In March I think a lot about my father. It’s his birthday month. He was the fourth child of nine. He talked sparingly of his childhood except that his mother was industrious and raised them with very little at hand. Dad’s father, my grandfather did not have a father. Well, of course he had a father but not one that acknowledged him. As it turned out, his father, my great grandfather was the sheriff of the county and quite the ladies’ man. I read that in a book that made reference to him. The book even had his picture, gun and all. So it would seem that my great grandmother was one of his ladies, his secretary actually. She not only bore him a son but four other children as well. This was back in the early 1800s so how about that?
In our family tree we have quite a few “squiggly lines”. The squiggly lines appeared when my grandfather passed away and someone took a look at his death certificate. It caused quite a ruckus.
My Dad was disappointed in his father because, not having an example to follow, Granddaddy knew nothing of taking care of a family. I’m told that he spent his money where he shouldn’t have and not on the family. But I liked my grandfather. He was the first one that took notice that I was good at art. He admired my coloring of a watermelon. He went on and on about how I got all the colors right. He called my sister and me knuckle-heads, which was an endearing nickname. He’d rub our heads with his knuckles and we’d laugh. He taught me to play checkers and as a result I am the champion checker player, unbeatable, in my household. At the dinner table, he would pour his coffee from the cup into the saucer and sip from the saucer much to my grandmother’s chagrin. And he ate his dessert first to be sure there was room enough in his stomach for it–no point in leaving that to chance. My grandmother was an excellent cook so I completely understood his reasoning. My mouth waters just thinking of anything she cooked, custards, cakes, pies, rolls, everything. I loved them both.
They lived in the country, in a house my Dad built for us. My mother didn’t like being so close to my grandmother, who lived at the top of the hill, so we moved to town and Grandma and Granddaddy moved down the hill into the new house. They had a farm with animals and a garden and it was lovely, rugged and comfy. The beds were iron frames,the mattresses were soft, and the pillowcases were embroidered by my grandmother. On summer nights, it was pitch dark unless there was a moon and there were a million stars. We’d sit on the front porch that didn’t have steps leading up to it–no one ever finished that part of the house. To enter the house, everyone came in from the backdoor. The front porch was accessed through the living room. It was pretty high off the ground, so as a little kid, it was kind of scary without steps. Summer evenings in the country were cool and pleasant. We’d sit on the front porch and the adults would talk and the children would listen. The adults spoke in code. They must have because we children didn’t have a clue about anything they discussed. There were family secrets, nothing truly bad, like abuse or anything, but things that were never discussed–except in code of course.
I am a grandmother myself now and the grandchildren love coming to spend the night with us. We don’t do anything special but they love it. I think I understand because I’d like to say right now, “Let’s go to Grandma’s house. Let’s go sit on the porch and play a little checkers. We can have ice tea or Kool Aid, and maybe a slice of chocolate cake with peaches and cream on the side. We can hear Grandma laugh and Granddaddy chuckle. He’ll spit some tobacco juice in the spittoon, a coffee can under the chair and Grandma will ignore it.”
© Glenda Mace Kotchish
March 19, 2021