The Good Old Days (7/20/2016)

Growing up, Granny loved to tell me stories about what she called, “the good old days.”

Tales involving picking cotton, drawing water from a well, and all of her siblings having to share one bed during the winter to stay warm.

“This was the good old days?” I asked her once.

“Yes,” she was replied. “They was.”

That’s how Granny, talked too. She dropped out of school, maybe in third grade or so, to help work the fields. She didn’t speak proper grammar and didn’t care. It never stopped her from getting her point across.

Her stories included growing up in the Depression and how they survived. Huddling around the wood burning stove to stay warm, wearing clothes until threadbare, and never throwing anything away. She was a packrat of the highest caliber, because she grew up in poverty.

“What are you going to make with this?” I asked her once, moving a huge garbage bag containing fabric off the couch.

“I don’t know yet, but I’ll make something. Don’t you worry about it. Clothes, curtains, quilts. It’ll get used.”

And it would, too.

The woman would wash and re-use aluminum foil and Ziploc bags and thought if someone was using thick Dixie plates at a dinner and threw them away, they were “just showing how high fa-lootin’ they was.” Dishes were not supposed to be disposable.

She told me about riding the bus to Plattsburg, New York, alone, to get to Pop. They had eloped, Granny lying to her mother that she was spending the night at a cousin’s house, and the next morning, my grandfather headed back to where ever he was stationed in the Army. Granny went back home to her mama and daddy, never breathing a word she was married until she announced she was heading north. Their wedding night was only their third date.

“How in the world could you let Pop go back up there and not go with him?” I asked.

“Back then, you did what you had to. He was in the Army and he had to save up money to get me a bus ticket,” was her no nonsense reply.

Those times, were not easy, nor were the years that followed and they made steel run through veins. She was resilient and tough.

“Why do you always talk about those times, Granny?” I asked her one day as she started up on one of her yarns for the umpteenth time.

“Because they was the good old days, Lit’l Un.”

Good? How in the world could she describe them as good?

All she told me about was how poor they were, how they struggled, how getting through the day was sometimes a miracle of itself.

“How was that good?” I wanted to know.

“It just was. If you was breathin’ and on the other side of the ground, it was good.”

Her stories were woven around my grandfather serving in World War II, my uncle in Viet Nam. Mama, she said, made her proud because she had a job that was in an office and didn’t have to do the labor she had.
“You never tell her you are proud of her,” I said to her once. “That may make her feel better, you know.”

Granny stuck her chin out, not one to be chastised for anything. “She don’t need to know if I am proud of her or not; I am and that’s all that cussed matters.”

After over 20 years of hearing her stories, I started to tune them out or make her change the conversation. “You’ve told me this already, old woman,” I’d tell her.

“Yeah, well you ain’t listened, old gal,” she said in return.

How I’d love to hear her old stories again. The only thing close to it I have is, thankfully, a DVD my beloved cousin, Dotty, made of her talking and telling some of her stories to them.

I miss her stories and more importantly, I miss her common sense about the things that happened in the world around us. Especially lately, I’ve yearned for her comfort, for her wisdom, and for her just declaring that things would be OK and we would survive – meaning all of us – because that was the only choice we had.

It seemed like her focus was always about surviving, just surviving one thing from the next. How in the world could she consider those ‘good old days?’

I asked her that one day.

The question actually struck her speechless for a moment. “One day, you’ll understand. It ain’t about the little petty problems or any of this other junk. It’s about the moment, and being with family and friends. Don’t matter how much money you got, that stuff’s fleeting. It mattered about how much love.”

She had the ones she loved around her.

Maybe it was the good old days after all.

I am my Mama’s mother’s granddaughter (5/11/2016)

I swore when I was a child – probably more a teenager, really, as they know everything – that I would never be like my Mama.

No, that skinny fire-breathing redhead was crazy.

She thought the silliest things were life-hazards, when riding in a Monte Carlo with her smoking and the windows rolled up was probably more hazardous to my health than me roller skating.

She was strict. More specifically, “controlling” was the word I used from age 15-23.

I thought her sole purpose was to make me a completely uncool spinster.

“Your mama is so nice,” my friends would say.

They would come over to talk to Mama about things they didn’t feel comfortable talking to their own mamas about.

This is the woman who would randomly show up at school in the middle of the day to peek in my class to make sure I was okay.

The woman who would point at me, then the floor, commanding me to come there so she could ask me if I had lunch money or not.

