Monday, January 10, 2011

GRANDMOTHER

Grandmother was a small woman---no shorter than I, but extremely thin. Her wrists showed the knobs of her bones, and her watch and rings turned circles and would have fallen clean off if not for the wider bones of her hands, and the great knots arthritis had grown on her fingers. The lavaliere-which-had-been-her-Mama's hung across her bony clavicles no matter what the occasion and the dress, and the amethysts twinkled, even as we knelt and squatted in the bean rows in that hot Delta sun.

She had very few wrinkles for a woman of her age, with soft pink cheeks and the palest blue eyes behind her heavy glasses. She had only a small furrow or two to her brow, though she DID worry. She worried about her health, mainly, and could turn a conversation back to her ailments quicker than you could get in a word past AWWWW, though she DID love the Poor Dear part.

She loved her doctor visits, and dressed in the most beautiful clothes for such an important occasion. When going for even such quick, easy appointments as for her flu shot, she dressed in what she called “from the skin out,”---dainty lacy underthings and a pretty slip (forever called a petticoat, just as the panties were “step-ins”---both from her younger days, though she would probably have whispered the word “panties” just as she did “sex” or “pregnant,” even to her daughters).

I don’t know if her choice of the nice clothing hinged on her own fastidious nature, or the idea that she just MIGHT need to show him, as she held a hand dramatically on the spot, just where the latest pain was. I can remember once that we gave her a beautiful pink jersey jumpsuit for Christmas---it must have been a size ZERO. Her daughters considered it much too young for her tiny eightyish body, though her sons and my family thought she looked as cute as pie in her little tan Weejuns and that tee-ninecy outfit. I can just see her coming out to the car to go grocery-shopping with me. We girls just walked right into Safeway, as big as you please, tossing that Midol and Poli-Grip and our week's groceries into the buggy with the aplomb of ladies of leisure and great refinement.

Grandmother and Peepaw lived in a really small mobile home---the thing was a work of art, with its miniature everything, and the walls, floors, ceiling of beautiful blondish wood, polished to the slick sheen of a Last Supper clock. It was one of the last of a breed, I suppose, before the RedMans and the Fleetwoods turned from their “real house” decor in those long, slender quarters, to the newer constructions of thinner and flimsier materials, which grew bigger and bigger til some of them were banned from the highways. That little “trailer” was sound as a nut, and really beautiful, in a jewelbox/dollhouse sort of way.



The whole inside of the thing was wood, with three-shades-of-pink metal exterior, pink bathroom fixtures, and a wee pale teacup-size sink in the minuscule kitchen. The whole kitchen counter had the dimensions of a checkerboard, and the central wall of the living room, though pristine and smooth, had no pictures or other hangings, save for the shiny chrome handle up high, which served to let down the Murphy bed when there was company. I loved that place---it was like living in Barbie’s mansion, without all that wardrobe clutter and all those tiny shoes scattered about to catch your bare feet unaware.

Grandmother made divine pie, an absolutely scrumptious tomato soup, pale with milk and cream, and the most wonderful cornbread there was. She would fry several slices of bacon in the black skillet, and make up the bread batter with buttermilk and Martha White meal and flour and several deep-orange-yolked eggs, with the bacon grease stirred in at the last. She’d arrange the flat bacon slices neatly back into the skillet and carefully spoon on some of the batter, so that when it hit that sizzling hot skillet, it would seize up a bit and hold the slices in place whilst the rest was poured on.



Her hands got too fragile to lift the heavy skillet, so one of us would go sit and chat with her while she made up the batter and fried the bacon. She insisted on “doing all of it I can---til I can’t.” Then we’d lift the skillet into the oven, and, most important---take it out when the “dinger” went off. We’d put that big Corning-Ware platter over the golden-brown bread, flip the whole thing upside down, and turn out that gorgeous pan of crusty brown, latticed across with the delicious strips of bacon. I can smell that heavenly bready-bacon scent with the golden-toasted cornmeal right now. I haven’t made that in years, but I’ll bet I do, and soon.

She was a lovely, kind woman, and a great part of my life for many, many years; I remember her very fondly. She lived to be almost a hundred---due, I’m sure, to such vigilant watchfulness on her health.

14 comments:

Marjorie (Molly) Smith said...

What a lovely story, and so elegantly told, I felt like I was right there in that beautiful Barbie house with you. My Granny too was a small fraile lady of no more than 89lbs. She wore step-ins and petti coats with a handkerchief dabbed with purfume pinned inside her brazzere to make the smell last longer.
And she never left the house for town or Church with out a danty little hat on her head.
I love your stories.

Southern Lady said...

It was nice meeting your sweet little Grandmother, Rachel. Your words conjured images of her just as surely as any pictures would.

I've never heard of cornbread made with bacon on top, but just the thought of it has my mouth watering. That HAS to be good!

Jeanne said...

Hi Rachel, I love this story about your grandmother so much. She must have been quite the southern lady. Your recall of her home is so dear and your memories of her cornbread makes my mouth drool for a piece of the best cornbread in the South. I just know it was. the love you shared with your grandmother is obvious in every vivid word you wrote. Thank you for giving me a grand smile this morning.

