Academic journal article African American Review

Two Views of My Grandmother

Academic journal article African American Review

Two Views of My Grandmother

Article excerpt

Grandma mumbles a lot, it sounds like a foreign language. Sometimes she sits with her pipe between her teeth and mumbles aloud, sometimes she mumbles while she works. I like to listen to her; I pretend I am playing with my dolls and I sit on the floor near her rocking chair and listen to her mumbling. When I listen close, I hear her words and they are clear. She sounds like she is taking to someone about her youngest daughter, who is my aunt. She is fussing to herself about the man in my aunt's bed.

Grandma has an odd nose and long silver hair and black skin. Daddy says she is part Indian, so I figure that is why she smokes a pipe. When Uncle Walter comes over, they sit in the kitchen, drink black coffee made on the black wood stove, and discuss the evils of the man who sleeps in my aunt's bed. Uncle Walter puts a piece of wood and some newspaper in the stove, and Grandma takes a pot off using part of her apron as a pot-holder. All her things are smut-color-ed from the stove, and she is almost the color of the stove.

Sometimes I pretend her mumbling is really chanting and she is an Indian medicine lady making cures on a black clay stove chanting healings. If we are there at night after she does the dishes, she tells mother to put me on the table so she can wash my legs in the dirty dish water to heal them. My legs are very small and they hurt sometimes for no reason. She rubs the dish-water on my legs with her strong black hands and starts telling my mother about the man my aunt likes. I close my eyes and pretend it is chanting. I see Indians dancing around a fire shaking rattlers at my legs and throwing magic powder in the air over my head. I pretend she is chanting," "MAKE THIS LITTLE DEER RUN FAST - MAKE THIS LITTLE DEER RUN FAST."

I see shadows on the wall and I pretend they are buffaloes and horses and strange markings drawn on a tent wall. My mother wipes my legs with the dish towel and I fall asleep in her lap dreaming about Indian braves and hawks flying. My legs get stronger and stronger; I run so fast the braves can't catch me. They shoot arrows at me and I become a brook; when they see the brook they jump in and I become a fish and swallow them up. When the other braves throw arrows at the fish I flap my fins and become an eagle and fly away. When I wake up my legs are tired and I tell my mother I've been running all night and that is why my legs hurt.

On Sundays we go to Grandma's house for dinner. Just about all my aunts and uncles are there and lots of cousins. She usually cooks chicken and gravy in a big iron skillet, rice, macaroni and cheese, and baby sweet peas from the can. She makes purple Kool-Aid for us kids and the grown-ups drink black coffee from a white drip coffee pot that she always keeps on her black stove. The man comes out of my aunt's room with no shirt on and speaks to everyone. For a brief moment everyone is silent, then they all speak at once. Then he and my aunt leave the house to go for a drive. The man walks out with his shirt in his hand and puts it on when he gets to the car. My aunt has on a blue-and-white flowered dress that blows in the wind. Her hair is curled and she smiles as she waves and gets into the car. The man waves to us like he is going away and never coming back. We go dig for rocks while the grown-ups discuss my aunt and how the man came out with no shirt on. My aunt's children never hear the things that people say about their mother. They play a lot and laugh a lot and throw rocks at us and tease us. My sister hides in the closet on top of a box of clothes so they won't find her and throw rocks at her. My brothers fight them for a while; then they all laugh and go play ball in the pasture. I take a walk on the railroad tracks in front of Grandma's house. I pretend I am going to walk to where the tracks end; when I get there I will meet my grandmother's people and they will adopt me and let me be an Indian girl.

When my mother and father go to their meetings on Wednesday nights we get dropped off at Grandma's house. …

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