My grandmother has a unique way of expressing herself. It’s not always the statement itself that catches you off guard, but the inappropriateness. Her style is much like the twitter and TV show, $#*! My Dad Says.
Grandmother was raised on a dirt farm. She married a nice young man who sold 18-wheelers for a living. He did well and they were able to afford a nice house where they raised their three children, had a membership to the country club, and purchased a new Cadillac every few years. But as they say, you can take the girl out of the dirt farm, but you can’t take the dirt farm out of the girl. Thank goodness. Since Grandmother was always demanding to be the center of attention, and was attractive enough to command that attention, I privately nicknamed her “Scarlet.” Following are some Scarlet moments.
Scarlet assumed any repairman who came to the house was ignorant. One evening she was telling us how she spent HOURS instructing some poor man about how to repair her water heater, ending with the statement, “Well, he was as dumb and blank as any old billy-goat you ever tried to talk to.”
Not sure if she just made that up on the fly, or if that was a legitimate colloquialism. I have never been brave enough to throw that out in public myself, although there have been times when it would have applied. I think I have to wait until at least age 65 before I start throwing around comments like that.
I’m sad to say I can’t recall exactly in what reference she used the following expression. I believe it was during the same conversation about the water heater repairman. “It was like watching a possum up a gum stump.” I am not clear about what THAT means, but it does appear in song lyrics dating back to at least the 1930s. As the rest of the song talks about ‘coons and huntin’ dogs, I remain at a loss. Perhaps she made this statement to the repairman and he then looked at her “…as dumb and blank as any old billy-goat you ever tried to talk to.” That, I can understand.
Another aspect of Scarlet was her attitude about race. At one point we were talking about a maid who worked for my mother. Nothing scandalous, just a comment about asking her to help out during a baby shower or some such. Scarlet turned to my friend and leaned in to share a confidence. I took a step closer to them, alarm bells already going off in my head, just in time to hear, “I don’t know if you’ve ever had any dealings with…” Scarlet cast a sideways glance to see who might be overhearing and continued in a stage whisper, “Mexicans…” My friend’s eyes grew large and I could see her face twitch as she struggled to repress laughter. Thanks, Sandy, for keeping a straight face.
At a baby shower my mother hosted, friends were admiring family photos arranged on a table near where my grandmother was sitting. A woman innocently commented on one photo in particular, saying something complimentary about the children pictured. “Who is this?” she asked, turning the photo toward Scarlet. Knowing full well the portrait was my stepfather’s children and grandkids, Scarlet shrugged and replied, “Oh, those are HIS people.” The implication that they were deserving of no recognition was not lost on the observers, who quickly retreated to the other side of the room and refrained from commenting on any other photos, lest they compliment someone who was not blood related.
If confronted with any of these comments today, I’m certain Grandmother would not take any of them back. She is unashamed by her judgements. This news might distress her grandson’s previous girlfriends, “Ugly Face” and “Ugly Mouth,” but the rest of us are used to her and really wouldn’t have it any other way. It certainly makes family gatherings more interesting. I can’t think of any other time when my eyes are so bright, or my coloring so high.