Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Where did you come from, baby dear...

That is the first line of a little poem by 19th Century Scots minister, poet, and children’s writer, George MacDonald. He was the writer whose works of fantasy fiction for children would lay the foundation for the later works of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. They were words I heard often as a child as my grandmother would gather up someone’s new baby and croon, “Where did you come from, baby dear; out of the nowhere into the here.” I use to think of them as a charming little idiosyncratic part of her makeup. As years went on, I began to wonder if they weren’t a very legitimate thing to ask a baby to ruminate on as he/she grew up. How do I get to here as the individual I am? That’s a lot to think about, so it is good to start early considering it. For me, it meant looking at the things and people who are the reason I am. So, I took up genealogy.

When we first moved to St. Louis, people would ask me what I thought of the all defining St. Louis question, “Where did you go to high school?” At first I thought this was some local one-upmanship sort of thing. Then I realized that it was a code, a social code, if you will. With a word or two answer to that question, a local could convey or deduce a wide range of knowledge. It told what neighborhood, therefore often revealing ethnic heritage, he grew up in. It conveyed social status, racial and economic conditions, and even religion, in some cases. The odd thing was that I had been answering a similar coded question all of my southern youth. “Who are your people?” And I knew a great deal of the answer from an early age. I could rattle off genealogical lines for several branches almost as far back as St. Matthew did in the first chapter of his book to establish who Jesus was and where he came from. Family tales were a regular part of our long evening meals that were as important for their informational exchanges as for nourishment. It was the ones I didn’t hear mentioned that were a puzzle to me.

Take my grandmother’s father. Any of you reading this blog know or may have guessed that my grandmother was a sweet gentle-woman of unimpeachable character. Her father? Not so much as I learned years later. She never talked about him other than to say his people were from Michigan and that they could trace their family back to Plymouth Rock. This turned out to be true as the Spooner he descended from was a widow with two boys who came over to Plymouth at the urging of her uncle, William Brewster. I have come to refer to them as third boat Pilgrims. My grandmother maintained contact with several of her cousins in Michigan, some of whom visited us from time to time. No one ever mentioned her father during these visits. A few years ago, one of the distant Michigan cousins(third, I think) contacted me through his wife. She was researching the family and wanted to know if I knew anything about great grandfather known to the Michigan clan as “The Outlaw Johnson.” News to me, so we went looking; and WOW,we found a great story. Not a pretty story but a great one, nonetheless . It was even written up in Real West Yearbook, fall of 1983 a Charlton Publication in an article called “ Lengthy Johnson” by Doug Engebretson.

We all knew that Ephraim A Johnson, his real name, had run away from home at 16-17 years old and was not heard from for several years. A neighbor traveling west found him in Colorado working as a butcher. He disappeared again not to be heard of until after he was married, except by rumor as being on the wrong side of the law. Great-grand-pappy was a tall, thin man (over 6’4”). We now know that he moved north from Colorado and slipped back and forth between Cheyenne and Deadwood/Spearfish plying his butcher’s trade on cattle of suspicious origins. He was arrested several times but was able to slyly talk his way out of the jams he got into. According to the news accounts out of Cheyenne and Spearfish papers, he was charming and slick. This worked well for him until the Army at Fort Bradley on the Little Missouri River caught him admiring some of their best mounts. When he learned that he would probably be convicted as a horse thief and hanged, he made a deal with the Army…a lighter sentence in exchange for his two cohorts still on the loose. He even contacted these “friends” and arranged a meeting. The vigilantes showed up and promptly hanged his buddies. He probably thought that he was not going to get off as easy as he hoped so he took a chance, ripped a hole in the tent he was being kept in and escaped, taking three of those horses he had had his eye on.

We don’t know where he was for the next eight years, but he showed up in Hope, North Dakota, in 1886 where a na├»ve, British immigrant girl fell for his handsome face and fast talk. He married her, and my grandmother was born the next year in a construction tent in Salina, Kansas. That’s the way things went until my grandmother was 12 years old. The constant moving, the lack of proper housing, and his serious drinking finally caused the marriage to fail. By then the family had migrated to Little Rock(who knows why). He died a few years later in a nearby town, penniless. He died asking only to see my grandmother’s sister although their mother took both of the girls to him.

