Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ode to Granny: Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler

Grandparents, most of the time, are the most amazing persons that walk the earth.  I remember my mother's mother as if she were only alive yesterday.  For more reasons than one, my granny, was a woman to admire.  She was strong, beautiful and brave.  All traits that I hope to have and if I don't, develop within my lifetime.  

My grandmother was not the type of grandmother that took her grandbabies to church on Sundays, carrying a Bible in one hand, and a swear jar in the other.  No. My Granny was the type of grandmother that wore designer clothes, drove with white leather "driving gloves", and bestowed her grandbabies with gifts of quality time. Time that very often included cooking lessons, dancing and singing to classic jazz and black and white movies, and slumber parties.  
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple. With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me. And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter. 
(excerpt from a poem, "Warning" by Jenny Joseph)

With all her class and grace, My Granny was the type of grandmother that would "cuss a mothafucka out" (excuse my french but My Granny was Creole so sometimes this "cussing" actually came in French so I find it fitting) I loved it! You have to understand, as a kid seeing a woman in her 60s with long silky silver hair walk forcefully back into the store after going to "make grocery," with flowing brightly colored summer dress blazing, just to shake her manicured hand at the butcher behind the counter for improperly cutting her ground beef. You can't help but hide behind her bellowing drappery staring in awe as she tells the unsuspecting gentleman "God don't like ugly, you cooyon muffadie muthafucka you don't gone and shawted me on my meat!" Now, that's what I call a lady. 
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells And run my stick along the public railings And make up for the sobriety of my youth. 

I struggle. I try to hold on to her memory and channel her spirit and spunk. She always seemed like she was in a bad mood toward everyone but me. To me, she never had a bad day and I saw her everyday of the remainding years of her life. It wasn't until I was older that I even knew of the hard life she had when she was young. How she came to California from New Orleans a refugee from an abusive marriage with a YOUNG child with a NEW husband for a FRESH start. I never knew that there had been poverty, violence and death in the midst of her journey through life. Part of me wishes I knew her then, so I could know how to handle the tough situations in my life as she so triumphantly dealt with hers. 
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain And pick flowers in other people's gardens And learn to spit. You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat And eat three pounds of sausages at a go Or only bread and pickle for a week And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes. 

No. I knew her in her golden years. When the past was the past. When what was important was being with her grandbabies, having backyard cookouts, making Gumbo and NOT getting "shawted" on your meat. This is probably best, as I know that there is a life beyond the struggle. She came through strong and fighting for her ability TO BE GOLDEN. This is why I admire her so much, she made being old... look good. 
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry And pay our rent and not swear in the street And set a good example for the children. We must have friends to dinner and read the papers. 

Granted my struggles are nothing compared to hers. For one thing, I am on the other side of the Civil Rights Movement. For another and on a more specific note, I live in the house that she built for me, I have witnessed a healthy marraige between she and my Grandpa, I have seen the DOs and DON'Ts that she has done with her children. But most of all, I have learned that the journey is what is most important, not the destination. (I know it sounds like a bumper sticker, and probably is somewhere, but it's so true when you see it live and in person) In that way, she has given me a kick start and created an avenue for me to have it easier than she. My wish is that when I am old, we could somehow be old together, kickin ass and taking names in the Grocery stores of America.  But I realize that she has given me a legacy to live up to and with that a responsibility to uphold. I must not let her down. 
But maybe I ought to practice a little now? So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

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