On Friday night, Matt drove two traffic-less hours to spend the weekend with our brother, Kelsay, giving me a couple days alone with the family and the whole air mattress to myself. I decided against locking myself in our room and sought out to get some one on one time with each person.
Through bird watching, cooking and chasing many tiny dogs around, I enjoyed the company of each family member. One of my favorite moments of the weekend was out on the porch with Grandma. We sat with plates of buttermilk pie on our laps and listened as the backyard came alive with the humming of crickets. I'm getting use to the quiet moments around here. In my family, the loudest person gets heard and conversation never stops, even through movies. (You can imagine the culture shock this created for Matt and me when we got married.) Sometimes there are three or four minutes of silence with Grandma. She'll lock her fingers together, purse her lips and look quietly around, observing. Then start right in on a story.
"I've had a hard life", she told me while still looking over the yard. I lowered my fork in anticipation of responding somehow, but she continued. She started in on stories of becoming a single mother of five and continued on, telling about her days working in the cotton fields, hiding from storms and burying her husband and eventually, her son. "I've had a hard life", she repeated, this time with a voice inflection that sounded like she was convincing herself. She sat quietly for just a moment before rising to collect the plates and going inside. I sat outside a bit longer, hoping to spot the flicker of fireflies and soaking in the life of this family. So much sorrow, so much loss and so much pain. As an incredibly fearful person, I spot bravery quickly and admire it greatly. These people are brave. (I, on the other hand, have been asking an 82 year old to stomp on the spiders that I fish out of the pool.)
Later that day Matt's Aunt Amy pulled me into the kitchen. "Hey", she checked over her shoulder, "I want you to drive me to the mall so I can shop the sales." Browsing the racks at their favorite department store, Amy pulled out a sleeveless, white cotton dress. " Let's buy you some dresses. You can wear 'em to church!" After that, any item of clothing I touched she shoved into the cart. "Your birthday is coming up! You are the only niece we have, let us spoil you." I tucked most of the items back on the rack, but suddenly feeling self-conscious about my church apparel, I gave in to her buying me a couple dresses. "Now, if Matt asks, you tell him you've always had these dresses and he won't know nothin'."
On Monday night we closed out the weekend by grilling hamburgers and eating plate-loads of warm, peach cobbler Grandma baked.