Like I said, Grandmother never talked about him. I found a picture of the young Ephraim, his wife Sarah and infant daughter among her things after she died. He must have embarrassed her. She had to be hurt by his last rejection of her. I’m sure she was angry that his bad choices forced her to quit school at 12 to go to work for the family. She loved, no, she revered education; and it was one of the sorrows of her life that she did not finish school. But as I looked at this picture, I was struck by the forgiveness that must have been in her heart as well. You see, my grandmother loved my father with total devotion, and the face in the picture of her father is my father’s face. This is part of who I am. I come from the family tree that almost had a man hanging from it. He colored my grandmother’s life and kept her silent all those years, yet he passed on to his grandson his good looks and his charming ways. Thank God, Daddy was influenced by my grandmother’s certainty that there were better ways of doing things. “Lengthy” was a scamp, and a scoundrel; a man with little to offer but he’s back there and part of where I came from.

Years ago, Norman Rockwell painted a Saturday Evening Post cover of a family tree that had a pirate, a bar maid, a puritan, a half-breed Indian, a Southern Belle and a preacher that were all progenitors of a cute little red-haired, freckle faced, all American type kid. It can happen.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

T.G.'s Humiliation

My friend and fellow writer, Harold, asked me if I would put this story on my blog. After giving it some thought, here it is. The thing I ponder most about this true account (the names have been changed so that no charges can be brought), is what were we thinking? In fact, my childhood had numerous moments that I waited late to tell my children about so that they wouldn’t try some of these things themselves. Whatever we had in our adolescent brains, (and it wasn’t much, at times) we totally enjoyed humiliating T.G. back then. He’s a good Christian man now who I am sure would forgive us if he ever found out what we did, but I’m not telling him. I just don’t want to risk it.


