Friday, May 08, 2009

A Kentucky Tale: "Becoming"

Last week, Kentucky ran up on me while I was sitting on the sofa watching television.

"Lisa, do you mind reading something for me?" she asked.

I blinked hard.

She is in school right now, getting a Masters in Childhood Education, and she sometimes wants me to proofread class assignments from time to time.

This, in spite of my wailings that science is my area of expertise. NOT education.

She doesn't care. What I say doesn't even register with her.

She thinks I know EVERYTHING.

"It's just a memoir, that's all," she explained. "It is only 3 pages long."

"Alright," I said. I was a tad bit annoyed, as I was watching a good movie and getting my crochet on. "Let me finish watching this movie, then I will take a look at it."

I read her work, and I found it quite delightful.

I didn't know the chick could write so well. I had the hardest time teaching her her ABC's when she was a child. I still think about that whenever she runs up on me for help with schoolwork. I suppose I thought she still had the same isshas, lol..

I guess not!

Her story really made me laugh, and relive a few memories.

I asked her if I could post it.

She said yes.

So, for your Friday, a short memoir piece by my little sister Kentucky.



I have yet another reminder from my Mama to give my Grandmama a call today.

I don’t drop by or talk to her as often as I should. I guess that comes with age, with being too busy.

I suppose she understands.

I often think back on the times spent with Grandmama, especially the times I combed and greased her scalp with blue Bergamot grease. She’d drink frozen milk with sliced peaches, and she’d doze off ever so often. Sometimes during these moments, she would softly call me by another name.

“Hey Lisa, oh… little Lisa. You look so much like your sister. That is why I call you Little Lisa.”

Grandmama would laugh and play it off as if I did not notice.

She also took me to vacation bible school and we would split a sprite and a hotdog during recess. She’d allow me to ask all the questions in the world, and with her soft spoken voice, she’d answer every last one.

I’ll never forget one particular day I spent with her, a day that changed my life.It was a warm summer morning, over a decade ago. I don’t remember the year.

“Get in the car and stop moving so slow!” Mama hissed. She did not carry me to the car that morning. She did not prepare our normal breakfast of grits, eggs, and bacon. She did not even pack us a lunch.

We must be running late, I thought to myself.

It was a very unusual start to a day.

Mama would go to work very early in the morning, and during the summer she would work late. I knew that morning she was tired, so I did not make a fuss. My brother Kari and I climbed into the front seat of the burgundy and gray Astro van and put on the seat belt. We always shared the front seat. Mama got into the van and blasted the air conditioner. Little beads of sweat fell from her forehead and formed around her top lip.

I shivered and rub my arms rapidly to warm them. “Mama, I am cold,” I said.

She did not respond. She pressed the buttons on the car phone as we backed out of the driveway. She was calling Grandmama to tell her we were on the way.

I grabbed my yellow baby blanket and covered myself and Kari. It was still dark outside.I wanted to go back to sleep, while we are on our way, but I couldn’t. I stayed awake and stared at the lights of the cars and passing highway lights.

Before long, Mama pulled up in front of Grandmama’s house. I jumped out of the van and helped my brother out. We grabbed our bag of toys that we each put into our own “Going-to-Grandma’s” suitcase. Mama handed me some money to give to Grandmama.

We climbed the red steps that led to the front door, my brother and I. Grandmama was holding the front door open. She wore the same blue and white robe she always wore every morning. Her hair was gray, more like white. She had on her glasses and her pink slippers.

Mama was talking to her but it sounded like mumbling to me. I didn’t hear a word, really, because Grandmamma had my full attention.

Something was different about her. I’d never seen this before.

She had no teeth!

I thought she had them like everyone else!

I could not take my eyes off of her.

I walked into the house and into the kitchen, where I sat down at the small round yellow table. I could not believe my eyes. I didn’t know what to say, or if I should say anything at all. My usual morning routine when I went to Grandma’s house was to go to sleep on the bench in my grandparent’s room. But not that day.

Kari obviously did not see what I saw because he was already laying on the bench fast asleep. Mama did not say anything. And I could not sleep.

Grandmama walked into the kitchen, her slippers sliding on the floor. She sat her bible on the kitchen table, and sat down in a chair across from me.

“Are you going to go back to sleep?” she asked.

She sounded funny. I think she knew she was missing her teeth, or maybe she did not.

She had them yesterday. I’m sure she would’ve noticed!

Oh, my goodness, I thought. I just had to spit it out, as I could not hold it any longer!

“Grandmamma, where are your teeth?” I asked.

She smiled, showing only her pink gums. “They are in the jar in the bathroom. I know I need to put them in, but I will do it a little later.”

I could not believe that she was being so nonchalant about it. It was really a big deal!

All she could say is that they were in a jar?

I was full of questions then.

She talked some more, but I didn’t hear a word. I was in a daze. It just didn’t seem right. Did my Granddaddy know about this or was it a secret? How long has she been without teeth?

I came out of my daze long enough to ask the question that had so quickly consumed me. “Grandmama, why are your teeth not in your mouth? Why can you take them out?”

She answered in the same funny sounding voice. Embarrassingly she said, “Well, I did not take care of my teeth when I was a young girl. I had to get these. My gums are irritated so that is why they are not in.”

I looked at her. I noticed that she is embarrassed because she covers her mouth. “Oh…okay,” I said, letting out a sigh of relief.

In the words of my Grandmama, I know that it is not” becoming” to continue the conversation.

Grandmamma rose from the table and retrieved two white coffee cups with the Delta Airlines symbol on them and pours coffee into them. The light is shining through the window of the kitchen and it is time for our morning cups of coffee.

“Grandmama, I only want two spoons of sugar and a little cream,” I said.

She pushed the sugar dish my way. “I don’t know why you like such dark coffee.”

The day was getting back to normal. I could not wait until Granddaddy woke up up so that we could have breakfast.

That day, Grandmama taught me that there is always something you did not know before. The world is full of wonders. This was the only time I remember her surprising me with any inconsistency. Her house, tone, and attitude had always been the same.

She always spoke about the importance of “becoming” a young lady, celebrating life instead of grieving, asking questions and seeking answers.

The End


  1. What a charming story. I could feel all the child's wonder in the telling of this story. She did a lovely job of making me feel what she was feeling as a child.

    AND I am so loving my it is still chilly here in New England

  2. @That Original Oldgirl BABZ... Ol' Kentucky done came a long way from struggling to learn her ABC's, haven't she? I thought she did a good job. And since I know how she is, I can imagine her staring hard at our grandma!

    I may tell of how I found out about grandma's dentures next week. It ain't as nice as this story.

    And it is getting hot outside soon, Ma! Put that doggone afghan up!!!

    LOL! Glad you are enjoying it!

  3. Awwee. I tell you what, I remember that damn blue grease. I used to have it put on my hair right before I got a hotcomb and that ish would fry my head up! I love the way she tied it all intogether with the teeth and a life story. And if nothing else, I hope she takes care of her teeth! Good job Kentucky!

  4. Awhhh that is a cute story. I'm pretty sure like Kentucky I would have asked for less sugar too,lol
    Its funny how as kids we are so observant!
    She did a wonderful job with the writing!

  5. Anonymous10:41:00 AM

    I see good storytelling runs in the family.

  6. That was such a nice story. I remember that blue grease also..back in the day when we used to "fry" our

  7. this was lovely,ahh the memories of 'blue grease' and learning that your grandma has no teeth :) Indeed, Ms.Kentucky has come a long way from her abc struggles. she writes well.

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