Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Biographical Essay Final Draft

Biography Essay
By Jessica Long
English 321
Dr. Mitchell

A Recipe for Life

“And that was Grandma Effie...”

“One day my sister, she was a toddler, so I must have been, maybe five years old and we went down to see Grandma Effie. We wanted something to eat and were also curious. So you know how kids explore houses and things? Well she had this cabinet that had a pull out porcelain thing where she would make her biscuits and things like that; but there was this door that I did not know where it went to so I took a chair and climbed up on the cabinet and there was this bin so I took a hold of it and pulled it down. And about 20 pounds of flour came pouring down on my head, my little head, I mean there was such a big mess that we knew that we would never clean it up.”
My mother paused in her story. There on the table on the other side of the living room sparkled the one piece of Depression glass my mother had. The bright rainbow of iridescent colors always reminded me of car oil floating on a puddle. The edges receded in an out like a persistent wave. I remember her holding it up to the light in the antique store and seeing something more than just a plate. She saw her favorite grandmother. She saw Grandma Effie in the kitchen, cooking and working until her tired hands hurt. She saw tiny little pans that Effie used to melt butter in and the beautiful cake with pink stripes that no one in the family had ever been able to duplicate.
“So we were so frightened that we took off and in little puffs of flour flying everywhere from us. We hid because we knew that we were in big trouble. It wasn’t too long, she had come down from the garden and saw the mess (probably saw all the little footprints and figured it out) and she walked all the way up the hill because she knew that we would’ve been terrified. She just looked straight at me and said to me ‘I forgive you but never do it again.’ And that was Grandma Effie.”

“She was one to speak her mind”

Great-Grandma Effie lived in Ashe County, North Carolina and there was always wind blowing on the hill and food in the kitchen. My mother would sit on the porch and snap green beans or help her Grandma Effie wash the vegetables in the cold water from the pump. Effie always made sure my mother felt useful. When the family got together there was so much food on the table that you had to put your plate on your lap to eat. “And she wasn’t just a cook, she was a good cook so going to her house was always a treat. I think that was the way that she showed love to her family, always having them something good to eat.”
Effie was considered to be one of the beautiful women in the county. “I know this to be a fact,” my mother said, “because my other grandmother, Granny Hester, who was a mean woman, told me that. And I knew that if Granny Hester complimented someone then it had to be the truth.”
Effie had coal black eyes she got from her full-blooded Cherokee grandmother and a temper to match. My mother knew her only when her youthful complexion had given way to a sturdy frame and streaks of gray in her hair. After the work was done and everyone had lunch, Effie would take down her waist-long hair and brush it for a long time. And after that, she would put it back in the bun she always wore and would go back to working the farm and humming hymns.
One of her sons drowned in a creek. Two others went to fight in World War I. One of them died and other returned but was never the same. “I loved him very much, his name was Uncle Joe.” When her youngest son, Jay, was about to be drafted to the Korean War, Effie wrote to President Eisenhower that the Army had already had two of her sons and that she needed one to help her work the farm. Her son never went to war and she kept a framed picture of Eisenhower in the house. “She was one to speak her mind,” said mom.

“I missed her for a long time”

“She passed away when I was six years old from diabetes. I remember when we went to see her. I think that she had asked to see me. I remember being up high in my dad’s arms and looking down at her, and that was the last time I ever saw her.” Tears formed at the corners of my mother’s eyes, and I saw the child that missed her grandmother’s warm arms and her strong spirit.
“When she passed away, there was just something that happened to the family. They did get together and eat sometimes, but there was never the laughter and the joy and the fun that had been [there] when I was a really small girl. I really missed her for a long time.”
Great-grandma Effie cared about people and loved her family. She withstood the erosive temper of her husband. He was brutal at times, but he never got over her death. “He would talk about Effie and tears would come to his eyes because he missed her so much and he loved her. He was mean, but he loved Effie.” Her funeral was held at a primitive Baptist church and it was the only time my mother ever saw her father cry.
Effie’s love and devotion had left a lasting impression on my mother and her family. “She had a recipe for life,” my mother said.


Post a Comment

<< Home