T.G.’s Humiliation
Dub Samuels was passionate about three things: horses, a girl who loved horses as much as he did, and pranks. We lived in one of those small communities that did not even call itself a town. We had heard that everyone knows everyone so many times that I think most came to accept it as truth. It would take years of looking back and talking with others who had lived there to realize that none of us knew very much about the other. We learned the truth of our community in bits and pieces laid down in layers like sediment that builds a complex, solid soil.
Dub was born the second son of a family of three boys who had nothing but last names. His older brother was Terrell Garrett Samuels. The boys’ mother called each of her sons by their full first name so this boy was Terrell to her but was T. G. to his father, brothers and friends. Dub’s younger brother was Porter Davidson Samuels; and like his brother, his mother called him Porter, but he was P.D to us. Things were different for the middle son. His name was Bradley Morton Samuels. Of course, his mother called him Bradley, but his father said that if the rest of the folks called him B. M. everyone would know right off that he was a little shit. Mr. Samuels said he thought that people needed to learn that on their own. We called Bradley, “Dub”. We addressed their mother and father as Miss Hallie and Mr. Gordon. They had married in the heat of young passion. Faith had put out the fire.
Miss Hallie’s family had enough money that they could indulge her so that in the early part of the twentieth century she studied dance. She did not take lessons as some children did at a local salon run by someone who had taken the same lessons they were passing on. Miss Hallie had graduated from that type of lesson by the time she was nine and moved on to study in Memphis with a pupil of a former New York City ballet star. She had a talent and would be famous. Everyone said so. What everyone didn’t know was that Miss Hallie had fallen in love with Mr. Gordon. His family owned a lumber mill and a grocery store in our community. The two saw each other whenever Miss Hallie was back home taking a break from becoming a prima ballerina. When she was eighteen, beautiful, lithe of body and wild in her heart, they eloped. The lost hope that their daughter would escape the mundane life of a tradesman’s wife quenched the fires of her parent’s ambitions. They faded into the background of her life never to emerge again. She did not care as she gave birth to three sons and planned for their futures.
When the youngest son was still a lap baby, Mr. Gordon’s mother, a strong willed, upright Baptist woman, took her daughter-in law to a revival. There Miss Hallie met the stern God of her mother-in-law’s church and his equally uptight Son. She devoted herself to her newfound religion with the same ardor she had once reserved for dance and then for her husband. It was a strange form of serial monogamy. Her husband, in an effort to maintain connection, followed her into the church. When he inherited his father’s businesses, Mr. Gordon switched the family’s membership to the large, moneyed congregation of the interdenominational church where most of his best customers were members. His wife threw herself into the life of that church, and her children attended every event available to them. Dub would later say that she saw all those Methodist, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians as apostate; and hoped that, by her example; they would see the error of their ways and abandon their doctrines for hers. She became a youth leader in hopes of catching us young enough not to question our elders. The harshest of those doctrines was that God frowns on dancing, and dancers are likely to wind up in the fires of hell where the devil will pipe a tune that will send them into an exhausting eternal frenzy. From the time she came up out of the baptismal waters, she never danced another step. However, she could demonstrate perfect splits or stand with knees locked, bend over, and place her palms flat on the floor behind her heels. She did the splits only when she wore a very full skirt, as there could be no hint of impropriety.
Miss Hallie also planned that T.G. would become a Baptist preacher. He certainly had the personality for it. He seemed to be as good as any mother could hope her son would be. In fact, we thought he was mighty prissy. He was also smart and driven to please and excel. It’s a handy combination if your parent has big dreams for you. He would not inherit a lumber mill or store. Those were to be divided between the other two sons. While Porter enjoyed going out into the pine forests and cutting trees and was happy at the prospect of doing this for the rest of his life, Dub had other plans that did not include cash registers or stocking canned goods. He knew from an early age the he would study animal husbandry and raise champion horses.
In the mean time, all of the boys worked in the family businesses. All summer long, they would go out early in the morning with the work crew, chop down, and load logs onto wagons or would feed logs through the massive saw at the lumberyard and stack timber by size and grade. The boys preferred the work in the woods as there was more freedom. Their father usually stayed at the yard supervising the lumber production. When the boys went out to cut timber, their mother would pack their lunches and snacks and send along soda from the store. Most of their water came from a big barrel on one of the wagons. Everyone used the same dipper to get a drink. Things were primitive out in the pine forests so when nature called, the men would answer by finding a brushy clump away from the rest of the gang. For some reason, maybe because they were all men, no one thought to bring toilet paper with them. That meant that, if they needed to wipe, they used leaves. That is exactly what T.G. did one nice warm summer day. When he began to complain later in the day that he was uncomfortable and was squirming a bit, the men told him it was probably sweat irritating him. By the time they got home, T.G. was really feeling some pain and told his mother that his butt was itching something fierce.
Since she was his mother and had seen him buck-naked more than once, she insisted on having a look. With great embarrassment, T.G. dropped his drawers. His mother took one look and called old Doc. Rambeau. He lived just down the highway so he was there shortly. It did not take him long to diagnose the problem. T.G. had poison ivy. Doc Rambeau tried to keep a straight face as he told Miss Hallie what had happened and what needed to be done to cure the situation.
T.G. had to lie with his butt exposed so that the air would help dry up the rash. His mother had to paint the whole area with calamine lotion several times a day as well. Doc Rambeau suggested that it would also help if the window remained open so that more air could circulate around the rash. He also suggested that it would probably help if T.G. lay on his stomach with a couple of pillows under his hips to raise and open up the offended area. Even with all of these measures, the doctor thought that T.G. would be out of commission for a couple of weeks or more. His mother swore the whole family to secrecy. She could not have her pious child exposed to the ridicule of children who she already thought of as heathens.
Dub could hardly wait to escape the house and tell us all about T.G.’s predicament. He tried to take pictures, but his mother confiscated the camera. We all wanted to see T.G.’s butt painted pink and sticking up in the air, but we knew Miss Hallie had given strict orders, “No Visitors!” I suggested to Dub that she could throw a sheet over him when we visited and that Dub could cause it to accidently get pulled off. Dub was not about to risk his mother’s wrath with a plan that would seem so obvious.
Then he had a stroke of genius. Since the window was open anyway, we could go up to it and peek in. We would come, one at a time, creeping across the back yard from the side opposite the store where Miss Hallie worked. We had to be very quiet or the jig was up, and we would all be in trouble, as Miss Hallie would tell the other parents. Dub decided that he was taking the biggest risk, as his job was to see that the window was up, the curtain was back and that T.G. was looking away from the window. Therefore, he would be in the room talking to his brother and distracting him from any noise we might make. For the risks he was taking, Dub decided to charge a quarter for each person who wanted a look. We were happy to pay. The view was as funny as Dub had promised. T.G.’s butt was painted all over with calamine yet we could still see the angry blisters and rash. We could tell that someone had to spread his cheeks and pour more of the stuff in his abused behind. It was hard not to laugh out loud at the sight. Some people paid as much as a dollar to go back and see it over again. Dub made close to twenty dollars on this sideshow over the next two weeks, and none of his family ever knew what we had done. The mess he had gotten himself into humiliated T.G, and he was even more humiliated when we started calling him Pinky. Although he could not prove its origin, the most humiliating thing was the riddle someone wrote on a stall in the boy’s bathroom at school the next fall.
“What’s round, pink as a powder puff, and can fart?
The answer, “T.G.’s butt.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Women Friends Revisited

