Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Here Comes the Sun

“I can’t see you but I’d know you anywhere-you smell like sunshine!”

That was my Great Granny Mae. She was 98 years old when she died. I’d only seen her twice in my life, but I remember her saying those words to me and I would marvel-because I knew that age had blinded her.

She chewed tobacco. I’d never seen a woman do that before and it fascinated me. She’d sit ramrod straight in her rocking chair with a ratty shawl draped around her shoulders. She kept her chair pulled up close to the woodstove and when she’d spit, she never missed the empty Folgers can that sat on the floor between her and the stove.

Granny had an old pump organ in her living room.

My Great Aunt Ettie would play it for her. That same organ is now in my living room. A stipulation, before it was passed to me, was that a picture of Aunt Ettie had to rest on it always.

It does.

The carpet on the pedals is worn into an imprint of my Aunt’s shoes. And if you look closely, you see the pedals being held on by galluses off of an old pair of my great grandpa’s overalls.

Some folks in her little town in Arkansas called her a witch because she’d read tea leaves and advise people based on what she saw there.

Granny could also tell you what would happen today based on the dreams she had the night before.

She could read the sky and tell you the weather for the next week.

… and she could do things.

She passed to her son the medicinal purposes of tobacco.

You see, Granny Mae was a Native American-a Cherokee. Her ancestors (I believe it was her Granny) walked the Trail of Tears. Her ‘mysticism’ was inherent.

Prissy loved her. … I mean loved her like no one else on earth. Prissy always knew she was Granny’s girl. She’d go to her for comfort, and advice, and chocolate pie.

Before Prissy got sick she and another cousin began genealogy research. Being ‘Indian’ was always something Granny's family felt they had to hide-for a variety of reasons. Prissy had to overcome purposeful misinformation on censuses and other documentation to get proof of blood lines.

Prissy persevered. It took a couple of years, but she's now named on the roster and it’s one of her proudest achievements.

She loved her Granny enough to bring our heritage out of fear and shame into pride and into, well…light.

It wasn’t me that smelled of sunshine.

…it was my Momma.

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