Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Wish I Had Known My Grandmother

This is my maternal grandmother, holding my mother's older sister, who is my Cousin C's mother.

Mom told me that Mamaw was visiting one of her sisters in Indianapolis, and they took her to a studio to have the baby's picture taken. When the photographer saw how young the baby was, he told Mamaw that she would have to hold her.

Mamaw protested that she wasn't dressed or groomed to have her picture taken, but finally gave in and did it.

None of us cousins ever knew our grandmother, not really. She had a stroke when she was in her forties and after that, she was, well, perhaps "barking mad" is a bit extreme, but she certainly wasn't herself. The strong, smart woman she really was, was gone: the woman who refused to allow her militant dictatorial mother-in-law to name HER babies as the old woman had all her other grandchildren; the resourceful, creative woman who took her children berry-picking and "let" them eat cobbler for dinner when in fact she was at desperation's door because there was no food in the house and the berry-picking was the only way to get some kind of food; the determined, hardworking woman who took care of four kids all by herself during the week and saw her railroading husband (no, not THAT kind of railroading!) only on weekends; the laughing, intelligent woman who could recite all kinds of poetry; and, a little after the stroke, with one of her last few lucid moments, the brave woman who told my father to take my mother out of the house and marry her before mom sacrificed herself and stayed single to take care of her little brothers because it was obvious that Mamaw's stroke had taken her intellect and social graces and flushed them down the toilet. . . this is the part of Mamaw none of us cousins ever knew.

However, the woman who managed to say whatever she wanted to say, no matter how bizarre her grammar had become, who managed to hold herself and her house together when her husband was crushed by a falling house, and who could recite the alphabet backwards to make her grandchildren laugh, the funny woman who almost choked to death laughing whenever she heard Mahalia Jackson sing when Channel Four signed off at midnight (many apologies to Mahalia Jackson fans; to Mamaw, her singing just seemed funny.) the kind woman who asked C and me every Saturday morning, "Carol, Janie, breakfast what?" and then fixed it for us. . . we knew this woman well. We stayed with her every weekend we could, mostly because we were largely unsupervised and could do anything we wanted, and partly because I think we knew, even in our unbridled running around the neighborhood and staying up after midnight, and watching forbidden scary movies, and fixing french fries for every meal, and poking fun at Mamaw's O/C compulsions to walk around and touch everything in a room, that if push came to shove, Mamaw would somehow take care of us in spite of that stroke. The woman she really was, was still in there somewhere.

I think she looks beautiful in that picture. I wish I could have known that woman. Everybody says she was fantastic.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:08 PM | |


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