Normally, the How Big is Texas blog focuses on travel in Texas. This week, I’m switching gears to honor one of the most wonderful Native Texans I’ve ever known. She helped mold me into the Texas-loving person I am today so it would only be right to honor her memory this Mother’s Day Week. (She would probably be frowning upon me using her as an excuse to stretch out Mother’s Day since I didn’t get this posted on the actual day like I’d intended to do.) Many people have traveled in and out of my life but none have made an impression on me like my Grandma.
I can’t be sure but I’m guessing I’m one of the few grandchildren, aside from my siblings and first cousins, who had a grandmother named Barney. Yes, it is indeed unusual. However, I’ve always known her by that name and I don’t remember ever questioning why. While she was Grandma to us, she did have some family and friends who called her Pete. I’m not really sure where she got that moniker either but it just added to her uniqueness.
As a child, I loved going into her bedroom and playing with her hair brush. I would pull a strand of her beautiful gray hair out of the bristles so I could see how long it was since she never wore her hair down. I stopped coloring my hair when I turned 50 with the hopes mine would some day look like hers. I can only hope I will age as gracefully as she did.
While thinking about her, I decided to go through and share pictures of her, her bible, her handwritten recipes, favorite sayings and artwork she painted when she was in her 60’s and 70’s. I feel so fortunate to be able to have these items in my possession, if only to touch a small part of what she loved and shared with her family and friends.
Grandma was incredibly talented. One of my favorite Christmas gifts was when we received hand-crocheted house shoes. I loved them and wore them out. She even made shoes out of left-over yarn for my pug, who liked to play with them when they were on your feet. The year she made all eight grandchildren a quilt tops all Christmas gifts. She placed each quilt in a pillow case so we weren’t able to see what was inside and each grandchild got to choose based on a first-come, first-served basis. That way, it was fair to all. How could you lose? Grandma made it!
In her 60’s, Grandma decided to take up painting. I remember spending the weekend with her when I was in college and getting a lesson. I still have that painting. While it’s not great and would never really be worth anything to anyone, the memories are more valuable than any Picasso, at least to me. Her paintings hang in my home in her honor.
Of all the things my Grandma did, she was known for her cooking. I often think of her when I’m watching cooking shows and I wonder if today’s chefs could produce something as good as Grandma if the only seasonings they had to use were salt and pepper. Her meals were simple, never extravagant. We never had to think about which silverware we needed to use while we were sitting at her table. You had a knife, a fork and a spoon and the tastiest meal this side of the Red River. Grandma made traditional southern meals, not cuisine, and you never left her table hungry.
I miss my Grandma. It’s hard to believe she’s been gone since 1997. Today, we market celebrities as role models to kids. No offense to the athletes and movie stars around the world, but I’d choose my Grandma as a role model over them any day of the week. As one of my sisters said when she delivered the eulogy at my Grandma’s funeral, “My Grandmother taught me many things. Small things that are bright windows in my memory, large things that light up the corners of my soul.”