Sunday, May 31, 2009


Today is my grandmother Hattye's, birthday. She would have been 110 years old. Born in 1899 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, she grew up with one sister, Bessie (Aunt Bessie to us), married Jesse Ross McCormack in 1919 or 1920 and moved to Malvern. She and Ross had two daughters, Jane (my mother) and Ann (my aunt). Ross ran a lumber mill that my oldest sister, also Ann, loved to visit with him.

We stayed with Hattye every summer growing up. Our cousins (who we called foreigners, cause they were from Omaha, Nebraska and talked funny) and us would meet for two or three weeks at Hattye's house in Malvern. My mother, Aunt Ann, and Hattye would spend most of their time on the screen porch, smoking, working crossword puzzles, and just enjoying being. We would roam the neighborhood, walk downtown, go to the movie, or congregate on the porch. For at least a week of that time, we would all go to Lake Catherine and stay in a big old house with an upstairs sleeping porch. That's when the Dad's came with the boat.

But this is about Hattye, not the lake. She was THE BEST grandmother anyone could ever want. She was a tremendous cook and taught me how to make ham salad, chicken salad, turkey salad, southern potato salad, fried chicken with no burn spots (iron skillet and low heat), cocoons, divinity, cranberry-orange relish, ambrosia, brownies, home-made egg nog (with bourbon), and a million other things. She fixed us things like tea with lemonade, egg-salad sandwiches, ham baked in a paper bag, fresh tomatoes, pears and cottage cheese, canned peaches, etc., etc.

She always made you feel like you her favorite (a real trick with 10 grandchildren). When you'd call her on the phone, her response was always, "Well, Hi, Daaahhlin! I've missed hearing from you so much!" When we'd get ready to leave and go back home, her, "It's going to be so quiet around here, I just won't know what to do with myself" was both a testament of her love, and a heart-stabbing guilt trip.

She was the fun grandmother--loved our friends, our music, our dances, gave great presents, and always had mints or gum in her purse that we could raid. When she was at our house, there was never a day when a ton of our friends were not over visiting with her. She came every Xmas, and around Thanksgiving, everyone would start asking us, "When's Hattye coming??"

My sister Beth and I or my brother Ross and I often received the fantastic job of going to get her in Malvern and bringing her to Sherman. Now at that time, we (the kids) were driving a 59 brown Chevy Impala (The Brown Bomb). That thing would go 100 mpg in a heart-beat. So we would roar up to Malvern, stay at Hattye's a day or two and bring her back (much slower). And she loved it. She could catch up on all the music, gossip from Sherman, and goings on of all of us. It was great fun.

You just knew that she loved being a grandmother.

I was going to segue into the harsh realities that many of PH's grandmothers face, but I'll do that another time. Today, I want to be joyful.

So, Hattye, Happy Birthday! I miss you every day, especially around Christmas, cause I just am not going to bake all the wonderful stuff you used to. But I do still make cranberry-orange relish for my father--he loves it, and I will pass your recipes to my daughters, who actually like to cook.

I have so many incredible images of you, but the one that is most omnipresent is of your hands, somewhat gnarled from arthritis, mixing one of your fabulous salads--hands deep in the bowl to ensure it got mixed just right--wedding rings slipping around on your left finger, your index finger bringing up a great big blob for me to taste. "What does it need, Honey?"

Not a thing. It had you.

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