“OOOOOh Greg! Got your cornbread ready!”
The singing words of my Grandma Marie from her small kitchen off highway 248 about eight miles from Branson still resonates deep in my soul. Her warmth and simplicity of love enveloped me while growing up just a few miles down the road from her and Grandpa Clell.
I do remember visiting in the winter months, however, and would instantly be overwhelmed with the intense heat in their house from their wood stove. Grandpa would constantly be cramming in more wood from the porch. It would be 20 degrees outside, but inside we would all be sweating and stripping layers of clothes off while visiting.
My cousin Carla had a special bond with Grandma, who she called Grammy-ah-ee! She said her times staying with Grandma Marie were “the only place on earth where I felt truly safe and comfortable. Neighborhood bullies and mean girls couldn’t touch me there.”
Carla remembers Grandma meeting her at the door in her usual red cotton dress (see picture) and apron around her thick middle. “WOOOE Caaarla!” she would call in her greeting. Her next comment was usually “You hungry?” She was an amazing cook.
My brother Perry remembers Grandma would always fix you something to eat and no matter how much you said you weren’t hungry she would just grin and lay the plate in front of you. I remember her asking me more than once if I wanted more mashed potatoes. “No thanks Grandma,” I would try to say but in the middle of my sentence I heard her say, “Here you go!” as she plopped another large ladle full on my plate!
Grandma was born in 1912 in Walnut Shade, Missouri, the daughter of Vincent and Mae Cummings. She married Grandpa Clell in 1930, and were long-term residents of the Taney County area. They had three kids: my late Dad Clell, Jr., known by many as Junior, my aunt Carolyn, and aunt Annie.
My sister Cindy has many fond memories of Grandma Marie. “I witnessed on more than one occasion her cutting a wasp in half while in flight with her scissors and laughing as she did it. ‘Take that you rascal!’ she would say. When I said something that made her laugh she would exclaim, ‘Oh Cindy, you send me!’”
Cindy also enjoyed Grandma Marie’s cooking. “She made the best breakfasts! My favorites were pork chops with brown gravy and homemade biscuits. She liked to have oatmeal with honey, half and half cream and lots of butter, which she called ‘buter’."
Carla agreed on breakfast. After spending one of her many nights, Carla remembered waking up to the comforting smell of coffee and bacon. Not long after the crack of dawn, Carla would hear, “WOOOE Caaarla! You gonna sleep all day?” Carla said “Grammy-ah-ee made the best oatmeal in the world, or Ortmeal as Grandma called it! Ortmeal and bacon and Grammy-ah-ee-it didn’t get better than that!”
Whenever a bad storm brewed, Grandma refused to get out of bed, despite having a cellar on their property. When she was a little girl, while the great and deadly tornado of 1920 traveled over her house in Walnut Shade on its path of destruction at Melvey, Grandma and her brothers and sister huddled together with her mother in her bed where she felt safe. From that moment on "in her bed" seemed the safest place to be in tornado weather, regardless of Grandpa or our complaints or pleas.
Cindy enjoyed long walks in the country with Grandma Marie, often with her wearing her big straw hat or baseball cap. “We explored some interesting hollers and ruins that adjoined their land," said Cindy. "Inevitably we’d end up at Dave Orr’s store and get some ice cream to take home--a pint of delicious vanilla that we ate out of the box.”
Perry remembers picking strawberries in the family patch down the road from our house. After getting back one day from picking, Perry was paid a few cents for his efforts. He thinks he picked close to a crate that day. “Grandma Marie slipped me a five-dollar bill and told me to keep it and not say anything,” he said.
I remember visiting Grandma with Mom and Dad a few years after Grandpa had passed. She was in her red dress sitting in her bright orange recliner. “This is how I want to go,” she said. “Going to sleep in my chair and waking up in heaven.”
Just a few weeks later Dad went over to check on Grandma, and there she sat in her recliner, a look of utter peace and joy in her face, gently lifted up from this world.
If you are blessed as I was with a dear Grandma who showed consistent love and warmth, spend time reflecting on memories as I have. I believe we are shaped far more than we realize by loving grandparents. There is deep comfort and assurance having them in your life, feeding you, hugging you, teasing you…
I sure miss her.