And my friends came over to ‘chill with my mom?’

“Why do my friends come over here and talk to you?” I asked her once bewildered.

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Is it so hard to imagine that I am maybe a nice person and they want to talk to me?”

What in the world did this woman possibly have to talk about?

Other than her heedings and warnings about everything being dangerous, including air, she didn’t have a lot to say.

“What do you say to them?” I asked.

Mama shrugged again. “Nothing really.”

I approached Granny with this dilemma.

“You wanna know why your friends come over here to talk to your Mama? It’s because she’s quiet. She actually listens to them,” the old gal said.

“She does what?”

“She listens.”

I reckon Mama has always done that. She is quite the good listener, especially if she is not injecting her listening with her words of warning.

“So my friends come over here because she listens? Don’t I listen?”

Granny shook her head.

“No, you too busy telling everyone what your opinion is like they care. They don’t want to know what you think of their boyfriends. Knowing you, you’ve already said it. They want someone that’ll listen to them and let them figure it out on their own.”

The old gal evidently missed the irony of her statement.

She spent a goodly portion of her time expressing her unrequested opinion on everyone along with her judgements. If Granny disagreed with what someone was doing, instead of trying to be a compassionate person as Mama does, she told them what she thought, holding nothing back.

And Mama was quiet. I think some folks may have thought she was aloof but she was really just more reserved and observant.

Granny, on the other hand, would not shut up.
“I’m shy and don’t feel comfortable talking to a bunch of strangers,” she said – an outright lie—out of the blue one day.

“I bet the greeter at Walmart wished that were true; you spent 15 minutes the other day discussing your hysterectomy with them.”

“They asked how I was, and I told them,” was her response.

Granny believing she was shy was almost comical. A bull in a China shop that had been poked with a fire was more subtle than this woman.

And she didn’t feel comfortable talking to strangers? She never met a stranger. She would go up and start talking to someone like she had known them for years.

I think when she worked in a sewing plant, she talked so much they had to move her away from one of her best friends. That didn’t work; she just started talking to whoever they moved her next to.

Mama was the quiet, compassionate empathizer and then there was Granny, the chatterbox full of judgements she felt needed to be shared.

Oh, sweet son of a biscuit eater.

I’m not like my Mama at all.

It’s worse. Much, much worse.

Granny’s Way of Making Me Stronger (4/13/2016)

Granny often lamented that my generation was not made of tough stuff. She grew up during the Depression and said it taught her how to persevere and made her stronger.

“I don’t want to be stronger,” I told her. “I think this whole ‘struggling’ thing is over-rated.”

She snorted. “Yeah, you better get stronger than what you are or you gonna be a goner.”

Part of Granny’s innate strength building character meant she re-used everything she could; when I informed her she was environmentally conscientious when she reused Mason jars and tin foil, she rolled her eyes at me and replied, “My generation always was a little more worried about the environment than yours is – we depended on it to survive. To you’uns, it’s disposable like everything else.”

Of course, her homemade recycling system meant at any given time you could open her fridge to find 15 different Country Crock containers and open 11 before you finally found the margarine. The rest were leftovers she had forgot about re-serving because they weren’t labeled.

Not that there were many leftovers. Granny was not wasteful when she cooked and if she did cook extra, it was because it was going in something else – like cornbread for dressing, or roast beef for soup.

But sometimes, her ideas of things were a little odd.

“Like what?” Cole asked me.

Like the way the old gal would cook sausage for breakfast. I wasn’t sent off to school with a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, which I would have preferred. Nope, Granny got up and made sausage and homemade biscuits for us.

If there were any sausage left over, she put them on a plate on the back of the stove and left them there all day.

All day.

Not even covered up.

“Did you get sick?” Cole asked.

I can’t remember. As a fat kid, I usually ate a bunch of stuff that made me feel queasy on any given day – watermelon, ice cream and funnel cake did it one day; watermelon, ice cream and cat fish did it on another. Maybe it was the combination of watermelon and ice cream.

But I never once thought it had anything to do with Granny and her sitting-out-all-day sausage.

Come to think of it, Granny left a lot of things sitting out that probably could have darn well killed us.

She would make potato salad with onions and leave it out after Sunday dinner. No one realized it was the onions you needed to be concerned about.

Back then, people worried about the mayonnaise going bad and I told her as much.

“You’re trying to give us food poisoning,” was my actual statement.

