Memories of ‘Grandmother Dora’

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 29, 2017

Going through a box of old pictures the other day, I came across one I had never seen and my heart did a flip-flop. It was a picture of the house behind house where I grew up. It was the house where my grandmother Dora lived.

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 because I adopted her.

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She worked first for my great-grandmother and then my grandmother and later for Mama. She was a big part of my life and, to me, Dora was bigger than life.

Dora looked like God had made her out of some really strong bones and stretched 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.

In the afternoons, Dora would make my cousin, Jimmy, and me chocolate milk, fresh from the milk cow.

She would mix Hershey’s powder with a little milk and 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 – cupcakes, cookies or a pie.

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 larger 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.” When I got older, she cautioned me to “keep your hat on and your coattail down.”

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. Babies that were born out of wedlock were “Egyptian children.”

And, what a great storyteller Dora was. But, when she talked to you, she never looked at you. Always 90 degrees off, like she was talking to somebody else.

She loved to watch the soap operas, especially, “As the World Turns.” She wouldn’t miss it for anything.

“If the train to Glory came by while the world was turning, I’d ask if there’d be a later train,” she would laugh and say.

The pastor of a local church died and the sorrowful widow had one too many toddies to help her through the grieving.

Following the funeral, the preacher came looking the widow woman to express his condolences. Dora loved to tell how she stood with the widow propped on her hip “with her head going one way and her hat going the other.”

Oh, how she loved to tell that story – all those stories.  I spent many afternoons and early nights on the front porch of that house in that old picture listening to stories that Dora told. The only image I had of that old house was in my memory. At least until I found that old faded picture. My memory has not betrayed me, not of the house nor or my other grandmother.