A small tribute to my paternal grandparents, who celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in August.
***Someday, when my children ask me to tell them about the good old days, I will smile and attempt to tell them of summers spent with Papaw and Granny.
I will inadequately describe just how itchy, hot, and sticky it is to work your way down rows of green beans, corn and peas. They will not be able to comprehend how long it takes to shuck, shell or snap through a season’s crop. Pity the poor things; they will probably never be able to truly appreciate the resulting satisfaction of a meal of homegrown vegetables or the taste of grape juice squeezed fresh from the vine.
I will fondly recall evenings spent chasing ‘lightning bugs’ with Granny and the unexpected thrill of catching baby bunnies. Granny was always patient and feigned excitement, no matter the size and shape of the creatures we dragged in. She would help us fix up a box for a temporary home and then gently convince us to release the sad, traumatized things at day’s end.
Unlike kids these days, we poor Chambers grandchildren only got to indulge ourselves properly in cable television on trips to Granny and Papaw’s. Whether it was rising unusually early to catch the morning cartoons or enjoying a bowl of ice cream with Papaw for a late-night western, we must have worn holes into the tan spinning armchair that saved our spot in front of the old Zenith television. References to icy pops and Oatmeal Crème Pies will probably be lost on my children, but I’ll tell them all the same how no trip to the local Food Valu was ever complete without such treats.
The best toys also resided at Granny’s house, where long-loved remnants of my father’s and uncles’ days were stored. Instead of boring old Ken, Barbie had wild romantic adventures with G.I. Joe and Johnny West. And though Granny kept the toy closet stocked with girlish favorites like Pretty, Pretty Princess, it was at her house we first learned to love Battleship and Lincoln Logs.
On particularly hot days when the garden wasn’t calling our names, Granny would set up her craft supplies and we’d do ceramics or any number of other crafts. To this day I have a collection of comical attempts recording our visits through the years, a product of each successful visit. But we all knew that Granny was happiest in her kitchen. She would toil away faithfully to put meals on the table and keep our tummies full of chocolate chip cookies, which we dutifully consumed. And while it was always a thrill to help, we’d often sneak away to peek in on Papaw.
Papaw was happiest tinkering away in the heat, whether in the field or his wood shop. I am saddened to think that my children may not be able to appreciate the wonders of a proper woodshop. That they will not know the slightly-burnt smell of freshly spliced pine as it comes out of the saw, new shavings splayed in piles about the floor. Later in life, Papaw has found a new love: tractors. We grandchildren have admiringly traced the details of these antique wonders and squealed in delight as we took them for a spin about their large front yard. Perhaps when the time comes, Papaw will show my children his newest creations and half-finished treasures hidden among the sheds and sawhorses.
Of one thing I am certain, my children will experience the common Chambers initiation which every child, in-law and near-enough family friend has undergone: skiing. Each child will be dutifully dunked in whatever river, lake or dam and coaxed, coached and cajoled as they are dragged through (and consume countless gallons of) the water until at last they rise victoriously, if only for a few shaky moments before collapsing. And they will know the satisfaction that comes from reaching this momentous milestone, with full support from each and every other excited (and relieved) boat passenger lucky enough to share in the occasion. It is my fervent prayer that at that time, whether 80 or 90, Papaw will still be able to hop out of the boat and show ‘em how it’s done, as he so ably did this summer.
I didn’t spend my summers witnessing spectacular romantic gestures, extraordinary acts of chivalry, or wild outpourings of admiration between Papaw and his “Sugie.” Life probably didn’t seem so glamorous and magical for them at the time, and I’m sure there were many instances of frustration, disappointment and anger that passed over my young head. I can even remember a few times that did not. But for me, life at Papaw and Granny’s was a magical and fantastic time during which I, like their children and many children to follow, reaped the benefits of a loving family and a home built steadily on Christian morals, hard work ethic, and Southern comfort. Those are the timeless principles I have been blessed to observe, and what truly made these good, old days.
They are the same principles that will make coming days worth living for me and my children. Thank you, Granny and Papaw for your example 50 years in the making.