I woke up this morning … now that seems like a pretty good lead in line … and this may sound, well inappropriate, but it is oh so true. My grandmother, (Nancy Douglas, we called her Mammy) had a favorite saying, and it was “Everyday above ground is a good one.”
Being a southern girl (born and bred) I have thousands of those little tidbits, but that one has always been my favorite. It showed the grit in Mammy’s craw that made her the person she was … a teacher by profession, a farmer by necessity, and a survivor by choice. I say by choice because she never gave up or gave in. She had a hard life that wasn’t made any easier by the times she lived in or the health she fell victim to. But she struggled, along side my grandfather, Dwight Douglas (we called him Daddy Dwight), rearing three children, teaching school, helping run a farm, keeping the books for their farm and writing out the checks for the farm workers at the end of each week. She had to have a goiter removed when she was relatively young, I believe in her forties. But you can’t take that to the bank.
I was a kid at the time and all the grandmothers and great aunts were of an age that never seemed to change. They all looked the same to me from one day to the next, never aging in my childish eyes. She suffered and beat lung cancer and uterine cancer. People in the south, of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, were plagued with oddly different ailments like goiter from lack of iodine in the diet, and other noxious little disorders that no one hears or knows about, or even cares about these days. One that I remember from my childhood was called “Ground Itch.” It was actually hook worms that got into your bare feet from running around in the yard after a rain when the hot sun brought them to the surface, so tiny you couldn’t see them, so tiny they had no trouble invading the soles of young feet. The only thing that cleared up Ground Itch was a heavy spraying of what I recall being either on the soles of the feet to freeze and kill the little varmints. It only took one dose of Ground Itch and its ghastly cure for me to heed the “keep your shoes on” warning in the spring rains. For some reason, late summers you were safe.
So Mammy had many jobs, wore many hats and had much to contend with. She was not a quitter nor a belly-acher and couldn’t stand to hear anyone complain about how they felt and often recited the “man with no feet” tale from a Bible tract that she kept in the folds of her big church Bible. You know the one, “I longed for new shoes till I met the man who had no feet.” So when the danged flare of RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) hit me last week (and lasted longer than usual) I started thinking about Mammy and how she fought off self pity by finding someone in worse shape than she herself was and realized how that great spirit is still teaching me today. I like to think that the steel in my backbone was genetically placed there by all my forebears who struggled and made it safely to shore. I hope my children will be so blessed, and so far I think they are. They are not whiners … they are not quitters … they just keep on keeping on, and they keep their good humor. The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.
— Sandi McBride is a resident of Jefferson who blogs regularly and enjoys her garden and her furry and feathered friends. She is a wife and mother of two sons.