The Grapevine Art Salon

Nancy Law

Nancy Law

recently moved back into the Atlanta area after retirement from a career as a media specialist in California and later in Birmingham, Alabama. She lives in Marietta near her son and daughter and her sister and not very far from Rockmart where her mother lived and is buried. Nancy is (finally) enjoying her new status as a single woman of many interests, including volunteer work at the Carter Center and the Center for Puppetry Arts.

Grandmother, Snuff, and Cemeteries

To my daughter Laurie for making a special memory with me by sharing her love for her grandmother.

A few weeks before Christmas last year, I went to the Egyptian mummy exhibit at the Carlos Museum. I was particularly interested in Egyptian burial rituals. Our guide explained that Egyptians were buried with their most valuable possessions such as food, jewelry, and scenes of objects depicting daily life, because they would need them in the afterlife. Similarly, I love the idea of taking food and other special things and placing them on a grave so that when the spirits come out they will know their loved ones have been there. I confess that when my mother died in l997 I impulsively tucked a small can of Bruton snuff into her coffin under her hand. I did not know I was following an ancient Egyptian custom (in burying with my mother something that was to her a valuable possession), but I was pleased to have my impulse affirmed.

During the recent Christmas holidays, not long after my visit to the museum, my daughter suggested we visit the cemetery where my mother is buried in Rockmart, Georgia. I had not been to the gravesite in two or three years, so I was very happy she suggested going. My daughter had a special relationship with her grandmother and now, as an adult with daughters of her own, she still has fond memories of visiting Motherís house in Rockmart and of her grandmother coming to our house in Woodstock. We would go to Rockmart to bring her back for a visit.

Laurie reminded me that one thing we did while bringing Mother to our house was to stop at a little grocery store in Emerson (this was about halfway between Rockmart and Woodstock) to buy everybody a soft drink. My mother always had to have a coca-cola in the short bottle; she would not drink anything else.

During my motherís visits when Laurie was a little girl, they would share a bed. At six years old, Laurie was a chubby girl with a cherubic face, beautiful big green eyes, long brown hair, and a smile to melt any heart. I can remember hearing them talking and laughing well into the night. My mother loved to hear Laurie sing, so each night granddaughter would sing grandmother to sleep. Another thing they liked to do was to gang up against my son, who was just a year older than Laurie, and play practical jokes on him. Greg would try to sneak into their bedroom by quietly crawling down the hall and through the doorway to his grandmotherís side of the bed, where she would playfully swat him on the back with a rolled-up newspaper she kept by her side "to keep the boogeyman away," she said.

I have mentioned one of the things I placed in her coffin. My mother dipped snuff, and not just any snuff. It had to be Bruton in the small can just like those coca-colas had to be in the short bottles. In an emergency she would accept the large size can of snuff, but she said it just didnít give her the same satisfaction. To me, dipping snuff was a disgusting habit, but to Laurie the habit was natural to her grandmother and not repulsive at all. She took pleasure in fetching the spit can for her grandmother if she forgot to put it close to her before she sat down. My mother suffered from arthritis and had difficulty getting around. Laurie was happy to get her anything she needed.

As Laurie and Greg grew older, they continued to enjoy their grandmother. My mother loved to the read the Inquirer and Star tabloids. My son liked their outrageous stories. Of course, I thought they would ruin his brain. My mother disagreed. She would hide them under the sofa cushions so he could read them secretly while I took her to the grocery store or to get an ice cream cone. Another of my daughter's memories is of giving her grandmother chocolate covered cherries each Christmas.

After I told Laurie about my visit to the Carlos Museum, she suggested that we gather some things to put on her grandmotherís grave. Her grandmother is buried in a plot next to her first husband, son and daughter-in-law. The grave has a plain, flat headstone with her name, Beatrice Fricks, born 1913, died 1997. Laurie took chocolate covered cherries to the gravesite, and I took a small can of Bruton snuff. I wish now I had taken a short-bottled coca-cola, but I didnít remember it until I began writing this story. We can save that for another visit.

On the way home Laurie and I stopped in Emerson. Although the little grocery store is no longer there, there is a mom and pop restaurant where we enjoyed a blue-plate special for lunch--fried green tomatoes, field peas, fried chicken, corn bread, sweet tea and banana pudding for dessert. I think my mother would have approved, and Iím sure she knows we visited her at Christmas.

I loved making the trip with my daughter, who is now a willowy, gorgeous woman with a mane of brown hair and an electrifying smile. She reminded me of a side of my mother that I had totally forgotten. It is wonderful to know how much she really loved her grandmother. I hope my granddaughters will enjoy the memories we are making together.


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