My Grandmama and Granddaddy were the quintessential grandparents. When I was a little girl, I was often surprised when I saw pictures of friends’ grandparents and they did not look like Grandmama and Granddaddy. Grandmama always wore a dress and was a master cook, seamstress, and hostess. She used to say she could fill her house from top to bottom with the number of pound cakes she’d made over the years. It seemed she was always working on an afghan or baby booties for someone she knew. She was generous, loving yet firm, and unknowingly quite funny.
Granddaddy was a preacher, having been ordained in the Primitive Baptist Church in 1939, and preached up until he left this world in 1999. I never saw him in anything but a button down shirt, dress pants and dress shoes, and he wore a fedora even in the 1990’s. When I was very young I often imagined that Santa must be a lot like Granddaddy (except, of course, Santa had a beard, a red velvet hat, and owned reindeer). Even to this day when I read the verse in Twas the Night Before Christmas about Santa’s twinkling eyes and his jolly laugh that made his belly shake like a bowl full of jelly, I still think of Granddaddy. Granddaddy was quite jolly, his eyes often twinkled, and he had the most wonderfully hearty laugh.
I have numerous memories of Grandmama and Granddaddy. I remember our weekly visits at their house on Sunday afternoons. I remember Grandmama always had a baggie of marshmallows and other little candies in her purse when I went to church with them. I remember the feel of their sofa and sitting next to Grandmama as her hands rapidly worked the yarn and crochet needle with effortless meticulousness. I remember Granddaddy sitting in his easy chair studying his Bible and humming hymns.
My most treasured stories involving my grandparents occurred years before I was even born. Grandmama and Granddaddy were a young married couple raising their children during the Great Depression. Although I would never want to label or oversimplify anyone, I do feel that this fact alone summarizes so much of who they were. They were strong, principled, hard working, sacrificing, and faith-filled individuals who loved God, country, and family. They married in 1928 and in 1931 purchased 14 acres in Conley, Georgia. Granddaddy immediately began working on the small brick house that would house five children, welcome 17 grandchildren, over 30 great grandchildren, and countless house guests, and host numerous family gatherings over the next 66 years. Granddaddy had immense faith in God’s provision and care, and it was this faith that carried them through very difficult times.
In the middle of the Depression, work was hard to come by and sometimes Granddaddy would walk seven miles to the nearest streetcar, take the streetcar into town to work at whatever job he’d learned was hiring, and then walk the seven miles home at the end of the day. During a particularly lean period, Granddaddy learned that the government was giving out flour and other supplies in a town eleven miles away. He decided to go after giving it much thought, but while walking to Jonesboro, his heart was heavy and unsettled with receiving what he saw as a handout. After prayer and thought, he decided to turn around and walk home believing that God’s faithfulness was greater and would do more to meet his needs than any government issued flour and lard.
Some years after this incident, someone asked Granddaddy, “Why do you have such a big yard to mow and care for?” Granddaddy replied, no doubt with a twinkle in his eye and a peace-filled smile on his face, “It’s for the angels encamping round about.”
In particularly trying times, I reflect often on this story. I picture that little house and the spirit of peace and comfort covering it. I picture that dear man and woman living life and surviving trials and difficulties all the while placing their faith and trust in something Greater, and I remind myself that that is my spiritual DNA. That strength and faith lies within me and is there for the taking. I hold onto that image of Granddaddy walking that long road and of him gazing out over his conscientiously cared for acreage, and it gives me encouragement and hope. It reminds me that I have present help in times of trouble. It reminds me to lift my eyes and remember from whence cometh my help.
Our memories are powerful. Images, people, places, and things fill our memories and provide us with hope and courage to face the trials and unknowns in our lives. These memories become almost like visual mantras that we can call to mind in our downtrodden moments. We can play these images over and over in our minds gleaning the strength we need to face another day or walk another mile.
What are the memories or stories that give you hope and encouragement? What is a visual mantra you could create today?
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:4-8