Thursday, March 15, 2007

MeMaw's Buttermilk

My MeMaw died Thursday morning around 8 a.m. after a wonderful 88 year life. She was fortunate in that she got to die in a home setting surrounded by the people who loved her and not in a hospital or nursing home surrounded by strangers. I am grateful for that.

The family has known for about two weeks now that this was coming, but that hasn't made accepting it any easier. When I was a kid and up until the last two weeks I was sure MeMaw would live to be a hundred...out of pure meanness if nothing else. She wasn't really mean...just ornery and set in her ways for every one of my 32 years. She seemed to be made of steel. Completely invincible. She was built low to the ground and was about as big around as she was tall. God, how I love her and am so much like her. She is where I get my spunk, fearlessness, sense of humor and forked tongue. She is also where I get my fat cheeks, double chin, wide ass and Irish temper. I think I inherited the very best traits that she had to pass on.

I have been flooded with memories that you never seem to recall until someone you love dies. I wonder what it is about death that makes you recall things you have not thought of in years?

I was MeMaw's 'favorite' if she could be said to have had such a thing among her four grandchildren. I keep remembering all of the neat stuff she used to do when we were kids. She used to save all of her pocket change in metal Band-Aid boxes and Sucrets boxes and give it to me when I would come over. She always had certs and other candy in church to give the kids when we would get fidgety. Whenever someone would tease me for sucking my thumb (I am a 12 year veteran...retired now for 20....although sometimes when I wake up my thumb is wet??) she would defend me and make them leave me alone. She always kept my favorite blanket that I liked to twiddle between my fingers when sitting in her lap and sucking my thumb. She gave it to me when I got pregnant with my first child and I still have it. Her nickname for me was 'Thang' from the time I was born.

I used to spend a lot of time at her house when I was a kid. I slept with her at night....although sleeping with MeMaw was a bit of an oxymoron. She snored like a buzz saw and there was little sleep to be had. I remember I used to poke her and tell her to quit snoring and from a near dead sleep she would say "Hush your mouth I don't snore."

She used to roll my hair for me when I was a kid, as she was rolling hers for the week. Unless she was going somewhere she always had those pink, prickly rollers on the top and sides of her hair and the back was twisted up in little knot and held in place with bobby pins.

Speaking of going somewhere....MeMaw never learned to drive her whole life. The story behind that is that when they were a young couple PePaw was trying to teach her how to drive and they came to a train track and a train was coming. It is rumored that he made her go across the track in front of the train and it scared her so bad she vowed to never get behind the wheel of any car again....and she made good on that promise. PePaw probably regretted that as he spent the rest of his life being her chauffer.

MeMaw was a godly woman who believed in the bible. She went to church every Sunday, Sunday night and Wednesday. If you were at her house, then you went too. I used to jokingly say that MeMaw loved everybody who was a Christian of the Church of Christ variety and an Auburn fan. Being an Alabama fan was the worst kind of sin in her eyes. God might forgive you for it but she sure wouldn't. You had to be a Church of Christ Christian and an Auburn fan to enter the pearly gates....of that, she was convinced.

I have been thinking about things like how, when I was a little kid MeMaw and PePaw would get out under the huge old oak tree in the front yard and make hominy from white corn in a giant, black iron kettle. About how MeMaw would always buy cherry and peach pies for me from Flowers Bread Store in Talladega and put them in the deep freezer for when I would come and visit. I liked them frozen. Other things she used to have on hand for me were home-canned dill pickles with onions in the bottom. She would simply open the quart jar and hand them over to me and never say a word as I sat and ate each pickle, ate the onions and drank the juice. She used to do the same thing with canned peaches and tomatoes.

One thing I can't get out of my head today is her home-churned buttermilk with little hunks of butter floating in it. I can almost taste it. I remember when I was a kid she would get the milk from her sister (Aunt Inez) who owned a dairy farm, and put it in the churn in front of the fireplace. At night she would sit in her rocking chair with the churn between her feet and churn while watching the news. Every speck of butter we ever ate at her house came from milk she churned. And the milk was the best....with little hunks of butter floating in it. I know some of you readers aren't from the South and, therefore, might not be familiar with the exquisite culinary delight of buttermilk and cornbread mixed together in a glass....but it was sublime eating with MeMaws buttermilk. Her cornbread too was one of a kind. She ground her own cornmeal so that there were little bits of corn husk in it. It was crunchy on top and bottom and soft in the middle. MMMMMMM......
It makes me sad beyond words that I will never get to drink Memaw's buttermilk and eat her cornbread again. That is a huge loss to the country world of culinary delights.

