By Cherimie Crane Weatherford
We all have a manner in which we navigate the storms of life. Our methods of survival vary as wildly as the tumultuous winds themselves. Some find reprieve in social support while others turn to quiet corners until the turmoil subsides. As a child when the undesirable occurred, my small feet played a familiar cadence through the rye grass fields straight to the door step of my hero. Time has changed so much; however, that well-traveled path from my childhood home to hers is as clear as her crystal blue eyes. If there is another human capable of untangling my most complicated of days, it is my grandmother, proud Mary, my Mammaw.
My heart can write novels that carefully pay homage to her life, her resiliency and our striking similarities in both the good and the confusing. She is but an honest reflection of my personality, my character and my ability to frustrate a tree stump. Everything that infuriates those that love her rages through my veins like the muddy Mississippi.
The distance is but a complication as I can hear her advice as loudly as if my dirty feet had just crossed her threshold. No coddling could be found, no tears encouraged and no pity given. She spoke a language I understood even when she didn’t speak. Never sugar coating the obvious or making excuses for short comings, Mary would look straight through me as she would say the one phrase that would howl with the wind throughout any storm I faced. Paying no mind to whatever my complaint, she simply would say, “are you gonna whine, worry or work? It’s a choice and the only choice that matters.” Knowing better than to expect anything different, my response was always ‘Yes mam’. And that was that.
Day in and day out I would rush to her side not for cookies, candy or toys, but to hand her whatever tool she needed to build whatever it was she was building. We repaired fences, we repaired mowers and we grew closer with each challenge. She didn’t resemble other grandmothers. Her hands were often covered in stain, chapped and cracked. She smelled of pine and paint thinner. She expected me to lend a hand and required more from me than anyone I knew. No allowance was made for my size, my age and certainly not my gender. What an enigma. Quietly we communicated in our odd way, no words necessary just completing task after impossible task. As the fields turned deep navy and the stars beckoned, she would smile and say it was a good day. Racing against the moon and Momma’s displeasure at tardiness, that well-worn path led me home. Contentment and pride replaced any disappointment of the day, as Mammaw and I worked our way through life’s little quandaries.
Needing that comfort, that quiet communication this week I found myself refinishing a time worn antique table. In the midst of the busiest of weeks, the hardest of days I found solace in the impossible task. The world quieted, the doubts subsided as I did that which she taught me using only my hands, my memories and her words tucked in my heart. Each stroke reminded me of who I am and reassured me of my path. As if we were rocking on her weathered porch, the sound of the sandpaper crackling beneath my hands wrapped around me like a warm blanket. Hours and hours passed as the forgotten furniture reclaimed its glory. I striped the neglect. I enhanced the grain. With a little time, patience and quiet communication the unused table once again has purpose. Whatever storm was brewing was calmed by finding purpose, joy and the sweet memory that is a grandmother and her grandchild. My project is finished and my bags are packed. It is time to walk that path with her namesake great granddaughter and let another small hand give proud Mary a few tools. God bless grandparents and their forever stain on the hearts of their grandchildren. The world needs more Mary’s, more expectation and maybe even more rye grass.