This week I’ve been sleeping with my bedroom window open. The temperatures at night have been so cool and welcoming. With the window open, I can hear the insects chirping, the train whistles, and traffic sounds. With the lights out and the blinds open, my eyes adjust to the darkness and I watch the silhouettes of the trees outside my window. When Pippin sits in the window, his shadow adds to my view.
As I laid in bed last night listening to the night sounds, I couldn’t help but think of my Grannie. Her house didn’t have air conditioning, so the windows were always open. It seemed like the sounds at night were more pronounced. Grannie’s extra bedroom was on the side of the house with two double windows beside the bed. The windows were covered with sheers, so the air could get inside.
I loved to watch the curtains dance in the wind. I’d lay there at night in the crisp sheets that had been dried on the clothesline, and listen to the insects sing. Occasionally, the winsome whistle of a train would add to the insects’ songs. Nights at Grannie’s house were so peaceful. If I pulled the curtain aside, I could lay sideways and watch the fireflies flicker on and off in the dark yard.
Our mornings would start early. We’d wake up and immediately make the bed, open the blinds and windows in the living room and kitchen. My favorite breakfast was oatmeal, crisp bacon, and toast. Grannie would say the most beautiful blessing and her voice would wobble with emotion. We’d sit at that old Formica table and we’d both crumble our bacon in our oatmeal. I tried doing that as an adult and didn’t find it very appetizing, but as a child I loved it. We’d drink milk out of old snuff glasses. After breakfast, we’d wash the dishes by hand in the sink with two dishpans, so as not to waste water. She’d wash and I’d rinse and dry and we’d talk.
My Grannie was the most special person in my childhood through my adulthood. She went home when I was thirty and she was ninety-seven. I had the honor of being one of her great-grand daughters. She always said that my mom was the apple of her eye and I was a seed of that apple. I loved spending weeks with her in the summer when I could have her all to myself. I wanted time to stop when I visited.
I barely remember my Papa. He’d died when I was very young. I just have vague memories of me sitting in his lap, with his crutches nearby, and he’d say, “Come stay with me and will go to the store and get some pop.” I remember him sitting at the table and putting his napkin in his shirt neck to eat like a bib. Beside those, I have no other memories of him. I know Grannie loved him. When she’d talk of her ‘Oscar,’ she’d get a certain emotion in her voice. I loved to hear stories about him and how they met.
Grannie was born in 1895 in Indian Territory (before Oklahoma was a state). She could tell some great stories of her life. We used a video camera and taped her telling her stories for future generations.
I don’t think I ever showed it to Cameron. I’ll have to do that. Cam was just two when she died, but I do have a few videos of them together. I’m sorry that he didn’t get to know the woman who made such an impact on my life. John used to say that I took after her and I thought that was the sweetest compliment.
My goodness, she could work a garden. She’d hoe the rows and plant corn, potatoes, and beans. Although I was there when the garden was growing, I never remember it being a chore to work. As she got older, she’d never eat green beans because she said that she’d had to many to eat in her lifetime. However, she loved chocolate chip cookies!
Grannie would watch her ‘stories’ between the hours of 1:00 and 3:00. She’d turn on the TV and pull her chair up close to the screen mainly because she didn’t see well. She only had about three channels to choose from, but she’d tune in to them five days a week.
During that time, I’d go outside to the backyard and explore. My favorite thing to do was play with bugs. One time, I discovered ants using the water hose for a road. I spent hours rearranging that water hose, so that the ants would travel on my road design. That night as I slept, I had the worst nightmare of spiders and ants. To this day, that dream makes me shudder. I must have been about ten at the time. I think that’s when I became deathly afraid of spiders.
When we were playing, I’d knock on Grannie’s back screen door, and say, “Hello? Anyone home?” She’d come to the back door and say, “Well, Miss. Smith, come on in. It’s so nice to have company. Would you like to come in and have a cookie?” She’d laugh and open the door. She always had ‘nilla’ wafers in a pig cookie jar next to her stove. That was our treat.
One of my favorite things to drink at her house was tea. She had these metal ice cube trays (two of them) that she kept in her freezer. One she’d fill with tea and make tea cubes because she didn’t like her tea to get watered down as the ice melted. I can still hear those trays being emptied. We’d drink the tea in her ‘tea goblets.’ I have some of those goblets now. They are special to me because of those special times with her.
Grannie lived in a tiny speck of a place called Troy. Grannie and Papa were married in that place when it was actually a town. She’d point out the place where they were wed. The building was no longer there, but two cedar type trees stood marking the place. One was barely hanging on to its life and the other wasn’t far behind it health wise. However, there they were; a monument for her of a marriage
The only store was a country store about 3 blocks from her house. She also lived about a mile from the town cemetery. Since Grannie never learned to drive, we didn’t have any transportation except our feet and her red wagon. We’d walk to the cemetery and she’d show me where her family was buried. Her brothers, sisters, daughter, and husband were all there and now she is too. She’d point out graves that only had rusty, metal crosses for markers, but she knew exactly who was buried in those unmarked graves.
When we walked to the store, we usually pulled the wagon to carry back groceries that she bought. The town once had a school, but it had long ago closed. For a long time the gym stood as a memorial to it, but eventually it was torn down and the wood salvaged.
We used to think we were tall when we could stand under Grannie’s outstretched hand and we came up to her armpit, but we really weren’t because she was a short thing…being barely five feet.
Her eyes were blue. The same color as my mom’s, Cam’s, and mine. I also have the same dent in my nose as my grandma’s. Her hair was long and she’d comb it, braid it, and twist it into a bun. I’d sit on the bed and watch her do it. She’d meticulously lay out her hair pins into different piles according to their size and shape when she took it down and then pick them up, putting them in to keep the bun in place.
We knew it was bedtime when Johnny Carson’s monologue was over. Sometimes, while watching it, we’d have vanilla ice cream with Hershey chocolate poured over it. I remember the Hershey syrup was in a can and Grannie had a lid that went over it. Every night before we retired to bed, we’d read a bible story and then get down on our knees, make our prayer hands, and say prayers.
As a child, she is the reason that I knew about God. Her church was barely populated in the small town of Reagan. When I’d go with her to church, there weren’t many kids that attended there at the time. Everyone seemed so old, but it could be because I was young. At that very church, we’ve held the funerals of Grannie, my Granddad, my Grandmother, and my oldest brother, Tim.
I loved my Grannie and learned so much from her. She was a gentle, Godly woman who put her faith first and shared that love with her family. For as long as I remember, she had a small black spot on her right cheek. It grew from a dime size to a half dollar. I’m not sure why they never removed that spot from her cheek because in the end, it’s what took her life. Grannie died from cancer.
I’m looking forward to being reunited with her in heaven. I’m sure she’s welcomed all of our family home. I can hear her laughing with her sweet laugh, and I hope she’s giving out her ‘nilla’ wafers.