Lately I’ve been thinking about my great grandmother. She was the fearless woman who drove our family, who forced you to wake up and go to church on Sunday- even if you stayed up all night making potions with the shampoos and body lotions stolen from hotels. She was the woman who made sure you had supper every night by 5 pm and who made you mind your parents and scoffed when you talked back.
When I was young, my father and I lived with my great grandmother for a while, enjoying her company every night, watching game shows with her and hearing the gentle sound of her needles click together as she knitted. If you were bored throughout the day, you could lay in her sewing room on mountains of loose fabric and watch as she gently glided the fabric threw the sewing machine. The sweaters pictured are one’s she hand knitted, one for the two of us for Christmas. She was thoughtful, compassionate and head strong.
Sometimes, what I think about is the regret I feel. I was young, sure, but I look back and realize what I did not appreciate. The things you take for granted as a child such as having hand knitted sweaters or a delicious meal, but not understanding how it came to be. I think about how I don’t know how to sew or knit, but had someone who could have taught me all those years. I think about my favorite meal of all time, her soup beans and corn bread. To this day I have cravings for it and no one can make it quite like her. Placing the corn bread in the middle of the bowl and covering it with as much soup beans you could fit. I always added an extra piece of corn bread on the side because I could never have enough.
Along with our soup beans and corn bread, or sometimes spinach (which I always threw out), we would have warmed up apple sauce, heated on the stove with cinnamon in it. I made this treat for myself a few months back, heating up my apple sauce in the microwave, which isn’t the same as the stove-sorry, Granny- and my husband looked at me as if I had lost my mind.
“Who eat’s heated up apple sauce?” he said. Of course, my reply, “I do, duh”. But I was reminded in that moment of how different our upbringings are; of how your geographical location plays such a role in how you speak, the clothes you wear, the food you eat, what you believe in and so much more. Sometimes I think about my Granny, about those soup beans and corn bread that were a staple in my upbringing, about the apple sauce I still heat up today and about the knitting skills I wish so badly that I had and I appreciate where I came from and how it shaped me as a woman today.
I used to hate where I grew up- the simplicity of it, the sameness. There was no diversity, everyone farmed and wore cowboy boots to school. Everyone lived in the small little town for generations and grew up riding on the back roads and going to the smallest little movie theatre or walking aimlessly through the 10 store mall. I pondered what it would be like to grow up in Italy, to walk the open halls of a California school on a sunny day, or speak another language. My husband and I grew up just an hour and a half drive apart from each other, but my area was the western foothills of Appalachia, a vastly different upbringing than Northern Ohio.
As I’ve explored more of the world, moved away, and met new people with different backgrounds and experiences, I’ve had the opportunity to look back on all of the unique experiences I was afforded and how these have shaped me. I wanted for so long to strip these parts of me away, to immediately change the way I spoke when I went to college and say I was from a different part of Ohio. What I have learned is how so much of me has been molded by my hometown, by all of the people who speak in the elongated O’s, just like I do, by the people who eat Soup Beans and Corn Bread. To my Granny, thank you for teaching me about Soup Beans and Corn Bread and for making me a weirdo for loving warm apple sauce. Thank you for all of the thoughtful gifts you handmade for me. I only wish I appreciated them more when you were around.