Yesterday, a Wednesday, I was where I usually am on Wednesday morning, with four good friends who refer to themselves informally as the Wednesday girls. One of them mentioned that she had read and enjoyed my blog but was disappointed to see that I did not mention any of them by name. This led to a discussion on privacy and getting their permission before throwing their names out there where anyone could read about them, make judgments, or even sue them for assumed slights or defamations of character. We came to a consensus that no one could sue us for gossip because we do not gossip. It is our belief that it is not gossip if it is the truth. We only slightly embellish true stories to make them more interesting, even those stories about people we do not hold in particularly high regard.
After much deliberation, we decided it would be fun to appear in any of my blogs under aliases. Maybe pseudonyms would be a better designation as alias sounds criminal. Each lady, in turn, threw out some possibilities for herself and the others. One gal immediately chose the name, Wendy. Maybe I should spell that Windy. You see, Wendy/Windy has Pulmonary Hypertension meaning that she is on oxygen 24/7 as young people are wont to say these days. Yes, she is one of those people you see with the clear plastic tubes that trail down her front to some form of oxygen tank. Hers is hand held in a stylish black container. The other end of the tubing divides under her chin and loops around the back of her ears and across her face to end in two prongs that pffft air into her nostrils at regular intervals. We can tell when she is getting low when her lips and/or her fingernails begin to turn blue. That happened yesterday because we laughed so much, and laughing sucks up more oxygen that ordinary conversation. We asked if we should call her Almost Windy and sent her on her way to get her next tank. One of the girls told her she hoped we wouldn’t come out later and find her gasping on the sidewalk, trying to call for help. You have to love someone a lot to be able to tease them about the really serious stuff.
One of the girls chose the name Lucy which we jumped immediately to Lucy Goosey as being more fitting. It fit, but we settled on Lucy Scarlet because she has a husband who calls her Scarlet. This gal talks about her husband quite often, and it isn’t always complimentary. To hear her tell it, he was placed in her life by some cosmic force to make her existence as challenging as possible. He often pushes her to do some project for him that he finds urgent while she see it as only marginally important. Her reply to these requests is usually, “I get to that later.”
His come back, “All right, Scarlet.”
She came to one of our Wednesdays with a grim look on her face and said, “I’m a widow.”
You could have heard a pin drop as we tried to take in how her husband could have died without us knowing it. Then the outspoken one of us said, Oh, Lucy Scarlet. How? When?”
She shot back, “Tomorrow. I’m going to kill that bastard.”
We still collapse with laughter when someone brings that up.
Pasty is the name we agreed upon for another of the bunch because for her entire life as long as her own grandmother was living, that is how the grandmother wrote her nickname. I have often pondered how an otherwise articulate lady could misspell her grandchild’s name. Pasty has the birthday cards and little notes from her late grandmother to prove that this was the case. I doubt that any name could be farther from the truth. Pasty implies something colorless and nearly lifeless. She’s probably the most forceful member of the group. She has no problem stating her opinions and can usually back them up with an arsenal of facts. She and her husband have built several successful business mostly on determination and hard work and finds time to attend just about every event her seven active grandchildren take part in. She gives her whole heart to her family, but she is no pushover. She expects good behavior and has no problem letting them know when they are not towing the line. Pasty is a big Cardinals’ fan and she knows her stats. Anyone in St. Louis can tell you that Cardinal fans are not colorless.
The fourth member of the group has been dubbed Tallulah. She isn’t Southern; but she likes down home cooking, firemen( her late husband was one), country music and NASCAR racing. She’s fierce in her loyalties; and what she loves, she loves passionately. One of those things is sewing. Tallulah has made hundreds(yes, I said hundreds) of crib quilts for Crisis Nursery, Children’s Home Society, The Linus Project and foster children. She has made almost as many Teddy bears and even more shorts and pants outfits for kids in need.
For teenagers, she makes quillows which are twin size quilts that fold up and tuck into a self-pocket on the back making them a pillow when not being used to cover up.
Tallulah is dramatic sometimes. She’s the one most likely to tear up over a sad story, get angry over injustice or express her beliefs with ardor. So, while she isn’t from the South, she is a Tallulah.
As for myself, the group said that I should be called Charlotte as in Hush, Hush, Sweet… That’s their not-so-gentle hint that I sometimes talk too much. Go figure.
Early on, I said that we informally go by the Wednesday Girls but we also know ourselves as the WSB. Wednesday morning belongs to us. We get together at 9:00 a.m. at one of our homes. We solve all of the world’s problems then go to lunch. We really do solve the world’s problems, but no one listens to us. That doesn’t stop us from coming up with good, mother-based logical solutions that cut right to the heart of the matter.
One day, Pasty’s sister asked Pasty to give up her Wednesday to do something for her. It was neither urgent nor necessary. When Pasty refused, her sister demanded to know what it was that she was doing that was so important. Pasty told the truth(we all try to do that as a matter of principal). We don’t DO anything on Wednesdays. To which her sister declared, “Well, aren’t you a bunch of selfish bitches.”
She said this about Windy who works with the Pulmonary Hypertension Association, learning all she can to protect her health, mentoring new members learning to cope with this disease and still has time for her great husband, children and grandchildren. She also use to help Talullah with those quilts as well, and I’ve already told you what Tallulah does. Pasty feeds her whole family once or twice a week, babysits at the drop of a hat, is the official worrier for all of us; and when her sister made this asinine remark, was spending three days and nights a week taking care of their legally blind, elderly father. Lucy Scarlet has uses her considerable photographic skills, gratis to make photo collages for military families and to celebrate special anniversaries for families and friends. She also has a handicapped grandchild she has worked tirelessly to help reach his full potential. All her love for this intellectually challenged little boy shines in her eyes and bubbles up in her voice.
Another friend of mine gave me a coffee mug not long ago. On the side is a sketch of a harried woman and the words: Stop me before I volunteer again! Enough said.
So we are the Wednesday Selfish Bitches. WSB. We are selfish with our Wednesdays. As Pasty says, “Because of this time, I feel better on Wednesday than any other day of the week.
One thing I don’t have to ponder at all is this: These women are a gift from God to each other. Because that is so, those Wednesday mornings are sacred, and the tables we sit around are on holy ground.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Women Friends

