Who Do You Love?

Debbie Walker

Is it your mother, grandmother, auntie, boss, friend, or political leader?

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Who is your favorite lady? Give us a backstory and tell us why she is important to you. Let’s give our females their props!

I’ll start with mine.

When I asked myself that question, I heard a voice speaking from behind me. As I turned, a face emerged from the darkness vying for the position of my favorite woman — my grandmother, Freda.

I truly believe I got my love for all people from her. We both grew up in households where racism was rampant. Even though we suffered for it, we remained unstained by the bigotry that surrounded us.

We were called names and abused by our own family members because we would not claim allegiance to the white race only. We belonged to the human race.

Questions

“Why is there so much hate in this world?” I often asked my grandmother after listening to the diatribes of the men in the family. They often blamed the socioeconomic issues of the day on people of color.

Not in those terms, though.

She would bend close to my ear and sweetly whisper, “Just think about heaven where there will be no more tears or crying or pain.” (Revelation 21:4)

For some unknown reason, she knew how to French braid. She parted my hair down the middle and tied one side in a ponytail. Beginning at the top of my hairline, her fingers nimbly picked up small sections of hair to form one long continuous braid attached to my scalp.

“How did you learn to French braid, Grandma? Only the black kids in my neighborhood back home wear their hair like this.” She only nodded but never answered.

Freda’s Backstory

She was a kind and empathic woman who suffered under the thumb of a stern, bigoted husband. Her heart was as big as the whole of Pulaski County in the heart of Missouri, where she lived.

My grandmother resided in a wood-frame four-room house with no electricity or running water. The only source of heat was the wood-stove in the front room.

Back then, most of the people of the woods kept a bed across from the stove to keep warm n the freezing Ozark Mountain winters. But she didn’t always live in that house with newspapers for wallpaper.

My grandma spent her early years married to a machine-gun-totin’ gangster of the 1930s. She met my grandfather, got pregnant, and fled to the hills to escape her husband’s grip.

This may be a romantic version of her backstory, but this is what I can piece together from pictures, letters, and bits of information from my Aunt Bessie.

But why she would leave one violent man for another abusive and bigoted man remains a mystery. Maybe she felt trapped by the racism of her culture. She couldn’t leave my Grandpa but didn’t want to stay, either.

That was the plight of countless women of her time. How would she survive? The same holds true for many, today.

Cherished Memories

However, in the midst of the hill country culture of fear, one of the cherished memories from my summer vacations was boysenberries. Every spring we traipsed through the brush to find a boysenberry patch covered in white berry blossoms growing in the wild.

Bees and butterflies were everywhere, pollinating the little flowers. It was a sight to behold. She explained that we had to come back in July to harvest the luscious fruit for canning boysenberry jelly and making cobblers.

Later that summer, we filled a metal pail with dark purple berries painting our fingers and sweet juice running down our arms. Back at the cabin, she layered the cobbler dough in the bottom of a Dutch oven which was a heavy cast iron oval-shaped kettle with a tight-fitting lid.

My grandma placed the first layer of homemade cobbler dough on the bottom of the Dutch Oven. Then she spooned in the prepared berries and laid the last of the dough on top. She would cook those pies golden brown without burning them.

She knew just how much wood to put in the stove and where to place the cobbler within the belly of the iron giant. The smell filled the house, and my mouth watered with anticipation of tart and sweet crunchy goodness.

I Miss Her

I miss my grandmother immensely. On holidays she sent care packages to me consisting of a handkerchief, a religious thinking-of-you card, and an assortment of trinkets she had bought just for me.

Grandma Freda and I talked for what seemed hours about Jesus and how to deal with living in an alcoholic and abusive home. I never saw my grandfather put hands on her, but he sure did yell and cuss at her a lot.

Then, late one afternoon, we received a call that she had passed away in the doctor’s office. I was numb, the only good thing in my life was gone.

The next morning, my mother and dad told me they had both seen her in the mirror of the dresser; smiling. I had always heard growing up that sometimes the dead would appear to their loved one’s one last time before going to heaven.

During the funeral, I had tunnel vision to her casket. That was the only thing I could see. The people, the pews, the officiating pastor faded into the shadows.

When a lady from the choir began to sing, “Stroll over Heaven with You”, I imagined my grandmother entering the gates of Heaven and stepping on the streets of gold.

I felt joy. I knew someday she would be there to greet me at those gates of pearl. When it came time to file past the casket, I stopped to gaze upon her face. She seemed to be only sleeping. I leaned over as far as I could and kissed her cheek. It was hard and cold.

Instantly, I felt a loss of innocence. Death had claimed the only living grandparent who loved me.

After the funeral, all the adults and cousins gathered to remember Grandma Freda and talk fondly about her life and her sentiments. I saw in her genuine love for her fellow man while living amid violent bigotry. She exhibited tolerance and patience for her husband that only a Christian woman could, in my opinion.

Who is Your Favorite Woman?

Women are important! We are the mothers, caregivers, statesmen, storytellers, and leaders of the world.

Women weave love through the lives of people from the cradle to the grave. Our influence speaks from the past into the future. We have changed the course of history and birthed new societies.

We touch a child’s heart and leave endearing legacies.

We are inventors and innovators. We have breached the boundaries of the earth and ruled over nations.

Let’s celebrate our women! Write the story of the most important woman in your life!

I believe we have come back full circle to our original request: Who is the most important woman in your life? My grandmother, Freda, continues to speak into my life from the mists of my heart.

She is my angel. Who is yours?

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She writes honest and authentic articles to inform, encourage, inspire, and empower others to lead fulfilled lives. She is a writer, editor, and podcaster.

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