“I ain’t trying no such of a thing. It is fit to eat.”

When I tried to throw away a can of pudding – chocolate, no less—because there was rust on the can, I received a stern admonishment. “That pudding is fine; the rust is on the outside.” I still didn’t trust the pudding.

“She’s gonna give us botulism,” I told Mama one day. “We’re gonna die from botulism.”

“Maybe not,” Mama said, not too sure herself.

When Botox came out rooted in botulism, Granny was the first to let me know. “See there; you just a-knew I was gonna kill you and it turns out rich folks are getting that stuff shot in their wrinkles to look younger. When you’re 40, you’ll be wishing you had ate that canned pudding!”

Now that I am in my 40’s, maybe I should have ate the pudding.

Mama called to warn me about yet another food recall the other day; this time, it was on what she calls, “those little trees.”

I assured her I didn’t buy broccoli.

“Oh, good,” she said. “I didn’t want y’all to get sick. I know you make broccoli slaw sometimes and I know how sensitive you are to things.  You try to keep up on those recalls don’t you? It seems like it is always on the stuff I know you get. You know, healthy stuff. Like spinach and stuff.”

I told her I tried to keep up with it but had to agree: it seemed like the healthier and more natural the stuff was, the sicker it made us. At least nowadays, anyway.

I used to worry about sausages and potato salad sitting out all day, covered with a dish towel for protection. I don’t recall getting sick off that but I can guarantee you I will check the recall alerts before I make a salad, a lesson I learned years ago, even though we didn’t get sick.

“You eating all that stuff didn’t kill you like you thought it would,” Granny told me one day when she learned how we survived the spinach recall. “I was just building up your immune system.”

Perhaps that was just Granny’s way of making me stronger after all.

By all means, let’s get offended (3/16/2016)

I am not the type that is easily offended.

It’s not that I have some thick skin; I don’t. I am tenderhearted and my feelings can get hurt rather easily.

However, when it comes to being offended, I normally don’t take offense that quickly.

But being offended is almost rampant these days – everyone takes great umbrage over every little statement and nuance.

Once, someone had called my family rednecks. I was horrified – sure, my grandparents were blue collar workers but rednecks?

I expected Granny to retaliate in a fiery fashion, with her own brand of fire and brimstone.

Nothing.

Not even a word.

The old gal didn’t even bat a lash.

“Why didn’t that make you angry?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Why in the heck should I get angry? I didn’t find no truth in it.”

“But they said –”

“I know what they said. And that person don’t mean nothing to me. Their words are just words and have no power in my life. If it ain’t true, it ain’t true and there ain’t no need in me getting all tore up about it.”

Instead of getting upset, Granny chose to ignore it.

Now, if they had said she was a horrible cook, her biscuits were rocks, and her turkey was dry, Granny’s response may have been much different.

But the opinion was that we were rednecks.

Granny had long declared we was a bunch of hillbillies, with roots deep in the Appalachia that may have grown deep before the hills were even here. Rednecks, we were not; hillbillies, we were proud to be.

Her response stayed with me over the years.

When someone called me an ugly word one day, it rolled off my back.

It wasn’t true so I didn’t give it any power.

As someone gave their opinion on another topic that could have resonated with me, I didn’t respond.

“I’m sorry, did I offend you?” they asked.

First of all, we all know if they are asking after the fact, they knew good and darn well what they said may have not been delivered in a gesture of loving kindness.

It was meant to be a jab, a veiled insult that was supposed to get a rise out of everyone in their listening vicinity.

I shook my head. “Not at all.”

Following Granny’s lead years before, I wasn’t giving their words any power.

Even though what they said could have caused pain, I didn’t let it. I chose to not pay it any attention.

I know the old playground nursery rhyme tells us that sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us and that is absolutely not true. Words can and do hurt, sometimes more so than any twigs or rocks. But the sting is much less when the words hold no truth.

“What does it mean when someone is offended, Mama? Are their feelings just hurt really bad?” Cole asked, hearing me describe a situation where someone was offended.

What does it really mean – to be offended? If we are offended, it typically means we are angry or displeased with something. It doesn’t mean we are right or the other person is right. It is our reaction.

“It means something upset us and we don’t agree with it,” was my answer.

“So if someone eats pork and I don’t – because it’s Piggie – am I right in being offended?”

“You could be offended. Or, you could choose to say that is their choice. We may not agree with it but it is their personal choice just as we choose not to eat Piggie.”

