i grew up in the rural south.
The kind of south that is portrayed in movies like “Sweet Home Alabama”, where everyone knows your name, your hometown can be missed while you drive through if you blink and chances are you are related to everybody someway whether you share a last name or not.
Because of where I lived, the options to entertain young minds were few and far between, especially for those who were 13 and below. Because of that, if we didn’t want to spend all summer in the blindingly hot sun covered in sweat and dirt, you would pick up a hobby or two from your older family members.
my favorite person to spend those hot summer days with was my great-grandmother
She was my entire world, and I was hers. She would listen to me chatter and play make-believe with me. One of her proudest moments, she told me when I was older, was the day I came to her and asked for her to teach me to sew. I was 5.
Instead of reverting my interests to something else a little less sharp, she asked me why. Why would such a little girl want to learn to sew? Wouldn’t I prefer to go play?
When I explained I wanted to make a blanket for my mom and she made the most beautiful quilts, she told me to give her to the next visit to get some things together. As an adult I have used this same tactic to get a child to stop obsessing over something, however, that was not the case with my granny.
The next time I came over, true to her word, she had my own sewing basket filled with my own needles, tomato pin cushion, thread, and tons of scrap fabric squares for me to make my own patchwork quilt. She spent the day teaching me to tie off my thread end, place the square face to face and sewing in tiny over under patters down the fabric’s edge.
that’s how i spent most of that summer at her house
I was on the couch sewing little patchwork squares by hand and she was in her chair working on the embroidery for her latest project. What I didn’t realize though, was the impact that made on me. I would learn my family’s history at the knee of our matriarch. I learned what it was like growing up dirt poor in the middle of the depression. She told me how scared she was when someone stole the salted hog from the smokehouse when my grandfather was a child: that meat was supposed to feed her eight children through the winter.
She told what it was like to lose her husband. My great grandparents got married at a very young age and, like most women at that time, she never worked outside of the house. Heck, she didn’t even know how to drive the family car. My grandfather, her eldest child, had to be honorably discharged from the Navy so he could come home to care for his mother and younger siblings.
She even spoke of the baby she lost. I have an Aunt Drucilla, who passed away at a year old. She never told me how she passed away, but I could hear the pain and regret my granny had because she was unable to see one of her babies grow up, even for someone who was so young.
Yet, no matter the trials or tribulations she had faced, she had faith. She would teach me new songs and would ask me to sing them to her because she said my little voice was one of her favorites. She would tell me bible stories and we would talk about ways for me to show others loves even if that person didn’t like me.
One of her favorite things to tell me was that we may not have been rich in money, but our family was rich in love. And that, that, was the most important thing because you cant take the money when you go.
She always encouraged me to be myself. She encouraged my imagination and hobbies I wanted to pursue and I think it is her influence that molded me into such an head-strong independent woman who can take care of it all.
I lost my granny three months before my high school graduation. She was 89 years old. To say I miss her would be an understatement, but if people ache with loss when you leave this world your life was one well spent.
My granny’s Christian-based teachings still ring true in my everyday life:
be kind to others, you never know what they are going through
love those around you because, in the end, family and friends are all that really matter
and most importantly be yourself.
For that, I can not thank her enough.