Today is my grandmother’s birthday. Actually, she was my mother’s stepmother, but she was the only grandmother that I ever had. Both of my parents lost their birth mothers at an early age. So, this woman, Corrie Cummings Johnson, graciously stepped in and married my maternal grandfather, Chester A. Johnson and helped him raise his three motherless children. I called her, “Mother.” We had a special bond and we lived in her house for a brief time as children.
As a child, I attended kindergarten for a short time which was run by a Ms. Roby. I recall a feeling of security at her house and I specifically remember a flat red pencil that I had during that time. We had come down from Detroit and she opened her doors to us. Her Memphis home was not that large but it seemed to be at the time as she shared her space and her largeness of heart.
We used to watch her go and pick peaches from the tree in the back yard, understanding our limitations. She would do the picking and we watched. I also remember her red and pink rose bushes that aligned the driveway.
Her living room walls were lined with shelves of books and there was an ever-ready pitcher of iced tea in the refrigerator to cool us during the hot summer months. At dinner, she had very thin sliced tomatoes to go along with whatever else she had cooked. Surely they came from her garden in the back yard.
Eventually, we left the sunny south as a family unit, but miraculously, Mother and I reconnected many years later as women. My mom and I returned to Memphis, and thank goodness, Mother was still there in the same family home. I would go and take her shopping on the weekends, and she would say, “Good, Lynn is coming so I don’t have to worry about pushing the shopping cart.” Oh the simple things that can mean so much!
More importantly, we could talk. I could tell her if something was bothering me. And, though she was many years my senior, she could bare her soul with me as well. Sometimes, she would call because she was concerned about my mother who was out teaching a late evening class. So, in order to diffuse her fears, we would stay on the phone until I let her know that Ma had just gotten home. We would laugh and talk for long periods of time and when I signaled that Ma had just come in, I would then give the phone over. “Me and the Baby been talking and cursing,” she would laugh as she talked with Ma.
That is the way it was with us. I loved her and she loved me. All of the other children from my generation called her “Grandmother.” One cousin walked us to the car one day and she stared at me and asked, “How did you get so close to her? And how did you get to call her Mother?” I simply shrugged and let her know through silence that some things simply are.
On one of my thirty- something birthdays, she said, “You still look like a girl. Don’t ever let anyone else’s evil curl up in your mind.” Those words have stayed with me and I try to let go of bitterness as soon as I am able to work through what actually occurred.
Often our forebears spew out pearls of wisdom and hopefully we are tucking them away in our memory banks. We never know when we may need to pull up that file and apply it while being tested during some rocky situation. Our elders are our personal sages if we truly listen.
Can you think of some wise words imparted from a loved one that continually help you weather life’s storms?
Lynn August 2, 2014