When Grandpa John Was a Kid - Summers at Grandmotherís House

Often as a boy, my mother would take my brother, sister, and me to Hugo, Oklahoma for a month in the summer to visit my grandmother. Almost every day a farmer came to town with a horse-drawn wagon which was lined with straw and covered with every kind of produce, including cantaloupes and watermelons. The farmer had a regular route through the town to call on his customers. When he stopped at my grandmotherís, my brother and I would ask to ride along with him. At the end of his route, he would give us a cantaloupe or small watermelon for our help.

A covered porch extended across the entire front of my grandmotherís house. After supper everyone sat on the porch and talked. I chiefly listened to adult conversation, which I didnít fully understand. While my daddy was an ardent supporter of Roosevelt, my grandmother didnít believe in what she called socialism. My grandmother was from the south. She was born in Tennessee during the Civil War. She moved to Texas with her preacher husband, and after his death, to the part of Oklahoma known as Little Dixie.

Once a week Cora would walk the four miles into town to my grandmotherís house. She would build a fire under a large kettle in the backyard to boil the laundry as the first step in washing the clothes. Cora let my brother and me help with the fire. At noon Cora had the same lunch as I, but she ate alone on the back porch, while I ate inside at the table with family. Coraís afternoon ended with the ironing. Cora loved and was loved by all my family.

Years later, when I was in college, Cora came to Aunt Claraís house in Oklahoma City to run the kitchen for a party in the home for a family wedding. When Aunt Clara became a widow, she had moved to Oklahoma City from the Hugo area. All the extended family in Hugo, including my aunt, were Coraís friends. As my mother greeted Cora, I could see that these old friends cared a great deal for each other.

When the party was over, I offered to drive Cora to her relativesí home where she would spend the night. As I held open the passenger door of the car, Cora said, "John, please let me ride in the back." I didnít understand, but I yielded to her wishes.

Many years later, when my children were small, we visited Cora at her home in the country outside Hugo while on vacation. She took up with my children, just as she had with me when I was their age. She even let my children chase her chickens, which were free to roam her yard. I continued to exchange Christmas cards with Cora until her death a few years after my own mother died.

Cora was a blessing to my family. She offered her companionship, hard work, and love to each of us. Today, our relationship would probably have been different, as well it should be. Cora would not have sat in the back seat of the car or eaten by herself on the back porch. It never occured to me until many years later that her separation was because of her heritage. The separation which was wrongfully enforced by society, and to some degree, imposed by herself, never made it to my heart.

Copyright 1998 by John C. Westervelt

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