My husband calls his nana a few times a month to catch up with her. They talk about her cows and her chickens and all of the quilting that shes been doing for some ladies in town. He enjoys their talks. And so does she. When the warm weather comes he flips through his farmer’s almanac and asks her if it’s the right day to plant our peas and how far a part we should place our beet rows. She always knows the answer. And she goes on and on about the seeds in her green house and the guineas that she has hatched in the pen out in the field. There are tadpoles in her rain barrels and shes been taking meals to her daughter to help her after her accident. And don’t forget about the family reunion this year. All of the cousins will be there and they can’t wait to see our babies. While on the phone, she sits at her table in her kitchen, pushing broad beans that she cooked in fat back around her plate and sopping up the pot liquor with a piece of biscuit. Laughing at one of Jason’s terrible corny jokes, she takes out her handkerchief and wipes the sweat from her dusty brow and sighs the long day out of her chest. Her bobby pin curls are wrapped up in a scarf around her head and she’s tired but won’t hang up that phone for anything. She’s talking to her grandson and has important things to tell him. If she doesn’t tell him who will? How will he know that you don’t plant on barren days and how to pluck and butcher a hen? Her hands look frail but her muscles are stronger than his daddy’s and without her, well, all of the wisdom and history of their family would get plowed under. Walking around her fields with her is sacred. She commands each clearing with hollers and whistles, beckoning cows and shooing barn cats, all listening to her calls. And after she tells him all that she has to tell, it is her heart that she gives him last. In her plants and hot pot applesauce, faded jeans and love, nana gives to her family the knowledge of who they are and where they come from.
This was an essay in response to my last entry that I posted this morning.
There was some interesting conversation in the comments and on Facebook in response to that post. The biggest response was that women should have the choice to dye their hair or not, at any age, and not be criticized or judged for their choice. And I wholeheartedly agree. What I’m continuing from that last entry is the idea of a matriarch, or a sort of timeless figure, who holds the family’s knowledge and wisdom in her body and her mind. Here I have given you nana, my husband’s paternal grandmother. He looks to her for wisdom and advice on things that he cannot find anywhere else. Her timelessness is not just integral to our own family, but to everyone’s, and I’m interested in how we obsess over the youth of our women and neglect the importance of aging and the women who hold our communities and families up. The sewing, the cooking, the family ancestry, the farming, the child raising is all inside of her, this timeless woman, and we can’t lose her for fear of getting old.