Those were the days...
My grandchildren are having children. I guess that makes me old. However, once upon a time...
At 65 I thought my Grannie was an old, OLD woman. She was overweight, liked her biscuits and lots of butter, big breakfasts and baked desserts. She felt that salads were a waste of time--and her waist showed it.
Grannie always wore a bibbed apron. One day I wondered why. She never did any cooking, my step-mother did all that.
“It’s to wipe little noses,” I was told.
“Wouldn’t a hankie work just as well?” I wondered aloud. (We didn’t have Kleenex back then).
With that Grannie reached up under the strap of her corset, retrieved a pretty, embroidered hankie from where she always carried it, and explained as she pointed to my younger sisters and brothers. “The little snots have snottier noses than I do,” she said, laughing at her punny remark.
(In today’s language, I was grossed-out!)
Grandpa tolerated Grandma and her “eccentricities.” When I tried to talk to him about this, he just said, “Your Grandma’s always right. Just ask her.”
Explaining that she may have been right, but if we children used the language she did, our friends’ parents probably wouldn’t let them play with you.
Grandpa just pooh-poohed the whole thing and suggested, “Maybe you’re running with the wrong crowd.”
Now, way back then, children were taught to never back-talk an elder. So, I made a decision right then that maybe I was living with the wrong crowd...and that I’d just stay as far away from Grandma as I could. (This was difficult, of course, because she and Grandpa lived with us.)
Gran had her problems with my language, too. When one of my younger siblings used the word “ain’t” as they were speaking, I corrected them. Our new teacher corrected any one of us students who dared to do such a dastardly deed and I adored this young woman and her starched collars.
“That’s a perfectly good word,” I was told. “Lately you’re getting awfully uppity. ‘Ain’t’ is just a contraction like isn’t or can’t.”
“But, Gran,” I sought to explain, “isn’t is a contraction of is and not and can’t is a contraction of can and not.”
“Exactly!” Gran said proudly.
“What two words make up ‘ain’t’?” I asked in a voice that I thought sounded just like my teacher’s.
“Am and not,” Grannie said in the same tone.
“Well, wouldn’t that make it amn’t instead of ain’t?” I asked.
Grannie looked puzzled, but after that she tried to avoid me and before long she and Grandpa rented a small apartment from our next door neighbors. And, while they often visited mom during the day, it seemed like (about the time school let out) Gran would tell Grandpa, “It’s about time we’d better head for home.”
One day, however, they didn’t make it, and we three older children came barreling through the back door.
“Hi, Gran,” I yelled as I grabbed the water bucket to fill it from our outdoors pump. (That was one of my after-school duties.)
“The word is GRANDMOTHER,” I was told in a huffy voice. Then she looked at mom and said, “That girl needs to use the correct word when she’s speaking to a person!”
It was at that time I realized she hadn’t cared for my correction of other people’s language. BUT, in my defense, I did grow up to become an English teacher. (Also, oddly enough, when first Grandpa became ill and died, then Grannie became ill, I was the one they both wanted to care for them. Go figure!)
(Columnist Faye Harris may b e reached via email at Fayeharris77@yahoo.com.)