Memories of ‘growing up years’ treasured

Published 12:57 am Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Becoming a grandparent can be one of the most wonderful experiences in the world. Grandparents certainly play a very important role in the lives of their grandchildren.

Through many years as a grandparent, as well as experiences with the grandparents of my children and my own grandparents, I can look back and smile. I’m so thankful that we have all been close and could share wonderful times together.

Growing up, my paternal grandparents lived close to us and it was one of those “through the woods to grandmother’s house we go” situations. We were back and forth very often.

My grandmother died when I was very young, but I remember her as a very kind lady. I especially recall her kitchen which had a big wood stove and there was also a “safe” where she had cold biscuits and milk. A safe was just a wooden cabinet where food items were stored. Getting a biscuit with a hole poked in the middle filled with cane syrup is one of my special memories of her.

Outside her kitchen behind the wood stove was a little porch with a big fig tree nearby. She would clean the wooden floors of the house with the big “scrubs” which were stored on the porch. A wide board had been drilled with holes and held small bundles of dried corn shucks. It had a long handle and this “scrub” was her mop.

My grandfather grew old as we grew up and we had some good times with him. When we were kids, grandpa would sit on a chair in the shade of a big oak tree in the summertime and we thought it was great fun to talk to him, comb his hair and play in the area around him. In his later years, untreated cataracts rendered him almost blind and he was limited in what he could do.

According to family stories he was pretty tough as a young man, but as he grew older he mellowed out considerably. He had made pets of the few chicken in his yard, calling them to come sit on his lap. When his second wife talked about making chicken pie out of one of them, the chicken feathers hit the proverbial fan. He would have none of that!

Grandpa came originally from Pike County, Miss., and he liked to talk about good times from the past. He played the fiddle, but as he grew older, those times became fewer. I have photos of him on stage at the fair playing in the old fiddlers contest.

Every child in their family had learned to play the fiddle except my daddy, who was the baby. He said every time he picked up the instrument to learn how, his mother would say, “Oh no, not you, too,” and he would put it down. I suppose one can understand her point with a houseful of children learning to play the fiddle over many years.

When daddy was above 70, he taught himself how to play and liked “fiddling around” with the instrument. He loved fiddle music and also enjoyed refinishing old musical instruments.

 My grandpa’s sister Jessie and brother Oscar used to visit once in a while from Pike County. We enjoyed listening to Uncle Oscar tell stories.

They were all masters of story-telling. I remember so often hearing my dad say, “I remember Paw telling us….” and then launching into an old time story about some person they all knew.

Most of these stories had been passed down through several generations. Uncle Oscar particularly caught our interest because he had different stories to tell from the ones we were used to hearing. I don’t know if they were tall tales or the truth, but they were always interesting and amusing. I wish I could remember them. He also played the harmonica and that was a treat for us.

We had a birthday dinner every year in October for my Grandpa Albert Lang and we always had a big crowd — not only just family but neighbors and friends. Grandpa looked forward to this and he invited lots of people to attend.

One year he invited so many people that we wondered how we were going to feed them all, but it worked out fine. That was the year Bob Landry came out from The Daily News and wrote his column about grandpa’s birthday dinner and Aylene’s Studio came out and made professional photos. We still treasure these photos, which feature not only family, but also so many friends, all now gone. This family event brought us closer to our aunts, uncles and cousins.

Since both my parents were the youngest in their families, both sets of grandparents were getting rather elderly by the time we were old enough to really know them. However, we have many memories of those growing up years when we felt loved and being treasured by so much family.  

Retired Lifestyle Editor Bob Ann Breland, a resident of Pine, writes a weekly column and may be contacted at bobann_b@yahoo. com.