Another thing that occured to me was after the news went off Wheel of Fortune came on and my MeMaw and PePaw loved that show. PePaw used to sit in his recliner and comment on how pretty he thought Vanna White was. Why, he would even comment on her dress even though he did not have the faintest concept of fashion and cared nothing about her dress. He would comment on it to piss MeMaw off. He would say, "Now that's a pretty woman in a pretty dress" to which MeMaw would always respond "Looks to me like they run out of material before they finsihed sewing it." That still cracks me up. When my other grandmother died in 2005 I wore a dress to the funeral that MeMaw didn't approve of. She walked up to me when it was over and said, "Loretter, looks like somebody run out of material before they finished sewing your's $25 to get you a whole dress."

All the way up until last year my MeMaw had a garden. When PePaw was still alive they raised everything they ate. Beef, pork and chicken for meat and every vegetable and fruit you can possibly imagine. Every year when the harvest started coming in we would go and spend a few weeks at MeMaw's. We would sit on the back porch and shell purple hull peas and butterbeans until we were sure our thumbnails were going to detatch from our thumbs. If you have ever shelled beans then you know exactly what I am talking about.

All my life I can never remember visiting her house where she did not stuff me to the point of rupturing my gut with yummy food or leaving her house without being loaded down with food. Pounds of fresh farm raised beef, chicken and sausage, every frozen and canned veggie you can think of and dried apples, frozen and canned blackberries and peaches, frozen strawberries, jars of jam, jelly and hot pepper sauce for turnip greens. MeMaw put three hot meals on the table every day of the week. She didn't hold with cereal or sandwiches. When you sat down at her table you feasted on chicken fingers, creamed corn, turnip greens, purple hull peas, mashed potatoes, squash, okra, tomatoes and either cornbread or homemade rolls. No one will ever be able to make rolls like she did. I am getting hungry just thinking about it.

MeMaw only spanked me once in my 32 years. Generally, since I was the baby and a girl to boot, she let me get away with murder. The one time she got me was for painting her room with red lipstick. I was about 4 and she had to go to Anniston so she left her oldest son, Grady and my two older brothers to watch me. They didn't watch real well and I got into her room, got her bright red lipstick and painted everything but the ceiling. She tore me up! Then she realized that it was actually the fault of the three who were in charge of watching me and she went and tore their asses up too. She never raised her hand to me again.

MeMaw always kept her hands busy. She believed idle hands were a tool of the devil. For many years she would walk up the road to her brother's (Uncle John's house) and use the quilting frame in his basement. Finally, she got her front porch screened in and somebody built her a quilting frame at her house. She was a very skilled quilter and I have many quilts to show for it. She made me and my three siblings double bow tie quilts in our favorite college team colors. Two red and white for Alabama and two orange and blue for Auburn. She also made us rising star quilts and lots of flannel patchwork quilts. I still have all of mine and they keep me warm in the winter. When she wasn't busy quilting she was sewing buttons on clothes or hemming pants or letting the hem out of skirts.

Another thing about MeMaw was her mischevious streak. When we would stump our toes and have those huge hunks of skin hanging off the end and be bleeding like crazy she would ask "Did it hurt?" and through tears so hard they made us snub, snort and gasp for breath we would say "" and she would grin say "I didn't feel a thang!" Don't ask me why for I never asked and she never elaborated...but that was her in a nutshell.

She always had a forked toungue too. Still had one right up until the day she died, as a matter of fact. When I was about 11 my grandfather had one of those giant satellite dishes installed. You know, the kind so big they look like maybe you could use them to contact aliens across distant galazxies? Anyway, MeMaw gave me the remote one day and I flipped it to MTV where my current heart throb, Jon Bon Jovi, was wiggling and gyrating around on stage. I commented about how good looking I thought he was and Me Maw said, "Where at...under his clothes?"
While visiting her last week I was watching TV with her and some handsome actor came on the screen. I said, "Now there's a nice looking man...ain't he MeMaw?" and even with a leaky heart, failing kidneys and around her oxygen tube she popped right out with, "Where at...under his clothes?" Never missed a beat.

God, how I am going to miss her. I don't know what comes after death. I am not religious and do not believe in any religious text or the idea of an afterlife. I hope for MeMaw though that she is in the place she always imagined she would go when she died and that she is at peace and with PePaw again after 14 years.

I love you MeMaw and cannot believe you are gone. The next few days will be very rough on those of us that loved you. I dread going to your house and you not being there. That just ain't right. I have been crying since yesterday when I got the news, but it won't really hit until I get to your house, which has that distinctive MeMaw house smell, and for the first time in my life you won't be there to greet me and set me down at your table for a fried apple pie or slip my kids a few dollars or gripe about their hair being too long. I'd give a lot today to hear you tell me to take my kids and "get that ol' long mess cut off their head." I'd give an awful lot.

You are loved and will be missed dearly. Thank you for all the love you gave me in my life. I miss you.

Love Always,


Anonymous said...

May you and your family find peace and comfort as you remember those happy times with your MeMaw.

Anonymous said...

I am deeply sorry for your loss.