Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gramma Bet

October is a very busy month in my family. Birthdays and anniversaries abound. I will try and keep up but my dear readers, please forgive me if I get behind a day or two now and again. I do have a few things to do besides The Blog
Bet holding Lee, Mac and Peckie

Today is a happy day for me to remember. It is my Gramma Bet's birthday. My maternal Grandmother's birthday. Bet was uniquely one in a million. She was a real mixed bag of persona. She could be very shy at times...yet she could help someone as shy as herself feel very comfortable and at ease. She grew up as the adored and some might say spoiled youngest daughter in a rather large family in Grosse Pointe, MI. Bet had snow white hair when I knew her. Her hair actually turned white in her early thirties, but it was beautiful, not that yellow or grey shade, or blue shade of white...pure snow white. 
The lovely bride posing in the family home
She married my grandfather who was quite a few years older than she, who continued to coddle and take care of her. How many men do you know who would bring his Mother-In-Law on his honeymoon to Europe, because it made his bride happy? Yet, when the Depression occurred, she jumped right in and travelled to California with her husband and children in search of job opportunities. She even worked as an extra in Hollywood to help bring in some cash during the 'hard times'. I believe she actually made it on screen in only one movie...but it's not anything I can say I did.  One of the hallmark souvenirs of her Hollywood years for us was her 'make-up' kit. It was this large old kit that opened up with all sorts of extra spring out drawers and lift out containers that had what seemed at the time tons and tons of lipstick, blush, mascara (powdered) and hair pins, makeup and hair brushes. Oh, for me and my sisters a treasure trove of things to sample and play with. Playing Beauty Parlor was another thing we would play with Bet. She'd sit and let us brush her hair and 'style' it any way we wanted to. It wasn't until I got older and would 'let' my daughter play beauty parlor with my hair that I realized how wonderful it feels to be the customer! No flies on Bet!
My grandfather passed away when I was six. I remember for years she just would not talk about him. It made her too sad to discuss him or think of him not there. He truly was the love of her life and remained that way to her dying day. Yet, she managed to drive herself all around the USA. *She lived on a farm outside Atlanta. Her siblings lived in Michigan and had summer homes in Florida. We lived in New Orleans. Her other daughter and son lived in California. And she'd get in her little red car and drive all over to visit her family. Although,to be honest I am pretty sure she'd hop a plane and fly to California. The rest of us- she would travel by car to visit. I still think it was really brave of her to do. And by the way...she wasn't the best driver around! Often we would be driving the wrong way down a one way street. God just was looking out for her and others I think.
When I went to Atlanta for Interior Design school she would come rescue me on the weekends. Before leaving Atlanta, we'd stop at a delicatessen and pick up some food for the weekend. She brought me a cookie jar and she would pick out cookies for me to have in the cookie jar until the next week's visit. We'd stop along the way to go to the SPA, a health club actually and get in a swim and some steam room time. Everyone there, employees and members of all ages knew her and would stop to chat with her. And then it was Alcovey Road and Cherry Valley Farm for the weekend. The farm had a tin roof and I would love to snuggle down deep into her feather beds and listen to the rain on the roof or acorns fall. Some Saturday evenings we would venture out to one of her favorite spots in the area to dine. If there was a piano player in any of her favorite restaurants, she would always ask him to play, 'Everything is Beautiful', a popular song of 1970. At least popular in her book! I still can't hear that song and not think of her saying to the waitress, "Oh honey-darlin', do you think that lovely young man could play Everything is Beautiful?" 

One weekend Bet brought me to see the fall coloring in the Smoky Mountains. It was my first experience with autumn leaves and one I will never forget. In the evening when we first arrived it was drizzling and foggy...a very romantic way to see the leaves on the mountain. But in the morning the sun was blazing and it set the colors on fire...simply breathtaking! I will always cherish that trip and forever appreciate my Grandmother's love to make sure I witnessed such a beautiful sight!

Bet gave my husband his nickname of Mr Wonderful. It is a name that has lasted and remained a very apt description for my loving husband. She would listen to me go on and on about him when I was with her on those weekends at the farm. When he came to visit me in Atlanta one weekend we stayed at the farm. That was when he earned his name. She said I would go on and on about how wonderful he was and after meeting him she said I will just call him Mr Wonderful from now on. And she did! And he is!

Bet would call me Susiebelle. All one word. I have a very dear friend who calls me that now. She never knew Bet or that Bet called me that, but I love when Marilyn calls me that nickname. They both are Yankee gals that have acclimated very well to the South, I wonder if there is a connection??? Southern Belle...Susiebelle? Hmmm....
When we were young and my Grandfather Mac was still alive we would visit them at the farm. There was a bay window with a window seat that we would climb up on and perform, skits. I remember thinking when I was little it was a huge window seat...and it had shutters we would stand behind and then open like a curtain. As with all things, when I went back as a college age young woman, the window seat really wasn't all that large. The picture below has the window seat and shutters to the right of my Mom. Lots of tap dancing was done on that bench seat! I can hear me and my sisters shouting 'Tah-Dah!' even now!

When Bet would visit us she loved to take us one at a time on a Spree. A special outing with her to go shopping or sightsee around New Orleans. The really special Sprees were when she would take us to the Blue Room at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. That was la tee da! I remember feeling very grown up and she brought me to hear Frankie Laine sing. Wow, that was really special. To this day I love to go on a spree. I'm sure it's an old fashioned term but for me, one that conjures up happy feelings!
When living on the farm got to hard for her, Bet moved to California to live close to my Aunt Lee and her son, my Uncle Caulk. We didn't get to see as much of her as I would have loved to after that, but she would still come for weddings and sometimes Christmas. I was thrilled whenever she came and particularly that she got to meet my children. Not all of them got to know Gramma Bet, but I am blessed that she lived long enough for some of them to know her.

 This is a wonderful time to explain the Loves~Loves~Loves at the end of most of my postings. When Bet would come visit, at the beginning of each meal we would all hold hands at her request, mind you...and then all at the same time and shaking the persons hand you would be holding call out: Loves~Loves~Loves. She also would sign all of her letters and cards with Loves~Loves~Loves Bet. That was what families are supposed to be about! 
It is a tradition in our household to this day. My grandchildren love when we do this at big family gatherings! Once, I forgot to start a meal with it and one of my grandsons, I don't remember if it was Trey or Peter said, "We have to do Loves!". So, of course we did. Try's great fun and a good reminder of what families are supposed to bring to each other. So when you see the Loves~Loves~Loves at the end of the blog it is my way of paying a tribute to by Grandmother and bringing Love to all.

Happy Birthday, Bet, I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck!

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