Tuesday, November 15, 2005
I know that sometime in the fall Hallmark has created another holiday known as "Grandparents Day." Although unsure of what date Mr. Hallmark chose for such occasion, I choose to acknowledge it today. Those of you who attended the Baker/Phillips wedding many moons ago likely noticed that between Tobe and me we have nine grandparents. Both sets of our maternal and paternal grandparents are alive, as well as my great-grandmother. We consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have all of our grandparents with us and serving major roles in our lives. Between them all there is over 250 years of marriage, more than 10 children, and countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Each of these grandparents carries with him/her many great stories of life, from running a cafe at the young ages of 14 and 15 while continuing on with high school, fighting in World War II, running a maternity home, building masterpieces from wood, maintaining a successful cotton farm over the years, and entering into a pre-existing family and stepping up as "mom" to a household of children. The stories of our grandparents could fill blog after blog. However this blog is dedicated to my maternal grandmother, who is on my mind tonight after a very minor health scare.
In my short teaching career, one of the questions I was often asked was, "Where did you learn how to teach like that?" The simple answer was from my mother and my grandmother. Both were teachers and both were excellent at their job. It was in their nature to teach. Instead of being handed the church bulletin to draw on when I became antsy during church, my mom had me practice my cursive handwriting (which paid off when I was awarded with the best handwriting award in second grade--unfortunately there were no college scholarships for handwriting. I still have the award if you would ever like to see it--it sits right next to my Most Improved Swimmer award and my signed letter from Walter Peton recognizing me as the winner of a writing contest). My grandmother is a legend in the small town where I grew-up. She taught second grade forever and it seemed like everyone had her as a teacher. One of her morning rituals (this is no joke--she really did this) was to play "Elvira" by the Oakridge Boys on her record player and dance around the room. She just loved her students, but wasn't that sugary-sweet, let-me-hug-all-your-troubles-away type teacher. Rather she would be very blunt and frank with those wide-eyed eight year olds. The kids just ate this up, likely because no one is usually this honest with children so young. After recess, the kids would huddle around her old brown recliner that sat in the corner while she read them tales of the Boxcar Children or of Ramona and Beazus (where did Beverly Cleary come up with that name???). During this time, it was a treat if you were picked to rub my grandmother's feet while she read. That is how much her students adored her--that wanted to rub her feet during storytime! My grandmother was still teaching when I was in elementary school and during recess I would get to bring a friend into her room and have a treat. Usually this treat was Like cola (remember that 80's drink, post-New Coke and pre-Cheerwine???), which she kept stored at the back of an old fridge.
My grandmother's favorite saying is, "Bless your heart." especially if she is talking about my baby brother (by "baby" I mean my 23 year old, over six feet tall brother). She loves taking us to pizza buffets because my grandfather won't eat pizza with her. Although she lives in a wonderful retirement community, she does not participate in any of the activities because the other people are old. I used to love spending the night at her house as a child because we would sleep with the window open (something I never did at home) and then have toast with peanut butter on it in the mornings (guess that seemed gourmet to me at the time). Outside of their house, my grandmother had these bushes that would blossom with the most beautiful blue flowers. She never said a word when I would pick those off those flowers to my hearts content and use the petals to play flower girl (By the way, I never got to be a flower girl as a child. However, I did practice in case I was ever called into duty for someone's wedding. So if you know someone who needs a flowergirl, I am still available.). My grandmother always kept a supply of Big Red gum, Reeses Peanut Butter cups, and Coke for us whenever we stopped by. In her closet she kept a huge box of Christmas gifts from former students and would let my brothers and me play with this loot for hours. At the time, I though these were priceless treasures that she was entrusting to us. Now I realize that they were simply the unexplainable gifts that her mantle had no home for (there were a lot of snowglobes and wooden calendars), but which carried a sentimental value. Every year my grandmother and I would get together and watch The Miss America pageant (I also practiced for that one as well, but had no talent, so I eventually gave up that dream). We still call each other when it is on TV and root for Miss Arkansas.
There you have it--my thoughts and memories tonight about my grandmother. If you ever visit my hometown, be sure to stop by her cozy apartment. She will let you have your own pack of Big Red gum and will likely tell you what the "old" people are doing that day at the complex. If you are lucky, she will tell you one of her numerous school day stories and maybe even let you play in her box of treasures...