Women Friends

One of the things that I have ruminated on over the years, is the nature of friendships between women. If we believed much of the media, we might think that all women distrust each other; and they are constantly on guard against the possibly of being sabotaged by some one putting on a sweet smile while they plot mayhem. The truth is, I have noticed the opposite for most of the women in my life. My two grandmothers were such good friend that it was my paternal grandmother who was holding the hand of the maternal grandmother when she died. My mother’s mother was called Ammam by her grandchildren. Ammam’s last words were, “There’s my Wessie (my paternal grandmother’s nickname) with her million dollar smile.” This sure doesn’t sound like people who were secretly fighting over first place in their families affections, to me. So where does this misconception come from?
I think that there may be several things behind it. One is that there are women who do not have female friends. They seem to be people who were taught the myth of distrust between women early on. One thing I have come to know is that such women are usually defensive and not trustworthy themselves. They are the ones who react with jealousy when someone female speaks to their husband or boyfriend no matter how innocent the encounter. They are the ones who make a game of trying to disrupt otherwise stable relationships. There seems to be an attitude of get them before they get me.
Another characteristic that I see in friendless women is a strong double standard. Women belong in only one realm subservient to men and therefore always needing to protect what little power they think they have.
Maybe the most disturbing thing I have witnessed with these women is that sex is a weapon of that power. This is not to say there aren’t little wars that go on in any marriage. My own has them, but they have nothing to do with other women. There is the thermostat war. He raises the temperature in the summer and I lower it. We don’t discuss it we just each adjust it as we go by. It probably changes a dozen times a day between the two of us. There was the war we had for several years between his NRA stickers and my World Wildlife Federation ones. The stickers were the same size. When I got the first one, I put it on the bumper of my car. Not too long after that, I saw that he had covered it with a NRA sticker. Since both organizations sent regular mail and always included stickers, we continued to replace the other’s latest application. By the time we sold that car, there was a stack of stickers almost an inch high protruding from the back bumper. I won that one as I put a WWF Panda Bear over his NRA Eagle just as we left to trade the car in. In all that time, we never discussed what we were doing. Women who are afraid that they have little or no power in a relationship would never initiate such a silent war or know the delight of seeing how it plays out.
One thing I am grateful for in my life is strong women with tight friendships. My grandmothers, my Aunt Helen who was surrounded by loving friends as she struggled with early widowhood and with encouragement from friends, finished two degrees in order to support her family. I think of my Aunt Lucy who with encouragement from other strong women, dared to become one of the first United Methodist, fully seminary educated and ordained women ministers in that denomination. I think of all of the women friends I have been blessed with who, oddly enough, would all get along with each other if we were to meet at the same time. We all have different talents and interests but we also have found a common ground and that is priceless. We laugh together, cry together and even fight sometimes. You can’t have strong women without strong opinions. I have tried to raise strong daughters, and I have always told them to make close friends with other women. They will be there for you and will love you even when you are having trouble loving yourself.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Beginnings

