Normally, this blog focuses on travel in Texas. On this day, I’m switching gears to honor one of the most wonderful Native Texans I’ve ever known.
I can’t be sure but I’m guessing I’m one of the few grandchildren, aside from my siblings and first cousins, who had a grandmother named Barney. Yes, it is indeed unusual. However, I’ve always known her by that name and I don’t remember ever questioning why. While she was Grandma to us, she did have some friends who called her Pete. I’m not really sure where she got that moniker either. Today would have been my grandmother’s 98th birthday. I thought of her this morning while I was in the kitchen cooking what she would have referred to as a mess of collard greens. Many people have traveled in and out of my life but none have made an impression on me like my Grandma.
As a child, I loved going into her bedroom and playing with her hair brush. I would pull a strand of her beautiful gray hair out of the bristles so I could see how long it was since she never wore her hair down. As I prepare to turn 50 this year, I have chosen to no longer color my hair and hope to see the same white appear on my head as I grow older. I can only hope I will age gracefully as did my grandmother.
While thinking about her today, I decided to go through and share pictures of her, her bible, her handwritten recipes, favorite sayings and artwork she painted when she was in her 60’s and 70’s. I feel so fortunate to be able to have these items in my possession, if only to touch a small part of what she loved and shared win her family and friends.
First and foremost, Grandma loved God and the word of God. Reading through the pages of her last Bible I can see she had read it 37 times or was reading it for the 37th time the year she passed away. I know this because she always wrote about her trip thru the Bible I suppose so she could keep track. I’m guessing many ministers have never read the Good Book as many times or as thoroughly. Aside from the number of times she read it, she also wrote other little notes, like the day her dog had a litter of puppies, how she and PaPa were still picking peas from their garden in November and even recipe notes. Some items appear I don’t quite understand like the Elvis stamps stuck to the pages in the front of the book. Some questions will never be answered.
While PaPa was known for his sense of humor, Grandma showed she had her own funny side in the list of favorite sayings she shared.
Grandma was incredibly talented. One of my favorite Christmas gifts was when we received hand-crocheted house shoes. I loved them and wore them out. She even made shoes out of left over yarn for my pug, who liked to play with them when they were on your feet. Now the year she made all eight grandchildren a quilt tops all Christmas gifts. She placed each quilt in a pillow cases so we weren’t able to see what was inside and each grandchild got to choose based on a first-come, first-served basis. That way, it was fair to all. How could you lose? grandma made it! In her 60’s, Grandma decided to take up painting. I remember spending the weekend with her when I was in college and getting a lesson from her. I still have that painting. While it’s not great and would never really be worth anything to anyone, the memories are more valuable than any Picasso, at least to me. Her paintings hang in my home in her honor.
Of all the things my Grandma did, she was known for her cooking. I often think of her when I’m watching Iron Chef or other cooking shows on The Food Network and I wonder if today’s chefs could produce something as good as Grandma if the only seasonings they had to use were salt and pepper. Her meals were simple, never extravagant. We never had to think about which silverware we needed to use while we were sitting at her table. You had a knife, a fork and a spoon and the tastiest meal this side of the Red River. My oldest sister inherited her biscuit cutter, an old Vienna sausage can with the top and bottom removed. Grandma made traditional southern meals, not cuisine, and you never left her table hungry.
Bobby Flay could challenge Grandma to a throwdown but I’m afraid he would lose especially if it involved, chicken and dumplings (rolled, not dropped), cornbread dressing or fried pies. When it came to cooking, Grandma didn’t mess around.
Grandma also knew how to have fun. She and Papa played dominoes almost every day, especially in their later years. When family was visiting their home in the Piney Woods of East Texas, the card table came out, the teams were chosen, the dominoes shuffled and the 42 game began. I didn’t know until years later that 42 was invented by a child from Texas.
I miss my Grandma. It’s hard to believe she’s been gone since 1997. Today, we market celebrities as role models to kids. No offense to the athletes and movie stars around the world, but I’d choose my Grandma as a role model over them any day of the week. As my sister said when she delivered the eulogy at my Grandma’s funeral, “My Grandmother taught me many things. Small things that are bright windows in my memory, large things that light up the corners of my soul.” As I await the arrival of my first grandchildren, I can only hope I fill even a small place in their hearts. Grandma sure did for me. Happy Birthday, Grandma! Love you!