If you read my column and are about to read it, you are going to read something I originally wrote on October 7, 2002. In my book, “Life on the Gnat Line,” it’s on page 517 toward the end of the book and in the part of my book I call “Gold Star Columns.” For some reason, Grandma has been on my mind a lot, lately. Read my column, and I think you will see why. Here goes:
The shoes. One of my enduring memories is of her shoes. They were either dark blue or black with squatty heels and sometimes buckles and sometimes laces. She wore them, except on Sundays, without socks or stockings. The shoes were what we today would call “grandma shoes.” I can see her in my memory coming around the corner of her modest frame house in her cotton dress — probably made from a feed sack — her hair in a bun, with hoe or broom brush in hand, and in her “grandma shoes.” A kinder, gentler woman never lived and she loved me and all of her family very deeply. She would be amazed to know that over 38 years after her death someone was writing a column about her — something, save a brief obituary, that never happened in her 74 years on this earth.
She was Josephine May until she married David Flournoy Walker in 1889 and then she was Josephine Walker. But, what I heard her called most often outside the immediate family was “Aunt Jodie.” It was not until I was grown that I understood why my grandparents were to so many “Uncle David” and “Aunt Jodie.” You see, Papa had 15 brothers and sisters and Grandma had 10 or 12, resulting in many nieces and nephews. My father, Cohen Walker, told me that he had “living at one time 76 first cousins.” No wonder, I thought as a child, that “Uncle” and “Aunt” were parts of their names.
Grandma and Papa lost a 15 year old son, Clyde, to a hunting accident, and I heard through the years that Grandma never really got over this. Perhaps that was why she was so determined that her other two children, Lillian and Cohen, would get an education. Both got college degrees and both started their careers as schoolteachers.
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Grandma made wonderful peach tarts. She liked her iced tea very sweet and with “plenty of ice.” She knew I liked strawberries and saw to it that I got these home-grown delicacies often, with plenty of sugar — how good! Her most valuable possession was probably a standard upright piano and while she didn’t play, some of her grandchildren did. She loved to gather the family around the piano for singing hymns.
She helped with the hog killing, syrup making and other farm and household chores. She read her Bible and the Sunday School material regularly. She was a faithful member of Pine Hill United Methodist Church. She liked to fish, and to cook and eat fish. Also, she liked barbeque. She didn’t have a mean or pretentious bone in her body. She was sweet — just like her iced tea.
Outside her family, I believe Grandma loved her flowers as much as anything in her life. Her beds of zinnias, nasturtiums, roses, amaryllises, camellias, petunias, and others rimmed her grass-free swept yards and she called on me to help hoe and weed — which I didn’t like to do. She also told me to help keep the chickens out of the flower beds — which I did like to do.
I said she was kind. Once, she spanked me. Probably not hard enough to break an egg. Then she must have apologized 15 times for this punishment saying “Larry, you are the only grandchild I ever spanked.” Let me tell you why I got this punishment. Grandma and Papa had an open well. She caught me looking into the well. Afraid I might fall in, she forbade me to “look in the well.” When she went around the corner, back to the well I went, resulting in corporal punishment! Six grandchildren, many years, one deserved spanking.
Grandma, I am sorry I looked into the well when you told me not to. I wish I had been more willing to help you get the nut grass out of the flower beds. I regret that I did not thank you more for the peach tarts and strawberries. I wish I had been more cooperative when you asked me to sing hymns with you. But I did love you very much, and I think you knew that. I know that you were a wonderful grandmother, and I forgive you for the deserved spanking you gave me. I miss you and look forward to our being together, again, some day.
Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: email@example.com.