When I was six weeks old, on the day my Mother headed back to work, I went to stay at Maw-Maw’s house. As much as she would have loved to, it wasn’t an option for my Mother to stay home with me and since everyone knows the next best thing to your Mother is your Grandmother, off to Maw-Maw’s I went.
Every day of my life, Monday through Friday (Until I was old enough to start school) I stayed with Maw-Maw. She strolled me all around the neighborhood and sat with me in the swing out back. We watched very little TV but never missed The Price Is Right or As The World Turns or the local noonday news. We couldn’t miss Mimi Butler! She would pull a name out of the phone book and call that person each day to award a cash prize. If she called you, and you knew “The Count, And The Amount” you would win. Maw-Maw couldn’t take a chance that Mimi would call her one day and she wouldn’t know the answer. And although I can’t ever remember her driving me anywhere, we had the time of our lives.
Back in those days children who went to kindergarten did so at a church, not a school, so I went to kindergarten at Maw-Maw’s church and earned another year at her house. Once I started “big school” I only stayed with Maw-Maw during the summertime and it was amazing. I played outside and made mud pies and pretend soup with the old vegetables she let me cut up. Then I would come inside and learn to make real pies and cook the good vegetables. I learned that the best biscuits are mixed with your hands, the best turnip greens have a little pepper sauce on top, the best apple pies are fried and the best cornbread doesn’t even look at the sugar bowl much less have any sugar in it. Lawdy mercy, no!
She was always worried about “running up the power bill” so I learned to cherish the feeling of a fresh clean towel that had been dried on a clothes line and I learned that if you keep all the doors closed to the den, a window unit air conditioner really is all you need. In the winter I learned not to touch the gas heaters that were in each room of her house and I learned that when you are 7 years old and it’s too cold to go outside, a set of encyclopedia’s can entertain you for days.
Back in the days of little houses with huge yards, there seemed to be no end to the things you could discover. There were spider lillies that sprouted in her yard each year and four o’clocks that fascinated me on summer afternoons. She had a big pecan tree on one side of her yard and a big chestnut tree on the other and we would pick up the fallen nuts together. She kept a garden on the other side of the creek in her back yard and fresh vegetables were always on the table.
Every year at Christmas our entire family would gather at her house on Christmas Eve. She would always put a string of big blue lights around the window on her front porch. I don’t know why but she always did that, every single year. Except once, right after I got married, she didn’t put them up. I forget why but I remember I was disappointed–and she knew it. Those lights went right back up the next year and she never missed putting them out again for years and years. Every year after we had supper and opened presents we would all go outside to shoot fireworks. I don’t really know how our why we decided Christmas Eve was the appropriate time for a fireworks display but that’s what we did–and I miss it.
When I got married, she gave me two spoons and a skillet. The spoons are ones she cooked with all my life and the two favorites I always wanted to use when she let me help. I keep them in my kitchen and use them daily. At my bridal coffee she came in with a big black skillet tied with a bow and proudly announced that she had been cooking in it for a month to get it seasoned just right; just for me. I couldn’t have loved any gift more and we displayed it right there on the white tablecloth along with the Francis I silver and Wedgewood china. I keep that skillet in my oven and I cook in it at least once a week.
The last few years Maw-Maw has become an Alzheimer’s patient. I dare not say she became a “victim” because I don’t think that suits her. For a woman who married at 16, has lived to be 94 years old, gave birth to four children at home and never spent a night in the hospital until she had gallbladder surgery in her 70’s; victim isn’t the word I would choose. She fought it to the bitter end and is fighting still today although she does so from the nursing home……. and they have told us it could be any minute.
We have all said our good-bye’s and now we sit and wait; some of us at her bedside and some of us from afar. We know it is her time and more importantly, we know it is God’s time for her. She has lived a wonderful, lovely and mighty life and I couldn’t be more proud to be the grand daughter of a lady who is so very grand, indeed.
I think I will cook a little cornbread tonight, maybe some turnip greens too. If the mood strikes me, I may even shoot a few fireworks.
In my opinion, anyone who has a Maw-Maw like mine is living a very blessed life.