Miss Clemmie Stone is a nice widow-lady with a small neat house, the same car they had when Mr. 'Clellan was alive, and a lifelong yen to travel. Her travel plans have been curtailed for quite some years by seeing to grandchildren. Her two daughters and one son have five children amongst them, but the daughters live some distance away now, so she mostly only “sees” them on weekends and holidays.
Her son’s kids she sees almost every day, because even before the first one was born, they just kinda expected Mee-maw to pick up the reins and “keep the kids” when Suezette went back to work. And so it has been for little Stevie, age six, Clella, who is closing in on five, and baby Arden, who has almost reached his second birthday.
Miss Clemmie loves and adores those children, but sometimes, you know, she just gets TIRED. Until they came along, she’d never much heard of allergies or gluten-free or so many grains she has to keep a notebook. Nobody IS Allergic, but Suezette and Mack are very particular about every bite that goes into the kids’ mouths, getting lots of tips and information from various parenting blogs. That’s a hard row to hoe for Miss Clemmie, whose cooking has won Fair prizes and whose abundant table has been the pride of the family for all her housekeeping years. But she keeps up, with special steel-cut oats and organic fruit, and making sure the fresh-picked vegetables in her own garden have never seen hide nor hair of an insecticide or improper fertilizer.
And you know, that’s a bit of a tiring LIFE, when you come right down to it---even if you DID choose it for yourself and your family and adhere religiously to your own standards. For somebody who loves to cook, and mostly must refrain from a great long list of really good ingredients---well, you can make a task out of any enjoyable endeavour. And Miss Clemmie tried, she really did. She abolished things from her pantry, like Vanilla Wafers and Eagle Brand, and she shopped way over in Expedia at the Whole Foods, coming home with quinoas and berries and bitter dark macaroni. She read the backs of stuff til she just about went blind.
And she just flat QUIT cooking anything for herself when the children were there, because it was just not right to tempt those little fellows with all those good scents from the kitchen, when they had to sit down to yogurt and hummus and fruit. Sometimes she’d put a good stew or casserole in the crock-pot and plug it in out in the potting shed, just so she could have a good supper once in a while, and not have to eat at midnight cause she got started cooking so late.
Food was not the only persnickety thing Meemaw had to worry about---there was a TV ban, a certain time for arts and crafts, a time for reading, and other activities planned for Meemaw to teach and conduct during the day, with special lesson plans and equipment and books recommended by “the experts.” Suezette spent more money on stuff from the “smart kids’ store” than she did on their shoes, and it all stayed at Meemaw’s “to give them something educational to do.”
Things rocked on for some several years at that pace, with this restriction and that new article that Suezette had found online, until finally Nature itself changed the course of the whole thing.
Mack and Stevie went to their first Guys and Dads overnight camping with their church group, and came home with some sort of oopsies that flew through the other kids like wildfire. And that Monday, Suezette brought them to Mee-Maw’s as usual, still pale and and pitiful, throwing up and needing lots of care and juice and bankies-on-the-couch. They had quite a day of it, with lots of whoopsing and cleanups and fresh clothes, and every kiddo into the tub at least once, so Miss Clemmie was absolutely give ka-dab OUT.
She had just turned on a video of Big Trucks to keep the not-puking-at-the-moment two entertained while she bathed the third one, who just had---Again, when Suezette breezed in late for the umpteenth time. Suezette ignored the damp towels, the pile of her children’s fresh laundry on the table, ready for folding. She swept right by those, stepping over scattered books and crafts and empty Pedialyte bottles.
And as soon as Suezette caught sight of the TV on in the daytime, she rounded on her Mother-in-Law as if she’d caught her with the kids duct-taped to chairs.
“Naaow, MEEE-Maw,” she said, in that fake I-like-you voice of hers. Cocking her head and looking at Meemaw over her glasses, she made a fatal error.
“I THAWt we SAY-ed no TEEE-Vay.”
Condescending is one thing. Talking Down To is another, but Condescending in a Southern Accent is too great a cross to bear---worse than shouting or lies. And that was it. The moment when Miss Clemmie had Had Enough. And though she loved and adored those children with every bit of her being, she just couldn’t do it any more---not all that careful watchful diet stuff, that every-minute-an-activity stuff, that raising their children for them for free in such strict confines that she just couldn’t.