I took an immediate liking to Grandma Griswold because we share a love of reading. Although her formal education ended with third grade, she continued to learn by studying her grandchildren’s school books. Mom and Grandma studied together in the evenings, swapping text books and library books as Mom did her homework.
The first thing that I learned about the state of Mississippi was how to spell Mississippi. Mom taught me the fun way that she had learned from Grandma— M-I-CROOKED LETTER-CROOKED LETTER-I-CROOKED LETTER-CROOKED LETTER-I-HUMPBACK-HUMPBACK-I.
Using crooked letters and humpbacks to spell Mississippi is common knowledge in southern states, but I have yet to find anyone outside of my family who can repeat Grandma’s rhyme about “punkins.”
Several of Mom’s stories about Grandma included her waist-length hair. Mom described how Grandma draped her pony tail across her shoulder and twisted it into a rope. When it was completely twisted, she wound it round and round into a bun on the back of her head, and secured it with hair pens. Grandma’s grandchildren were fond of combing her very long hair. Once, after combing it out, Mom tried a new technique of rolling her hair. Starting at the ends, she rolled the entire length up in the comb, and to her surprise, the rolled hair was now securely entwined in the comb. It took some work to untangle Grandma’s hair, and Mom learned not to do that again.
I imagine that Grandma would have enjoyed reading the “Little House” series by Laura Ingals Wilder that Mom and I read together when I was 11 and 12 years old. Both Grandma and Laura were born not long after the Civil War into farming families in Midwestern states—Grandma in “Ioway,” as she called it, and Laura in nearby Wisconsin. The Ingals family lived for a time in Iowa, eventually settling in the West, while Grandma’s family chose to go south to Texas and Oklahoma. Mom pointed out to me that she was familiar with how Laura’s father drank his tea because Grandpa Griswold (Allie’s husband) drank his tea the same way. Both men followed the custom of pouring their tea into a saucer to cool, and then drinking it straight from the saucer. Laura and Grandma died within a year of each other: Laura in 1957 at age 90, and Grandma in 1956, at age 84.
Grandma died a few months before I was born, so it was by way of Mom’s love-colored stories that I was introduced to her. Even as a child, I recognized that Grandma loved Mom, and Mom loved Grandma. So, I felt special when I learned that I am the only one of Grandma’s family born on her birthday—September 30th.
Happy birthday, beloved Grandma Griswold!