A collection of random memories from my youth.
In the summer Grandma Loretta (aka Ma-Maw) always sat on her screened-in front porch in a rocking chair with an old dingy, coffee stained sofa pillow for a seat cushion shelling purple hull peas and extrapolating on various topics ranging from geo-politics to home remedies to your garden variety family gossip.
“Uncle Clyde was diagnosed with nut cancer last week. I always told him to stop opening up the microwave door before the timer went off…”
*Visualize an eight year old boy rolling around on the ground laughing for five minutes. (By the way, Uncle Clyde survived the cancer after having one testicle removed and went to live to the ripe old age of 93!)
In the early morning and evening we would work in the garden. I can recall her calloused hands with great detail even to this day.
Me-Maw never owned a television so every evening after supper we would play cards, Wa-hoo (a board game played with marbles and dice) or ten thousand (a straight dice game she had learned while working as a cook on a tugboat on the Mississippi river.) My grandmother was a voracious reader and to say it “rubbed” off on me would be a severe understatement. She had a massive collection of Louis Lamour westerns and every summer I would devour as many as I could, always reading before bedtime like she did.
I slept out on the screened in porch with a box fan and flashlight for company. I can still remember the nightly serenade of cicada’s and whip-poor-will’s and the smell of jasmine and honeysuckle floating on the heavy night air. Every night before turning off the light, Grandma Loretta would come and kiss me on the forehead. Strange thing, even though I was just a kid I was never scared when I stayed over with my grandma, even though it was a creepy old house in the middle of nowhere, there was a peace present there, a serenity. Later in life I would ascribe this feeling to my Grandmother’s strong Christian faith, but I think now it was something more practical than that. I think it was Love. Love literally filled that house and it was as tangible as the smell of rain.
I was eighteen when she died and her funeral was one of the hardest things I had ever faced. I can remember crying every night in the weeks following her passing. I don’t mind telling you I cried more for that sweet woman than anybody in my family. One night I had a dream that Grandma Loretta visited me in my room and bent over and kissed me on the forehead like she would do every night when saying goodnight. When I woke, I felt a dampness on my forehead and the gentle smell of jasmine, honeysuckle and fresh rain in the room.
From that point on I always felt her peaceful, loving abounding presence in my life.
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