May 13th, 1921 fell on a Friday. Not just any Friday the 13th, mind you. It was the day my Granny was born. I asked her once if she was not superstitious, being born on a Friday the 13th. Granny snorted and said she may have been the origins of that fable, as the earth was blanketed with snow in the middle of May in Georgia. “Did hell freeze over?” I asked. She narrowed her eyes and sized me up, realizing I meant no disrespect and said “Maybe so. Maybe so, old gal.”
It was strange not getting the old woman something for her birthday, which usually fell around or on Mother’s Day. Once, she told me not to get her something for Mother’s Day; she was my grandmother, not my mother. “It was for your birthday, old woman, but I will take it back,” I said, moving to take the gift away. She snatched it back with a swiftness. “Then you leave it be. I just thought you would wait until the day of to give me my gift. Birthday presents I never turn down.”
She never turned down a gift, but she was the hardest person in the world to shop for. When I was in college, she informed me she wanted a new Bible for her birthday. “One with Jesus’ words in red, and large print so I can actually see what I am reading,” were her dictates. My friend Erin and I went to every book store in three different malls before I found one that fit her orders. It even had a lovely soft rose colored leather cover, perfect for the president of her Sunday School class I thought. I had it wrapped and we rushed to take it to her. The old gal tore the paper off, picked the good book up out of the box and opened it up, inspecting it with a close, critical eye. I stood, waiting for praise. I think Erin deserved some props too; she had chauffeured me all over five counties in search of the perfect Bible for Granny. “This ‘un will do, I reckon,” she finally said, a tinge of disappointment in her voice.
“Will do!” I exclaimed. “What do you mean? ‘Will do?’”
She gave me that desolate stare she had perfected. “Well, it ain’t got the tabs on the side so I can find the books of the Bible. I wanted one with the tabs.”
“Old woman, you didn’t say the first thing about tabs – you said, and I quote, “I want Jesus’ words in red and large print.” That Bible is large print with Jesus’ words in red, like you wanted. You did not say anything about tabs!”
This did not deter my grandmother. No, if anything, it made her more righteous in her argument. She was stubborn like that. “Well, why anyone would get a Bible without the tabs just don’t make no sense to me. You shoulda known it was best to have a Bible with tabs so I could find where to turn.”
“Old woman, Genesis is at the front, Revelations is at the end and in the middle is the Psalms. Why you need tabs, I do not know – did you ask Moses to put tabs on the Ten Commandments when he shared those with you? You were around then, you know.”
She gave me that stare again, her jaw clenching. My own jaw was clenching too. We both were jaw clenchers when we were hunkering down for a scrap. In her passive aggressive way, she held the Bible up to me, “Here.”
“I am not taking that back – we went all over this state to find you that!”
“I ain’t a –saying to return it, I’m a-saying you evidently need to read this book far more than I do! Hateful, evil, mean child!”
With an exasperated frustrated sigh, I stomped out of the living room, wondering why I tried to make that old gal happy. Nothing I did was ever right.
Mama asked me Sunday if there was anything of Granny’s I wanted. She offered me a silver box of costume jewelry, which I accepted, knowing the baubles were not real but Granny, much like myself, had loved her faux jewels. I told her there was something I had wanted, but couldn’t remember what and now, I know.
That 20 year old pink Bible, with the words of Jesus in red, large print, minus the tabs. Just may do this old gal’s soul some good.