A friend recently said she was offended by something a celebrity said and asked me if I was offended by it.

I think I offended her when I told her no, I hadn’t really given it much thought.

“You should. You should be outraged by what they said!”

I considered this for a moment. “By me being offended, what does that accomplish really?”

She had no reply.

“Will it change their opinion, or make them apologize? More importantly – change their hearts? No. It won’t. All it will do is create anger and strife in my life. If I am going to get all up and bajiggedy, it will be over something important. Not someone’s opinion.”

We have 100’s of opportunities to be offended every day. We also have the choice to not be.

Maybe it’s that hillbilly perseverance, but I am reserving my right to only be offended over things that really matter. Not the things that don’t.

Handmade Love (2/17/2016)

“Do you know who Granny made these quilts for?” Mama asked one day.

She had been trying to go through some of Granny’s stuff and found some quilts that evidently Granny had not told her who they were for.

“No, she gave us all the ones she made for us,” I said.

Granny made the most gorgeous quilts, and took great pride in giving them to people she loved.

Countless hours went in each of her quilts and she took care to make one with the intended person’s favorite colors or pattern.

“Are you sure?” Mama questioned. “I don’t know who she could have made these for.”

I wasn’t sure either.

Then suddenly, I had a flashback.

It was sometime in the early 90s and Granny had been told about some craft festival.

What had piqued the old gal’s interest was that the person who mentioned it to her, told her she could set up a booth to sell her quilts, pillows and pillowcases.

“You can make some big money, Helen,” the person told her. “Probably more than you made in a week sewing at the Carwood.”

Now, Granny didn’t even make “tiny” money when she worked, but she was proud of it and stretched it to get a buggy full of groceries at the Piggly Wiggly with some left over to get me whatever I hadn’t begged out of Mama that week. So hearing the words “big money,” made Granny think she was going to hit the jackpot.

She was going to be rich.

She had visions of what she was going to do with that money – it involved new carpet and maybe even a new couch.

She was so excited she was almost pleasant.

Since she was told way in advance of the event, she sewed every day and finished two quilts – gorgeous quilts – and several pillows to match to sell.

She made extra pillows, in sets of two, in case anyone wanted to buy just the pillows.

She had enough to fill the trunk of her Oldsmobile by the time the event rolled around.

She paid $25 for her booth rental, which included her table and chair.

I had asked her if she wanted me to go with her and she declined, saying she didn’t want to make anyone else give up their Saturday.

Don’t think for one moment the old gal was being considerate; she was just scared she was going to have to spend some of her profits on getting me a funnel cake and a Coke.

The event was supposed to be all day; Granny was home by lunch.

“Did you sell out of everything?” I asked her, thinking that was the only way she would be home so soon.

Granny threw her purse on the couch and said a bad word.

“No! And I ain’t doing another one of those cussed things again!” she said.

“What happened?” Mama asked.

“I’ll tell you what happened,” Granny began. “I had my quilts set up, had my pillows out, and had my prices out there and had these people come up and ask me if I’d take less for them. I told one lady it wasn’t a dadblamed yard sale!”

She snorted in anger.

“Then, I had one lady tell me how pretty my quilt was, ask me if I sewed it by hand, how many hours was in it – then, she told me she could get a cheaper one at Walmart. So I snatched it out of her hands and told her to go see if she could find one at Walmart that was handmade!”

We felt so bad for her. She had poured so much love into making those quilts.

Not only had it helped keep her mind off my grandfather being sick, we knew she was terribly disappointed it had panned out as she hoped.

“Granny, if they can’t appreciate your quilts, then they don’t deserve them.” I meant it, too.

If someone couldn’t appreciate the time and work – and love – she put in one of her quilts, they didn’t deserve them.

She frowned.

“I ain’t doing that nonsense ever again. I coulda been in my garden instead of having someone try to get me to give away my work.”

Years passed and I tried selling a few on Ebay for her; no luck.

“Maybe I ain’t supposed to sell them,” she said one day. “Maybe I am supposed to give them to people who need them.”

“But Granny, if they need a quilt, they will just go buy one,” I said.

“Not one of these,” she said. “I put love in my quilts. My quilts are going to who needs that love; not who buys them.”

She may have been right.

She always felt like her quilts were almost magical and even told me whatever was dreamed under a new quilt would come true. When I tucked Cole in under one, I told him that little myth and he giggled himself to sleep.

