“This is EPIC!” The frenzied proclamation came from one of the 13 children who had just been crushed in back-to-back arm wrestling contests with very a competitive and surprisingly strong seventy-year-old woman. As Aunt Barbie rolled up her sleeves one of the children yelled “Kick His Butt Grandma!” These great kids don’t just tolerate their elders, they honor them by enjoying their company, and by rightly declaring Grandma is ‘Legit’ in arm wrestling!
The weekend began with a family reunion which my husband’s annoyingly fit, very organized, and equally fabulous family planned surrounding the local half-marathon. Family members from 8 to 71 clocked some very impressive times. Why were they all running so fast you ask?
The night before the big race, the family held an incredibly rowdy Calcutta at the local Country Club (from which we are probably now banned). The runners, including children, were auctioned off to the highest bidder. The 1st thru 3rd place owners split 90% of the pot. The remaining 10% of the money wagered was donated to the church of which my husband is Pastor. I’ll admit, everything about what I’ve just written is probably “all-kind-of-wrong” but, for our family – it works!
Following the post-race awards ceremony, taco truck feast and arm wrestling competition, we hopped into our car and drove down to LA to spend two days with my family. When mom opened the door we were hit with the fragrance of BBQ chicken, yams, collard greens and green beans. Here lies the difference between my family and my husband’s family. My family’s gatherings are loosely organized and are anchored by Epic Sunday meals. We know how to pace ourselves, savor the food and the conversation, embrace the calories, sugar and butter and have a good time together – sedentary and gluttonous with gluten. The only marathons we enjoy involve third helpings and the television (in which my brother is the master of the remote)!
Two of my mother’s best friends joined us for the feast. The conversation we were privy to could only come from three African American women in their late 70s who spent their formative years in rural Mississippi and Louisiana. Mom’s friend Mrs. P lived so far back into the Louisiana woods that it was technically Texas.
The ladies began their conversation espousing the virtues of Blue Bell Ice Cream and freshly gathered Pecans. They all agreed upon the fact that Black Walnuts freshly fallen from the trees were the hardest nuts to crack but were well worth the effort.
After a few minutes of conversational pleasantries, the country-time smack talk reached its full hyperbolic force. My mom and Barbara said that their grandmothers burned rags to create smoke to drive away the mosquitoes. Barbara had fond memories of frolicking in the smoke by jumping thru it. My mom remembered her grandmother taking a smoking rag and waving it around her head to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Mrs. P snarled, “Burn rags?! Are you kidding me?” “We didn’t burn no rags, we had to use our rags to make rag quilts to keep us warm at night.”
Mom, while reflecting upon her favorite country breakfast of smoked ham and grits mentioned the mule which was used to grind the meal. Mrs. P shot back, “Hummph! What you talking about? Ham for meat?! We didn’t have ham! We were so hungry during the winter, we didn’t use the mule, we ate the mule!”
Mom mused, “what about chickens? Did your family order chickens from a catalog?” Barbara said smiling, “Yes, I think they ordered them from the Sears Catalog.” Mom agreed, “mine too” then added “they had to order at least 100 because some of the chickens wouldn’t survive the bus ride.” Mrs. P, “what bus ride?” Mom insisting, “You know, they used to put those chickens in boxes with holes in them and load them with the luggage on the Greyhound.” Barbara nodding, “or the Trailways.” Mrs. P, “our chickens didn’t get delivered we had to walk to pick them up!” Mom continued, “after we got the chickens from the Greyhound Bus, we would keep them in the chicken coop so they would stay nice and warm during the winter.” Barbara, “we did too, until they made a law that made it illegal for us to have chickens.” Mrs. P: “Chicken coop keeping chickens warm?! Shoot, we had to tear the chicken coop down and burn the coop to keep the family warm during the winter! Ain’t no chickens made it through the winter at our house!”
As we left the house, Mrs. P and Barbara chimed with warm smiles, “you guys take care of those handsome boys.” Granny gave the boys big hugs while they loaded the loot she had purchased for them from her local toy store. Breaking the silence within the car as we entered the freeway on ramp, one of the boys remarked, “this was a super fun weekend!”
This comment sincerely spoken from the heart may not be what one would expect to hear from a ten year old boy who has just spent four days filled with multi-generational encounters. After this weekend, I am convinced that God intended us to live our lives in this manner. Surrounded by villagers of every age who add joy and value to our lives and whose lives are brighter because we have touched them.
I realize that not everyone has family members who can come together as our families do, but everyone can choose to spend time with those of another generation – family or not. Who knows, you just might get your butt kicked by a grandma or learn about chickens who ride on Greyhound buses.
Your Granny may not be from the country club or the country, but I’d love to hear about her here. Leave a comment and share about a story or two about the Grandma in your life!
Until next time…Fly high and dazzle ’em!
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“Honor Your Father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”