Thank you too for your comments that I so look forward to read. I think we are having the same cold snowy weather you are having. We just have to warm our heats with the love and memories around us. It works for me.

I am going to your Elvis post to write a comment too.

Warm hugs, Jeanne

Keetha said...

I love the way you write. I felt like I was right there, in your grandmother's home. Thank you for the visit.

mustard seeds said...

I enjoyed meeting your sweet grandmother and taking that trip down memory lane. Some of that cornbread sounds like just the ticket right now on a snowy day.
sheila

Kat said...

Oh what a sweet sweet post! Your words brought her to life. When you mentioned how she made her cornbread in another post recently, I emailed the idea to my Mom and told her we needed to try it the next time she's here. My Yankee husband doesn't like cornbread...can you even imagine...so I don't make it unless someone else is here. sigh

Hugs,
Kat

Mrs. G. said...

Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful woman. I too was blessed with a warm, loving Mamaw. It makes me sad that so many families are spread around that many kids don't get the benefit of having the warm back up of a grandma.

Patsy said...

Thanks for sharing your grandmother with us love the story and I loved my grandmother who rocked me to sleep even when I was to big.

mississippi artist said...

LOVED THE GRANDMOTHER STORY. NOW ABOUT THAT CORNBREAD-I HAVE JUST NEVER HEARD OF SUCH AND I AM A BIG COLLECTOR OF SOUTHERN COOKBOOKS-WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT I WOULD REACH THIS AGE WITHOUT HEARING ABOUT THIS? WELL,MY HUBBY WITH HEART TROUBLE WILL SOON BE OUT OF TOWN SO I MUST TRY THIS-AT RISK TO MY OWN ARTERIES!!

Tonja said...

Step-ins! That is the first time I have ever seen that in print! But, that's what my Mom used to call our panties when we were little girls. I never heard any one else call them that, either!

Great story! My Granny lived in one of those tiny trailers, too but finally got one of the bigger ones.

claudie said...

I need to get it straight. When you comment (on Jeanne's blog, because that's where I see you) your name is spelled with a "d" on the end. I'm now looking around and Jeanne doesn't put a "d". You sign it with a "d". Is it just me? Where did the "d" come from?
Anyway, first time here. LOVE your stories. I always had hefty grandmas, but when you describe your lovin' grandmother, I think of my mom. She's only 86 lbs. and does wear those hot pink clothing you talk about. I dress her. I find she looks like a little doll, not barbie, but close lol.
LOVE murphy beds. LOVE trailers, pink ones especially : )
I'm from Canada, so we don't have any type of cornbread, but my hubby started cooking, and he INSISTED on those heavy heavy skillets. He LOVES them...I can't even move it from one side of the oven to the other. SO SO heavy. I now know what your Grandmother went through.
Oh! and P.S. I LOVE your PEEPAW's name ; )
Love Claudie
xoxoxo

racheld said...

Oh, it's so good to see you all chiming in with your own memories, or recipes, or any other thing you'd like to say or have answered!!

Those little long houses were things of beauty, though I never could imagine where they PUT everything. And I have such fond memories of Grandmother and her silky white hair and her sweet manners.

Claudie, I'm delighted to see you drop in!! I first saw you in that Birthday Party post a while ago, in that PINK suit that made anything Audrey Hepburn ever wore look like a sack. And that stunning hair and smile in that lovely party setting!! I see your posts at Jeanne's and other places, and am just so honored that you came to visit here.

When I signed on as rachel for my first membership in a cooking site, they already had one, so I put the first letter of my last name on the end to distinguish us, and it seems to have gone with me wherever I comment. It gets printed both ways, and I wonder sometimes if folks think my folks really spelled my name strangely.

Anyway, I LOVE all of Y'all, and hope you'll come back soon again!!

Kim Shook said...

Lovely post, my friend. I, too, had a grandmother who "enjoyed ill health" (the origin of that phrase is lost to me - but I've remembered it always and pictured Bomo when I think of it). But Bomo couldn't COOK like that. Bacon and cornbread. Get on it, girl!!!

racheld said...

I intend to, Sweetpea, as soon as I unearth the kitchen counter. I've just been "cooking around" stuff---what little we've had. It's been hectic and fluuuuey around here, and we're just leaning on each other for support.

There was one of Mother's friends---a lady who lived quite a few towns over, so we saw her seldom, but she always spoke the same way, the same words, describing the tenor of her days and her little chores in service of (hushed tones) "Mama is a Semi-Invlid." Her soft syllables elided the "a" and the SEMI was always attached---meaning, I suppose, that she COULD reasonably get dressed and go to church or to a luncheon party, and woe to any of the daughters who headed for Goldsmith's or Lowenstein's without snugging Mama into the backseat to ride in style---but Mama's condition and constitution were just far too fatigued and unwell to do any useful activities such as housework or cooking.

When I saw that Like Water for Chocolate, I thought of Miss Buford, for she was also held captive in the house by her Mother's need for a caretaker.

Semi---what is THAT? Where one reaches that midway point between just not well and bedridden---that always escaped me. But Mrs. Buford seemed WAY alert and interested (interesting, too, if truth be told, for she was a font of lady-health information, unsuited to my own young ears, I'm sure).

But she was EVER a Semi-Invlid. Haven't seen them in years, and she may well have outlived them all.