For a child, a grandmother can be as enchanting as a fairy tale heroine. Her place in the hierarchy of the family is the most beloved and admired. My grandmother, aka Nanny, was no exception. She was colorful, eccentric and very opinionated. What I looked forward to the most, on visits to her house, was to go inside her closet, and admire rows and rows of her shoes. I would spend an entire afternoon prancing around in a beaded pump or a leopard boot.
She wasn’t the type of grandmother that sent you birthday cards or attended your ballet recital. By the time I came along, she had ten other grandchildren and an ostentatious lifestyle. She gave lavish Christmas parties for her family and entertained everyone with her piano playing.
As a young adult and aspiring writer, I asked her if she had ever thought about writing her life story. Her zest for life was infectious and it seemed the story of her life would be full of pleasantries and happy times. She said many people had asked her that question. I naively inquired if she wanted to write her story with me. She seemed amused and replied, “If you are up to it”, then she laughed.
I had no idea what I was about to become privy to, nor did I expect to hear such intimate details. I had high expectations of what her life must have been like. I was not prepared for the tales of horrific relationships with men and the neglect bestowed upon her and her children. With pen in hand, I asked her to recall her first memory.
"You was livin' here when you got pregnant and you will live here now. The hell with what people are gonna say...."
"What in the Sam hill is a doobie? If it's anything like a boobie, I don't see how we could smoke that"....
"I put my hands on his chest and tried to push him away from me. He grabbed the collar of my blouse, and it ripped. He hesitated, and I took a few steps in an attempt to run".......
Listen to Annie Mae playing the piano.....
"I've always been a strong person. I didn't fall to pieces or have nervous breakdowns like some women did. I was taught to fall down on my knees and pray."
The last thing I remember was the the sound of a fiddleand the words, "Dinah, there's nobody finer".
"Well I've heard that one a time or two. I'm sure you haven't forgotten, you are husband #5 for me. I should have know better than to get married again."
"The kids and I go back to the bar, and proceed to turn that place into a shelter. I nailed boards across the doors and windows."