“Could these maybe be for Cole?” Mama asked, interrupting my trip down memory lane.

“No, she gave Cole all the quilts she had made for him.”

She had made him a few full-size quilts for when he was grown, telling me to take care of them in the meantime.

“So I am guessing these were the ones she made and didn’t sell,” Mama said. “I don’t know what to do with them…”

I did.

“Put them up for me, Mama,” I said. “I want them.”

If they were made with my Granny’s handmade love, I knew the only place where they could go to be valued and that was with me.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/18562/

Sometimes all you need is a good cry (2/3/2016)

The only times I saw Granny openly cry was when my grandfather had brain surgery, when he died, and when her beloved German shepherd, Bo, died.

That was it.

The rest of the time, the old gal was as stoic as a tree trunk.

Her favorite emotion, of course, was anger, complete with her own brand of hellfire and brimstone.

Until one day, I found her sitting in her chair, looking out the window. When I spoke to her, I saw her wipe her face with her hands quickly before she spoke.

Was she crying?

“Are you OK?” I asked her.

Did someone pass? Was something wrong?

“I’m fine,” she said.

Even her voice had a catch in it that normally wasn’t there.

“No, you aren’t. What happened?”

She let out a deep sigh, wrought more from having to admit any kind of weakness than frustration.

“Sometimes, I just cry.”

“What do you mean you just cry? Is there something wrong with you?”

Granted, she complained all the time – and I mean all the ding dang, ever-loving time – so we knew every ache, pain and inconvenience that came her way. But was there something else going on that would make her cry?

She shook her head.

“Nothing’s wrong, I just sometimes cry to feel better.”

For someone in their early 20s, this was a foreign concept.

“So, you just cry?”

“Yeah,” she said simply. “I just cry and it helps.”

I’d later learn that certain days hit her harder than others – my grandparents’ anniversary, my grandfather’s birthday, some days that just made her miss him more.

The day I graduated college was another because she said it was one day he would have loved to see.

She would just sit in her chair, and look out the window and let her tears come.

She didn’t want to talk about it. She didn’t want to discuss it. She just wanted to have her moment and move on.

I would let her have her peace and not bother her until I knew she was ready for company.

I don’t even know if I ever told Mama or Bobby about her crying; maybe they knew and didn’t mention it. Even the toughest Steel Magnolia should have their moments.

I didn’t understand why she felt crying would make her feel better until later.

It was after I had experienced some of those things that life hands you – when you deal with loss, worry, fear, anxiety and dozens of other things that make you stronger than you want to be – and there’s times you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders that a cry can do you good.

Or, it’s when you finally got through a perilous time and the relief of it being over can be celebrated with a cry.

And then there are the times you are going about your day and just get hit with a flash of grief where you miss someone so badly you have no choice but to sit and cry.

If anything, now that I am older and a mother, I have learned Granny was right and those random cries can make you feel much better.

One day, Cole realized I had been crying. It was one of those out of the blue moments, when I had just been overwhelmed and when I had a moment, the frustration resulted in me having a brief cry.

“What’s wrong, sweet girl?” he asked, rushing to my side. “Are you OK? Are you upset with Daddy?”

I shook my head as I wiped my face with my sleeve. I never have a box of Kleenex near when these moments hit and now, can appreciate Granny keeping her tissue stuffed in her shirt, or toting a roll of toilet paper with her whenever she felt a good cry coming on.

“I’m fine, baby,” I said.

“No, you aren’t,” he said, concern creeping into his voice.

“Who did this to you? I will take them down!”

I gave him a tight squeeze. “I promise you, I am fine. I sometimes just cry to feel better.”

He gave me a puzzled look. “So no one hurt your feelings and nothing bad happened?”

Oh, goodness.

If I allowed it, my feelings would be hurt on a second by second basis and bad stuff happens even more frequently.

Maybe that was why the crying helped – we were bombarded with those feelings and emotions and had to let it all out?

“No, no one hurt my feelings and nothing happened,” I said. “It’s good to just release some steam by having a good cry sometimes.”

He nodded slowly, not sure he understood. “Mama, not trying to sound disrespectful or anything…but is this a girl thing?”

To be honest, I wasn’t sure but maybe.

“So, you are OK, and I don’t need to hurt anyone?”

I squeezed him again. “I promise, I am fine. And there is nothing wrong.”

