Dora’s stories: Closing my eyes to let the memories in

Published 3:00 am Saturday, January 16, 2016

I had three grandmothers. Two of them were white and one was black. Mugi and Mommie were my grandmothers because they gave birth to Mama and Daddy. Dora was my grandmother by adoption. I adopted her.

She worked first for my great-grandmother and then my grandmother and later for Mama and Sis. So she was a part of my life for more years than I care to say. To me, Dora was bigger than life. Once Mama asked Dora her dress size and she replied that she was little, “but I wears a large size.”

Dora looked like God had made her out of some really strong bones and stretch the skin over her and left out the stuffing. There was not an ounce of fat on her and she had the largest hands that I had ever seen – loving and caring hands.

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In the afternoons, Dora would make my cousin, Jimmy, and me chocolate milk, fresh from the milk cow. Dora would mix Hershey’s powder with a little milk and then put it in a half-gallon jug with more milk, sugar and ice cubes and shake it until it foamed and cooled. The foam would tickle my lips and that chocolate milk was the best thing that I had ever tasted. Except maybe when Dora would come to the back door and call us in to lick the bowl of whatever sweet thing she was making.

Dora taught me a lot of things that I would never have known otherwise. Things like, “If you’re gonna gnaw that pork chop bone, get behind the kitchen door.” And not to put anything smaller than my elbow in my ear. And, “If you’re gonna open the door to let the breeze in, the flies are gonna come in, too.” I’ve found that to be one of the world’s great truths.

Dora had a funny way of saying things. She called a mimosa tree a “comotion” tree and the narrow, rollout windows in my grandmother’s house, “jealousy” windows. And, once, telling us about the beautiful corsage that her grandson gave his prom date, she said he gave his girlfriend “the most beautiful massage.”

Dora was a great storyteller, too. But, when she talked to you, she never looked at you. Always 90 degrees off, like she was talking to somebody else. I’d look off from her and let her words paint pictures in my mind. Many of those pictures linger there today. All I have to do is close my eyes and let the memories in. Every year, when it’s Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival time, I think of Dora and of all the others who gave me the gift of stories. I think of the many afternoons, we sat on her porch and she painted pictures in my mind. She had a funny way of saying things and telling things. But, she always ended each story with, “You go on home now, sweet girl.”

And I would leave always with a happy heart and a story to savor.