter's seat"...it was really an armrest but I sat on it like a princess on a throne.
His father, Papaw, lived to be 97 and he died when I was 11. He had been a carpenter, after his first business was pushed out by the auto-mobile…Papaw had been a blacksmith who shod horses for a living. He didn’t call a union or whine to the government when his business went south…he just adapted to the new age that had come upon him. He used to tell me that he was “Blind without his glasses” and my little mind took that to mean that he wouldn’t notice my finger waving from behind his lens’. He must have sat there quite still when I did that…pretty good for an old man in his 90’s.
Big Granny was another fun lady for a little girl. Her saggy fat arms were one of my favorite toys, she would hold them up so that I could play with the fat that hung from them. I couldn’t imagine a woman allowing that nowadays, she would probably have lipo-suction and then a skin removal to make her arms thin again. But Granny never knew about such things, she was too busy making ice cream with the berries that we picked.
My grandmother had an old player piano and she would put the rolls in and let me sing along to old Hank William’s songs which I still remember to this day. If I was a real good girl, she would strum her guitar as I sang Roger Miller songs with her. I loved to help her cook…every night. She would put on a spread like it was Sunday dinner. She was the best cook I ever knew but even Grandma couldn’t make liver so that I could eat it.
She tried once, but I couldn't eat it. I stared at the liver, wondering how I was going to tell her that it was awful and that I couldn’t eat it. Grandpa looked at me and said, “You’d eat that liver if the grass in the yard was too short to eat!” I grew up thinking that poor Grandpa had eaten grass as a child. I think I was close to 30 before it occurred to me that no one ate grass except the goats. By then both Grandma and Grandpa were gone and I had to celebrate my birthdays without them.
I couldn’t imagine Grandma saying that she had to go out with her “boyfriend”, but that’s what this world has come to. What’s wrong with those Grandfathers out there? Doesn’t anyone stay together anymore? How else can we be the “anchors” of our families if we have to worry about paying the bills alone?
Oh well, maybe I’ll meet some nice old man and settle down with him in the woods so that my grandkids can tell you about us in another 50 years.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that one.