I didn’t understand when I was younger, so I can’t expect my son to get it. But sometimes, truly, all you need is a good cry.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/18503/

Just Put on Your Big Girl Britches (11/18/2015)

There’s one phrase that really irritates me.

It’s been said to me countless times, too, about all kinds of things.

“Just put on your big girl britches and deal with it.”

The first time I heard this phrase, I thought it was the height of rudeness.

How dare someone mention my britches – they were called ‘unmentionables’ for a reason.

Granny and Mama both always told me not to talk about those items in mixed company, meaning men and women – and Mama said there was really no reason to discuss them with anyone other than whoever was buying them for you.

So the first time someone told me to put on my big girl britches (and I call them britches – that other word that begins with a ‘p’ really makes me ill) I felt my checks burn with fire.

But that’s not the only reason the words big and girl preceding britches brings back some emotional bile.

No, the reason is much more deeply rooted in my psyche.

I was maybe about 8 or 9 years old; it’s hard to remember the age, as my early years are better marked by the level of how chubby I was.

There I was, quite the chunk and had outgrown my clothes. A steady diet of Little Debbie’s and Granny’s biscuits will do that to you.

Granny, ever being the frugal fashionista, took me to Sears one evening to find me some new pants. Or as she put it, “Big girl britches.”

I reckon when wearing corduroys becomes a fire hazard, it is time.

Sears in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s was not exactly where kids went to buy clothes to fit in. No, it was a polyester province, speckled with bad plaids and things with funky collars. Granny searched the racks desperately trying to find something that would fit me.

Nothing. Not even something with an elastic waist – or as I called them then, comfortable pants.

No, there was nothing in the girls section that would fit me.

“They gotta have some big girl britches,” Granny muttered. “There’s other girls that are –” she stopped herself before she said it. “Your size.”

It didn’t faze me. I knew what she meant, but I wasn’t going to get upset with the Grand Biscuit Maker of all time. I just wanted to go and get a cookie somewhere.

But Granny was determined I was to get some big girl britches.

“Excuse me,” she shouted across the store at a clerk. “Do you have these britches in anything larger than Pretty Plus or Husky?”

To clarify Granny’s need, she pointed at me and hollered, “Something to fit this ‘un.”

Subtleness was not the old gal’s strong suit.

The clerk joined us at the rack and took an inventory of me. “I’m afraid we don’t have anything to fit her,” she said, apologetically. “You may want to shop in the women’s sizes and just have them hemmed.”

“Y’all ain’t got big girl britches?” Granny asked.

The lady took another glance at me. “No, I am sorry.”

Granny grunted and told the lady they needed to be able to accommodate customers of all sizes.

“Can I get my cookie now?” I asked Granny. One cookie wasn’t going to make a difference at this point.

She got me a cookie. And I think the old gal made me some elastic waist pants, and maybe had my Aunt Louise make me some, too. Not only was I embarrassed by not being able to wear the clothes my friends did, I had to have custom made big girl britches, complete with a stretchy waist.

That summer, Mama made me take tennis lessons.

So you see, being told to “put on my big girl britches and deal with it” has kind of a sore spot with me. As a child, my big girl britches were custom made because I had exceeded the size limits at Sears. Maybe JC Penny’s too, I can’t remember.

Telling a girl to put on her BGBs is really not empowering. It gives an image of a pants-less woman who’s not facing her responsibilities. She’s just sitting around…pants less.

Instead, we often are handling dozens of responsibilities, emergencies, and issues at once —and usually wearing heels and looking fabulous while we do it.

I don’t know too many women who don’t deal with whatever life throws their way. Sometimes, they don’t broadcast it; they just handle it and move on.

No putting on britches required.

The next time someone tells me to “put on my big girl britches and deal with it,” I think I am gonna just put on my heels instead and see what that does. Anything’s gotta better than britches.

The habit of worrying (10/21/2015)

“Worrying is just praying for what you don’t want to happen,” is an often used quote about worrying.

An English proverb describes worrying as being like sitting in a rocking chair; it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.

My friend Ginny told me when we were still in high school that worrying didn’t take away tomorrow’s sorrow, but robbed us of our joy today.

Did you catch that? High school.

I was worrying and stressing over something in high school.

I had an ulcer in 12th grade, and trust me, it wasn’t because I was worried about my grades.

“What are you so worried about?” Granny asked me one day as she snapped peas into a big metal tub.

“Everything.”

She snorted. “Everything, my tail. You ain’t got the first thing to be worried about.”

