She was a force to be reckoned with, my Granny.
All brimstone, gristle and spit.
A fine upstanding Baptist, she prided herself on running the nursery for years, brandishing the name “Mama Dean” as a honor, believing in some way she had some part in raising over half the congregation as they passed through her nursery.
She taught me how to make biscuits when I was around four, standing me in a chair, telling me to squish the dough through my fingers. She believed in meat at every meal and ate fatback and biscuit for breakfast every morning up until the day before she passed. She lived to be nearly 93, so she would tell you that nonsense about not eating fat was a bunch of bunk.
She eloped when she married her beloved Robert. She wore a blue dress so her mother wouldn’t know they were getting married on their third date. They married, he went to New York for a month where he was stationed with the Army until he earned enough money to send for his bride.
She put up with many a spend the night party during my youth. Some friends just showed up randomly in the evening, knowing Granny had been baking coconut cakes or chocolate pound cake. They came to eat. Granny fed them til they were full, and then packed them a bag of leftovers to go.
She had a magical green thumb, taking the carcasses of whatever plants I had killed and turning them into luscious foliage. She tried to teach me how to sew, swearing I somehow had did it when I was younger. I nearly didn’t graduate high school because I was about to fail Fashion and couldn’t sew a hem. I didn’t have the nerve to tell her.
She wasn’t scared of anything. When you asked her how she dealt with fear, she would say she would pray. If the Good Lord didn’t handle it, her shot gun would. She meant that too.
She loved to tell me stories. I meant to record her one day, and I never did. When I was younger, I would roll my eyes at her repeating the stories to me again and again…now, I wish I could hear them one more time, and hope my memories are able to piece them all together one day.
There were times she and I tied up like a bunch of feral cats. She was stubborn, had to be right and never budge an inch on her stance. “You are just alike,” was Mama’s logic of why we disagreed. I bristled at the comparison.
Someone once noted they had thought I was like my mother – the peace-loving, “buy- the-world-a-Coke”, understanding person that she is – until they had read my columns about Granny. “You are really like your grandmother,” they said.
“Mama said that just the other day,” I replied.
“Really? What did you tell her?”
“I told her that was a damn good way to get her ass shot.”
I recounted that story to Granny one day. She threw her head back and roared.
“Old gal, that’s your problem. You are so much like me, you can’t stand it.”
But she could be so dogmatic, so frustrating, so challenging, so demanding, so blunt it hurt…and then she could be my biggest ally, my biggest defender and the one who spent hours sewing up a tattered, worn lavender bunny reminiscent of the beigey pink pig I have sewn for years.
Maybe I am. And maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.