Minnie? Well, for goodness sakes!

Published 10:20 pm Saturday, April 25, 2009

Life is full of surprises.

Not surprises like a rich uncle dying and leaving you a fortune or being discovered by a Hollywood talent scout while sipping a lemon-berry slush at Sonic.

But little surprises. Surprises that make you as giddy as a school girl.

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About a month ago, a group from Headland attended a production of “Come Home, It’s Suppertime” at the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge.

Knowing that my mama’s roots were in Henry County, a friend called me over.

“These people are from Headland,” she said. “I knew you would want to meet them.”

A quick eye-sweeping of the table, spurred my usual conversational ice breaker to folks from Headland.

“What I wouldn’t give for one more of Ed’s World Famous Hotdogs!”

They responded exactly as I expected. Coney Island dogs, Chris’s Hotdogs and not even Varsity dogs can hold a candle to Ed’s World Famous Hotdogs.

Whoever is hording up the recipe for Ed’s hotdogs should be shackled and shot.

The world deserves those dogs.

After drooling over dogs, the chatter turned to mutual acquaintances.

“Mama was a McGowan,” I said. “My grandmother was ….”

Before I could finish, a lady’s eyes widened until she looked like a big-eyed gal at the fair. “Are you Minnie’s granddaughter?”

Minnie. I had not heard anybody refer to my grandmother by her given name in so long that I had almost forgotten it.

I was drawn to the lady like bees to honey.

“For goodness sakes, Minnie’s granddaughter!” she said in a voice that echoed the excitement that I felt inside.

That lady, that stranger, was suddenly the most important person in the room – in the world. She knew my grandmother. She knew Minnie.

See. My grandmother, Minnie Jane Adams McGowan (Mugi), died 26 years ago at age 81.

Those who knew her as Minnie are all but gone.

I moved close to the lady from Headland.

“Eleanor was my best friend,” she said. “And, I knew your mama. I knew Pauline.”

This stranger knew Mama and Aunt Eleanor when they were young. She knew them as I never did.

“I want to tell you a story about Eleanor and Pauline,” she said. “One time several of us girls took off on a car. Now, none of us had a license to drive ….”

I started to laugh.

“You know the story?” she asked.

Oh, yes. How many times had I heard the story –from Mama and Aunt Eleanor. But I wanted to hear it from her.

She told the story of how nine girls piled into a car and took off on a Henry County country road, skidded and wrecked the car. Being as there were no instant means of communication, word traveled, slowly, by mouth back to town.

My grandmother got the word that her precious Eleanor had been in the car but she didn’t know whether she was injured and, if so, how badly. Mugi was frantically walking up and down the sidewalk, wringing her hands and sobbing with Mama right on her heels.

As she told the story, I pictured it in my mind as Mama had told it.

When she saw her younger sister sashaying down the sidewalk, unhurt, with a grin on her face, she took off running, jumped on her, knocked her to the ground and “beat the soup out of her.” Mama said she was so mad at Aunt Eleanor for the worry she had put on them and, for her to come “priss-ing” down the street like she was in a beauty contest, was more than she could stand so she just “tore into her” and never regretted it.

Well, the lady from Headland told the story much as Mama told it, but she didn’t know or understand Mama’s reason behind her actions.

We both laughed at the story that connected us and that connected the past with the present.

That night, I thought about Kathryn Windham, the beloved Alabama storyteller, who always ends a performance by encouraging the audience to “go home and tell your stories.” She’s so right.

Stories connect us as families, as friends and even as strangers. And what a wonderful thing it is to have someone say,

“Oh, I knew your grandmother. I knew Minnie. Let me tell you a story.”

Jaine Treadwell is features editor at The Messenger. She can be reached at jaine.treadwell@troymessenger.com