“I just feel like my nerves are worn thin,” I said.

Had Granny been one to roll her eyes, she would have. But she was not an eye roller. She was an eye bulger, however, and she bulged her eye out at me and pointed a long, green bean at me and declared for me to, “Stop it.”

“I don’t know how,” I replied.

Granny was quiet for a while, probably thinking I was a fragile thing to be so worked up as a teenager that I was on a higher dose of Zantac and Tagamet than she was.

“Let me ask you this, old gal,” she began. “Is worrying going to change the outcome?”

I shrugged. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was specifically worried about, other than I was just a worry wart in general.

“Do you worry?” I asked her.

“What good will it do?” she answered.

How could she not worry? That seemed like such a foreign concept to me – not worrying.

“You know when I should have worried?” she asked. “When your uncle was sitting on a tree stump, by himself, in the middle of the jungle of Vietnam, waiting for his platoon to come along and tell them which way to go.

“But I didn’t then and I didn’t when your mother’s one good kidney shut down when she was pregnant with you and had to have emergency surgery. The doctor said neither one of you may make it – gave you both 1 out of 100 odds.”

“You weren’t worried then?” I asked.

Granny kept snapping peas. “No. Them odds was better than the 100 percent chance you both were going to die if her kidney wasn’t fixed. I didn’t worry. I told the doctor to make her kidney work again.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to make that decision. How did you not worry about Uncle Bobby?”

“‘Cause, I knew he was going to be OK,” she said simply. “I prayed every day and told him when he left he was going to come home. I couldn’t worry about him. I just kept waiting until he came home.”

“I couldn’t have done that,” I said. “I would have gone crazy. I don’t understand how you couldn’t worry.”

Granny looked up from her lap of beans. “Then you don’t have a lick of faith, old gal.”

Maybe she was right. During the course of her 90 plus years, Granny went through a lot of things, but I never saw her really worry. Part of me likes to think it was because the old woman was so darn stubborn she knew things would work out in her favor – and if they didn’t, she was determined enough to change them.

“Now, you stop this worrying,” she scolded. “The doctor said you can’t have any of my fried chicken until you get this ulcer healed. So stop it. And I mean it.”
That was over 20 years ago. I am still worrying.

Mama is the consummate worrier, calling over the craziest things, and coming up with unimaginable worst case scenarios.

“What if the bears come into the house?”

I tell her I hope they pick up a broom and some Pledge and clean.

“What if Cole likes skateboarding and he decides he wants to be a professional one? They go up something called a pike…”

I tell her Tony Hawk has a net worth of $140 million; if Cole could make that much and be happy, I would be thrilled. It would mean my child had done incredibly well for himself and I may have done a little something right.

“What if..?”

“What if what?” I asked. “Please, stop worrying – trust me, I worry enough for the both of us. Heck, I worry enough for the world. But worrying doesn’t help.”

It doesn’t help. And I wish I could stop. It has become almost a habit – if I am not worrying about something, I wonder what is going to go wrong. I think Mama does that, too. Maybe she started worrying because she didn’t understand how Granny couldn’t.

But I’ve worried about things that never happened. I’ve worried about things that happened that worrying didn’t change. I’ve worried about things that turned out better than I thought. Worrying didn’t help. Instead, it made me not enjoy the present because I was worrying about something I had no control over.

“It may not help, but I don’t know what would,” Mama said.

I thought of Granny and what she would say.

“Then you don’t have a lick of faith, old gal,” I told her. And I knew, Granny was absolutely right.

Granny & the cake plate (6/10/2015)

When Granny passed away last year, Mama had asked me what things of hers I wanted.

“Well, the old gal left me her dentures, so I reckon that’s what I will take,” was my reply.

Mama never understood our macabre sense of humor and gave me her annoyed sigh.

“What do you want? Is there anything you want?”

There was, actually.

I had always loved Granny’s dishes – the good ones she only used on holidays or if we had fancy company come over. Those were special and held good memories.

I wanted her Bible she gave me fits about. The pink one with the large print and Jesus’ words in red that my college best friend and myself had drove all over the perimeter of Atlanta (and probably the outskirts of Macon, too) to find, only for her to throw it back at me because it was absent the tabs labeling the books on the side.

“Old woman, at your age, why do you need the tabs when you were there when they were originally written on stone?”

She never used that Bible, instead carrying the same one that was about to fall apart to church with her Sunday after Sunday.

