GENDUSA COLUMN: Those summers of simple delight

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, July 26, 2023

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After living through many summers, it is not the fabulous vacations I recall in detail but the days I spent at Grandpa’s house. Grandpa, as many of you know, is my maternal grandmother. She earned the moniker from her first grandchild because he deemed her wonderful. *

Each summer, I stayed with Grandpa for at least two weeks. Other cousins would also come in and out, providing laughter and chaos in her humble home. Her refrigerator door could barely close because she stocked it with everyone’s favorite foods. My cousin, Pat, only ate Pork & Beans, which she bought by the case and lined in her cupboard. She knew Pat wouldn’t survive without his beans.

I woke up each summer morning to the sound of a train whistle as it rumbled past the lumber mill. I ambled toward the kitchen where Grandpa stood in her apron, hands covered in flour, preparing to roll out her famous biscuits. 

“Grandpa, nobody makes biscuits like you do!” 

“Honey, I’ve been making these same biscuits every morning for as long as I can recall. There ain’t nothin’ to it.” She humbly replied.

She lied. Those biscuits slathered in butter with her homemade grape jelly were magical. When those in the supposedly know said lard wasn’t good for us, I wondered how my grandmother lived to be 97? See, magical.

After breakfast, we went fishing before it got “too hot and the fish got too lazy.” Armed with her tackle box, bonnet, worms, and folding chair, we sat off to catch Granddaddy Bass. “Shoot, ain’t nobody been able to catch that old beast!” We all thought that fish was at least as big as a car, by how she described him.

We never saw Granddaddy Bass, but we all understood Grandpa knew everything about finned critters laying low in the water.

Truth is, Grandpa caught the monster many times but threw it back in her pond for one of us to find him. It also kept us fishing with our favorite kid, our grandmother.

Sundays began at The Baptist Church, followed by an abundant dinner or a picnic at Tennessee’s Cumberland State Park. Nothing was like one of those summer Sundays when bugs or kids tried to steal a piece of fried chicken before lunch. It was fun watching Grandpa chase all the pests away with her apron. One Sunday at the park, a bee began to pursue me and caught me right in the lip. 

“Where’s John’s tobacco!” She yelled. As my lip began to swell, I thought she would make me smoke my Granddaddy’s pipe, but she was trying to use the tobacco to make a poultice to suck out that poison.  My lip took over my face when she couldn’t locate her husband. She was a bit miffed to learn he was off smoking his pipe. 

Grandpa’s garden produced the best watermelon one could imagine. And when they were ripe, her carless carport hosted the annual watermelon feast. Lots of folks gathered and formed a line with paper plates in hand. 

On one such feast day, I kept reminding her, “Grandpa, I don’t want a big piece.” I continued telling her in case she forgot when it was my turn. I must have been about eight, and after finally reaching her, she cut a piece so thin you could read through it. I looked puzzled as folks began to laugh.

“Child, I ain’t hard of hearing; I heard you the first time of the ten times you told me.” I realized then that we can get on a person’s nerves even if they love you. She laughed and finally gave me a wee bit bigger piece. 

Grandpa loved going to the big A & P grocery on a Saturday morning. She was raised by her widowed mother, and even though they had abundant love, they didn’t have much money. To be able to buy cans of Pork & Beans was a blessing she never took for granted. 

Today, going to the grocery store is not my favorite pastime. Yet, when I close my eyes and see Grandpa’s face at the wonder of the A & P, I realize how spoiled we probably all are. 

All kids, including Grandpa, loved the local 5 & 10 Stores back then. She would head to the candy counter as I searched for the baby dolls. When I found a treasure, I would yell, “Grandpa, come here!” 

Once, a lady came by, “Honey, there are no men in the store, are you lost?” I could not understand why she didn’t know my Grandpa, the most wonderful woman in the world. 

 I hope she blessed you with a smile this summer day.

*Google “Her Name was Grandpa!” by Lynn Gendusa.