I remember as a little girl running around my maternal great grandmother’s house like I was at Disney World. There were so many rooms to play in and the attic was huge! Hat boxes, dresses, monograms, pearls! Everything one could imagine to be the typical southern belle’s home. Then I would go to my paternal great grandmother’s home and it wasn’t so big and there was no attic, monograms, or pearls. There was nothing special about the physical structure she called home. Yes, my great grandmothers came from opposite ends of the social strata. No doubt about that; however, both were wonderful southern ladies who taught me about everything from cooking to quilting.
Let’s start with food! Good old southern cooking that didn’t require a recipe but did require an apron. Always an apron. I remember my mom wouldn’t let me cook a lot because she could do it much quicker than I but my grandmothers were patient and allowed me to mess up and clean up! One grandmother had a recipe for a Coca-Cola cake and to this day I’ve yet to taste one quite like hers. I have no idea what she did to it to make it so wonderful but it was like edible glitter and heaven all rolled into one. She would be so patient with me as I tried to stir the flour, sugar, salt, and other ingredients together. She and I really loved our time in the kitchen. The other grandmother could make biscuits that would melt in your mouth. Add the chocolate gravy she could make and you were in sugar coma. Sun beams would shine down in that lady’s kitchen when those two dishes would make an appearance.
Another lost art the two saints taught me was how to sew. They were both born in the days of making your own clothes and blankets. Now we as a society just throw something away because it ages or needs mending and go buy something new. How quick would we be to throw something away if we made it? I’m not sure if they were helping me or I was helping them. As they aged, their eye sight faded so it became more of a responsibility for me to help thread the needle, and make sure the thread was just right. When it was time to make a pair of pants or shirt, there were no patterns from a store. They were drawn on brown grocery sacks. Sturdier I was told. Quilts were strip quilts, just thrown together from scraps of material but made with enough love to last a lifetime.
The grace and charm that my grandmothers had is something I learned by watching. They didn’t have to tell me they were charming, graceful, or such. I could see it in how they dealt with others. No harsh words were ever spoken from their mouths. No curse words for sure! Yet they commanded such a respect that many would love to have today.
Do ladies of southern grace and charm still exist or is that something we only see on television and in magazines anymore? My grandmothers were born in a by gone era and have since passed away. I can only hope that others had the same experience in their lives. Maybe then we can recover the by gone days of grace, monograms, and pearls.