Lastly, I wanted her cake plate.

This was no ordinary cake plate.

It was “the” cake plate. A plate so simple, it invoked images of the Holy Grail in “Indiana Jones.”

You knew when you saw that cake plate there was something special on it, and Granny had baked it.

That plate held hundreds of cakes over the years.

From her homemade coconut layer cake made with fresh coconut shaved between the layers – none of that bagged stuff either.

She would actually crack and peel coconuts, draining the milk, then shredding the coconut through her grinder to cook down with the milk and what one could only guess was a bag of sugar.

None of her cakes lasted long on her beloved cake plate.

When that old gal was in a baking mood, she could out-Paula Deen the queen of butter herself.

“I haven’t seen that plate in years,” Mama murmured. “Did she still have it?”

Oh, yes, she still had it. But it was after a near miss several years ago.

It was a lovely day, perfect for a fall festival.

Granny had been asked to bring a cake for the cake walk, an honor she took seriously.

However, on the eve of the fall festival, Granny realized her coconut cake would not fit another plate – you know, one of her regular plates she didn’t care if wasn’t returned-it would only fit the cake plate.

Granny put a piece of duct tape on the bottom and wrote her name and phone number on the bottom in blue Bic ink, because back then, that’s all we had.

Blue or black Bic pens.

I am sure if she could have engraved her name on it, she would have, but she just had a Bic.

She borrowed a Magic Marker from me to write over it, making sure her name and contact information was visible.

The cake had been placed in a box, in the trunk of her car, protected and swaddled so it would not squish the cake or hurt the sacred plate.

When she walked into the school, you would have thought Granny was carrying the Hope Diamond to be auctioned.

She was promptly greeted by a lady on the PTO, wanting to know what kind of cake Granny had made.

“My coconut,” Granny said, lifting her chin proudly.

She knew no one could make a coconut cake like she could.

The lady purred how she had hoped it was coconut, and tried to take the cake from Granny.

Big mistake – huge.

Granny knew then and there she had an adversary in her midst and she needed to be watched. Granny carried it on to the library annex and sat it on the table.

“I want a funnel cake,” I told Granny.

“You wait a minute,” she told me. “I’m gonna see who gets my cake.”

“Why, Granny?”

“I’m gonna make sure I know who gets my plate so I get it back.”

And she did.

Just so happened the same lady who tried to take the cake from Granny was the same one who won her cake in the cake walk.

“It was rigged. She’ll get my cake plate back to me, or else,” Granny scoffed under her breathe as she dragged me off in search of funnel cake.

A week went by, no plate. Then another week.

“Where’s that school directory, I am calling that heifer.”

Granny called. Several times.

She went to calling daily, as soon as she got home from work.

“You know who this is. I was wondering if you had any plans on returning my dadblamed cake plate anytime in this here decade. You have my number, I have left it 20 times on this cussed machine and it is on the bottom of my cake plate!”

Not one to be defeated by an answering machine, Granny called her husband’s office. He was a doctor. She told the receptionist it was an emergency and she needed to talk to him.

When he got on the phone, Granny asked him if his wife ever planned on getting her plate back to her.

The plate finally showed up at the front office for me to carry home.

“‘Bout time,” Granny said.

There may have been a security motorcade to escort the plate home, I don’t remember.

Years later, after doing a charity walk at school, that same doctor had to pick us up to drop us all off at our next destination. As he did his head count, he looked at me and said: “Sudie, dear, did your grandmother ever get her cake plate?”

“She did; if she hadn’t she would still be calling y’all,” I answered.

“That wasn’t even her cake plate,” Mama interjected when I was telling her about the ordeal. “It was mine.”

“Where did you get it?” I asked.

Mama was silent, so I asked again.

“It was your aunt’s,” she said quietly.

“Did she give it to you?” I asked.

“Not exactly,” Mama said. “She brought me something on it, and I washed it and put it up and didn’t..”

“And then when you got divorced, you found it, and kept it because you loved her so much, and wanted something to remember her by?”

“Not exactly. I found it and liked it, so I never told her I had it.”

“So that cake plate had a history of stealing associated with it? First you, then Granny stole it from you, and then that lady was trying to steal it from her.”

Mama said nothing. She was a cake plate thief herself and had no room to judge.

The cake plate, to this day, remains unfound.

All we figure is, Granny either hid it really well or the thing got stolen again.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/16510/