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A Dare Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

January 30, 2010

Lizzie asked for more Granny Mayweather… here’s the second one.

I feel like it’s important to say–I’m not basing these stories in any way on my life. The narrator interests me; I think she must have been a strange little child, and perhaps a bit of a kindred spirit, but these are mostly works of fiction, with a few homages tucked in here and there that no one but Lizzie and maybe Jonathan would catch.

Enjoy!

Granny Mayweather and the Eggs

Aunt Didi was an Eldridge before she married Uncle Andrew, of the Eldridge pharmacy and Eldridge Bank & Trust and Clerk-of-Court Thomas Eldridges, and was generally considered to have been a beauty when she was a girl.

We always had Thanksgiving at Andrew and Didi’s house, and somehow it became the tradition for me to spend the time between school getting out and the actual holiday staying with them. Every year, Aunt Didi would pull out a long, baby-blue silk nightgown for me (so impractical in the November cold, but still my favorite!), and we would sit at her black lacquered table with the gold gilding in the scrollwork and play dress-up. Didi always smelled soft and sweet and pure, like Oil-of-Olay, and I would try my best to look like her as we dusted on powder and pencil and, always—I never saw her without it—bright red lipstick. With her blonde hair and blue eyes, to me Aunt Didi was in real life what the stars on the movie screen only dreamed of being.

After we’d curled and prepped and mascara’d ourselves, we would parade along the hallway to the front room while Uncle Andrew sang the Miss America song. Once there and properly announced, I would bow and curtsy and perform my “talent” to their enthusiastic applause.

Uncle Andrew was quick and clever and, as he told me, knew the names of all six-hundred and seventeen countries of the world. One day, I asked Uncle Nathan if this was true. Nathan was Andrew’s older brother and a reporter for the Courier-Dispatch, which made him, by my reasoning, pretty much the smartest man in the world. Plus, I didn’t see him as often as I saw Andrew and Didi; thus, his opinion was highly valued. I remember watching Nathan as he looked over at Andrew for a long minute before answering.

“If there are six hundred and seventeen countries in this world,” he said at last, “your Uncle Andrew will be sure to tell you the name of every one.”

Reassured, I began to greet Uncle Andrew with a request for a country name at every meeting, and for years he obliged me with a ready answer and a description of the area’s people. To this day, there is a part of me that firmly believes in a country named Ticonderoga, located near Russia, inhabited by natives that wear only blue.

Uncle Nathan was more careful about explaining things to me. He told me once, when I asked him why he gave such specific answers, that it was because I asked such specific questions. Well, I didn’t think that my questions were all that specific then, but I’ve come to realize that things in our family had a way of being one step just outside reality, and I was usually trying to figure out why.

It was at Thanksgiving one year that Uncle Nathan told me my very first Granny Mayweather story. Aunt Didi and I were hanging a bunch of Indian corn on the front door when he pulled up, and I asked him if popcorn popped from it would have all different colors, too. He laughed a little and told me that would be a better question to ask Granny Mayweather. I stood there, confused, and with my feelings a little hurt, and even sidled my way over towards where she was asleep in her chair, but the truth was that I was afraid of Granny (something I would NEVER admit to Uncle Nathan), so I sat quiet until after dinner, when I asked him again.

Now, to hear Uncle Nathan tell it, Granny Mayweather did not like brown eggs when she was a little girl. (Apparently, she didn’t like them later, either, because Aunt Didi told me Uncle Andrew had never eaten a brown egg until they were married.) Every day, young Granny would take the bucket of corn to feed the chickens. Every day, she would watch them peck and scratch at the gold-hulled corn kernels. And every day, she would be forced to eat the brown eggs she hated.

For most people, that would just be the way things are. To Granny Mayweather, it was a fundamental flaw in the fabric of the world, and she decided to change it.

Granny got to thinking about how Indian corn grew in all different-colored. Then, she got to thinking about how you boiled purple onion skins to dye eggs at Easter-time. According to Uncle Nathan, it was soon as she’d had the one thought, she’d had the other, just in a row like that. So Granny knew two things—corn could change colors, and eggs could change colors. Every way she looked at it, the answer seemed clear; it was just a matter of matching the color of the corn to the color she wanted the eggs—and she wanted the eggs white like she saw the hotel in town serving on Sunday afternoons.

For close to a week, she and her sister Viola worked on popping panfuls of corn to feed the chickens. When the eggs stayed brown, they decided that the problem must be with the corn, and they began feeding those chickens every bit of white food they could think of—apples, potatoes, turnips, even griddle cakes.

“Which food finally worked?” I asked, trying to think of anything else that was white and edible.

“None of them,” Uncle Nathan said. “Your egg color depends on the kind of chickens you have.”

You know, I always found it interesting that when Uncle Andrew told that story, it ended with blackberry season hitting its stride, and a solid month of blue eggs.

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3 comments

  1. I love Granny. There is a novel here somewhere. I love the characterization, the narrator’s voice, and the cozy Southern-ness of these stories.
    Now we just need a story that involves apocryphal tales of distant connections being eaten by bears.


  2. I am NOT writing these about my actual family. There will be no being eaten by bears.
    Remind me to run some of the narrator stuff by you–there are pending plot holes that need to be pre-emptively stitched.


  3. Another great one. Very colorful (No pun intended. Okay, maybe a little intended).
    – J



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