In today’s culture of constant entertainment, where wants are frequently confused with needs and where the “toxic” label easily dismisses family — I want to pay tribute to a bygone era. My dad was one of eleven siblings raised in a hardscrabble existence of poverty. Sad story? Nope.
I only have faint memories of my grandfather, who died when I was still very young. However, this big, crazy family was held together for decades by one tiny firecracker of a woman, my grandmother. She’s been on my mind a lot lately, so I reached out to my cousins (a few dozen) to ask them to share memories and thoughts about this lady we all loved so deeply.
My very first memory in life is the warmth and comfort of being rocked to sleep. Except Maw didn’t use a rocking chair. Instead, she sat in an old cain bottomed straight-back chair and “bumped” babies to sleep — picking up and gently dropping the front two legs of the chair in a soothing bumping motion. I can remember the heavy-lidded feeling of a toddler fighting sleep and the lull of the rhythmic motion.
She died in 2009, just shy of her 90th birthday. From my earliest memories, Maw’s house was the central gathering place for, at minimum, weekly gatherings. Though it was a small country house, it never felt crowded as her kids, spouses, and children of their own in tow came over for supper and a night of playing a domino game called “42.” Yes, I said supper. There were three meals a day at Maw’s house — breakfast, dinner, and supper. Dinner was served at noon for those not lucky enough to be from the South.
We kids were expected to remain outside while the adults piled around folding tables, laughing, talking, gossiping, and teasing. We didn’t know it then, but looking back, many of us agree those were some of the best memories of our lives.
Presiding over all the chaos was the rock around which the rest of the family flowed — Maw, aka Maw-maw, to the younger children. To the best of my recollection, she never raised her voice. She couldn’t have been more than 5'3, but she didn’t need volume or size to reign over her brood.