Monday, October 26, 2009


Grannie was my only grandparent. Mom's parents died before I was born. I vaguely recall Grandpa Buck, a widower and farm laborer who married Grannie in no small part to help raise his two children (now deceased). They raised eight more kids (all still living but one) for a total of ten. He was really old when I was born and died a few years later.

To say that Grannie was a hard worker is a gross understatement. She planted, tended, and harvested a big vegetable garden every summer. She mowed her own yard, kept her house spotless, and painted every fall up to the year she died (at 86). She walked two blocks to the Kroger store for any groceries she needed. One year she got a pet rabbit. Or at least, I thought it was a pet... until she fried him up for supper one night.

Grannie always looked the same. She got her hair permed up at the beauty school once a month and often wore a hairnet. Her homemade dresses had seams removed in strategic locations, for ventilation or comfort. Her navy blue boat shoes were similarly adapted. She was never without hose, usually knotted tightly just above the knee, with sometimes huge runs here and there.

My earliest memories are of big family dinners prepared by Grannie at the house she lived in until she died. The grown-ups ate in the dining room, and the kids at a table in the kitchen. The menu was almost always the same: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, sliced tomatoes, corn, yeast rolls, and dessert. It was all wonderful and most of it fresh from her garden.

Dessert could be chocolate meringue pie, jam or applesauce cake with caramel icing, or fried apple pies. Around the holidays she made peanut butter pinwheels, fudge, divinity and turtles. When you got to Grannie's house you ran straight to the kitchen and looked on the little table next to the stove to see what was for dessert. When we were older she would hide dessert on the dresser in the back bedroom and act like she didn't make any. Nobody ever believed her.

Grannie put up a lot of stuff herself. She was always canning something. She made jams, jellies, preserves, pickles, and my favorite of all, green tomato catsup. She used whatever kind of jar she could put her hands on, and often sealed them with wax.  Between the lard in everything she made and her home canning techniques, it's a wonder she didn't kill us all.

I stopped to see Grannie on my way home from work when I worked and lived near campus. She would be sitting on the glider on her big front porch reading the afternoon newspaper and keeping an eye on things in the neighborhood. She took plates of food to every little old man on her street and to anyone within walking distance who was sick or otherwise in need of a hot meal. She knew everything about everyone.

Any time I stopped by she'd ask if I was hungry. Most of the time the answer was yes. In moments she could produce a meal seemingly from thin air you'd have to see to believe--without a microwave. Other than a spoiled turkey one Christmas, I can't recall a single thing she ever cooked that wasn't absolutely delicious.

Grannie never missed a funeral no matter how remote her connection to the deceased. She wore her prettiest new suit, run-less hose, sensible shoes and a hat and perched herself somewhere in the front few rows at the funeral home or church. She sat the same way she sat in the glider on her front porch--so she could see everything going on in any direction around her. She didn't miss a thing.

It didn't take long to wear out your welcome at Grannies. She was happy to see you come, and just as happy to see you go. Once she found out you were ok and any news you had to share, other people needed her attention. After a half hour or so, she'd run you out the door.

What I wouldn't give for another piece of her fried chicken, a jar of her green tomato catsup, a slice of her chocolate meringue pie, or a tin of her homemade candy.

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