I have moved into yet another realm of technology today by setting up a blog. The whole purpose, pure and simple, is to write with the hope that someone out there, known or unknown, will take the time to read it; comment, if led; and tell their friends to read it, too, if it merits such publicity.
The name of this blog is Attic Ruminations, because these words strike me for their diverse yet connected meaning. Attic with a lower case “a” means a place under the eaves usually used to store things, but with an upper case”A” refers to Attica, Greece, where the architecture was pure, simple and elegant of line. Thus, the word has come to mean just that as applied to other things as well. And weren’t those words used in that first paragraph. I could have said "the Attic purpose", but that would have been pedantic, and I don’t want to show off just yet.
Rumination comes from the same word as ruminate, which is what cows do. They eat grass or hay, store it away in the rumen (one of four stomachs) where it stays until it is regurgitated to be chewed once again before being digested. You can see how that can come to mean to cogitate, meditate, ponder on a question or experience. Over time, I have coughed up a number of experiences and old perceptions in order to make sense of them now. Some of my ruminations are serious and some are, I hope, comical. All are questions that I have carried in my head, up there in my attic, where they have gathered dust but are unresolved so they can’t be thrown away. As someone once said, these are things that make you go hummm until suddenly you think, ah ha!
One of those childish misconceptions grew out of a hymn I thought I learned as a youngster. I grew up in Scott, Arkansas, a dot on the map near Little Rock. It was mostly populated by landowning white people and African-American sharecroppers although there were a few white sharecropping families as well.
Early on, the white landowners had decided that it was foolish to build a small church for each of the main line Protestant groups represented in the community when they could pool their resources and build one large interdenominational church instead. So in 1902, All Souls Church was formed. While everyone worshiped together, most families kept their denominational heritage alive in their homes. The church had three weekly services, and three separate hymnals honored those denominations. Sunday morning we sang from the Presbyterian hymnal. On Sunday evening, we used the Methodist Cokesbury hymnal and Wednesday
Prayer Meeting saw the Baptist Broadman Hymnal in use. After all, it was the Baptist who insisted on having a mid-week service. We also had, over the years, ministers from all those denominations including one who was a Southern Baptist and a full blood Italian which of itself is almost an oxymoron. Since I attended all of these services regularly, I learned many of the popular hymns by heart before I could read.
One of the Wednesday night favorites was the Baptist song, "Sweet Peas, the Gift of God’s Love". At least, that’s what I heard and I never questioned it. My grandmother, who was METHODIST (with all the letters capitalized), was also an avid gardener who never planted Sweet Peas. I worried about that a lot. Was she thinking that they were Baptist flowers? Was she missing out on some special blessings reserved for the growers of Sweet Peas? She certainly had to know from regular church attendance in what high regard God held this little flower, yet she blithely ignored them. Then I had the exciting thought that my otherwise compliant grandmother had a little streak of rebellion in her. That made me smile secretly because more than anything, I wanted to be a rebel.
I must have been nearing the end of High School when someone offered to share their hymnal with me because I hadn’t bothered to open one. I looked down and gasped in astonishment that what I had been hearing as Sweet Peas was really Sweet Peace. Right there in church, I let out a guffaw that earned me a stern look from both my grandmother and my daddy.
Grandmother, to my great relief, was in God’s good graces after all. This mostly serene woman had in her late fifties, taken over helping my daddy raise two hooligans and an infant when our mother died. I say mostly serene because she surely worried over our illnesses and had moments of utter despair over our behavior, yet she was immovable in her faith in God especially as interpreted by John Wesley.
I have often pondered why I never questioned the nonsense of what I thought I was hearing. Is it that what we perceive becomes so ingrained in our brains that we forget to argue for a more reasonable explanation? Whatever the case, I don’t plant Sweet Peas. It’s a salute to my grandmother who I perceived for so long as a dangerous rebel and therefore, a role model. And if I do see them in someone else’s garden, I can’t but help feeling the giggles rising to the surface.