My dad’s parents lived next door. I’d love to go to their house always hoping some of my cousins would be there. If there was then we’d poke around the backyard or we’d run over to our house. My grandma was a big woman who walked softly across the room and sat down with a grace belonging to a much littler person. She always had a perfumed handkerchief tucked inside the bosom of her soft, flower printed dress with a well-worn apron. Something was always boiling on the stove and the oven never had a chance to cool. Even in the hottest weather she made cornbread or biscuits. As soon as breakfast of ham, eggs, grits, fried potatoes and biscuits was over, she’d start cooking dinner which was fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn bread, Crowder peas and okra. After dinner was eaten she’d spread a big tablecloth over what was left in all the bowls of food to keep off the flies and leave it on the table for supper. Then she’d fry up another chicken and make a Brunswick stew, full of hamburger and tomatoes. When my grandpa was there, he’d get to sit and eat first. He’d sit in his spot at the table and Grandma would pour him a cup of very hot coffee and he’d sit and look at it a long time, not saying anything. Then he’d pour some coffee from the cup into his saucer to cool. I asked him one time why he drank hot coffee on a hot day when everybody else drank tea with lots of ice and sugar.
“Cause I like it,” he said. He offered me some coffee in his saucer. “Wanna try some? It’s already saucered and blowed.”
“No sir, thank you.” I didn’t even like the smell of it.
Grandpa chewed tobacco and Grandma dipped snuff. Grandma would dig out a pouch from her voluminous bosom and pinch some between her bottom teeth and lip. Some kids my age had tried it, but I didn’t like the looks of their brown, sticky spit and if it was swallowed they said you’d throw up.
I loved to sit at their kitchen table and watch Grandma cook. When she would take out a bowl of peaches, flour, sugar and a stick of butter to make a peach cobbler, she’d say, “I know you love peach cobbler.” I always remembered to say “Yes, ma’am” and “Please and thank you” to my grandparents. Then, I would help peel peaches until juice dropped off my elbows. The oven seemed to always be hot, waiting for biscuits and a big pot of Crowder peas and okra would be boiling on the stove. And I would watch as the brown paper bag turn dark with grease, as she would place the delicious smelling, hot fried chicken pieces on it.
Occasionally my sister, Marva Rose and I would go to church with them. One special time, Grandma wanted us to go because they were baptizing people down by the river. It seemed strange to me that we had to wear our nice clothes and shoes to go to the river. The small group stood on the edge of the river while the minister, fully clothed, waded out into the murky water. One person at a time, dressed in their best clothes, went into the water to join him. I remember that he held a handkerchief over the man’s face and bent him backward into the dark water. It wasn’t anything I wanted to do ever. As he dunked the man, the preacher turned to look at each of us and said that every one of us had hearts black from sin. I felt like he was looking right at me. I closed my eyes so I couldn’t see him. I didn’t think my heart was black, I always drew my hearts pink.
I liked to sit with Grandpa on the front porch as he sat in his favorite rocker. He never talked much but he was full of patience. Usually we would snap peas or shell beans. But many times it would be too hot to do anything but just sit and rock. One time we sat alone on the front porch and ate boiled peanuts. I climbed into his lap and even though no one was allowed to ever touch his hat, he placed it on my head. I undid one of his buckles on his overalls and then the other then refastened them over and over. He touched my forehead and said “chicken” then he touched my nose and said “pullet” then he touched my chin and said “hen.”
“Now what did I call this?” He said as he touched my nose.
“Pullet” I said and he gently pulled my nose and I giggled.
“Again, again!” I giggled. And he did, over and over, while I unfastened his overall buckles and refastened them over and over. After a long while, I reached up, kissed Grandpa on the cheek, placed his hat back on his head and ran toward the back of the house. I stopped in the screened-in back porch at the pail of water that always sat by the door. I reached up on the wall for the dipper hanging on a nail and scooped up a dipperful of water. After I drank the cool water I dumped the dipper back into the pail. Then I stopped, remembering what I’d been taught; I reached for the dipper and hung it up on the nail over the pail and tried not to slam the door.
to be continued.....