I’ve discussed my paternal grandparents a bit, and true, I’ve a bit more to say about them, but for now, let’s turn to my maternal grandparents.
They, too, were fondly given the names: “Mama Lay” and “Papa Lay.”
Unlike Poppy, Mama Lay and Papa Lay lived about five hours away from us, and we thus saw them far less often. Going to see them required a trip, a long drive that was often more irritating than not.
Driving five hours is not a fun experience.
Riding five hours can be even less fun, but by the time I became a teenager, I had skillfully learned to listen to music on a portable CD player (back in the days when we used to actually have a use for CDs), and thus the trip was not nearly so bad.
We established a kind of ritual on the way to Mama Lay’s house- we would stop in Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, and eat at Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel served good, country breakfasts- the kinds of things that Southern folks are known for. Scrambled eggs, grits, bacon, biscuits, and gravy were all part of the menu.
When a Cracker Barrel opened years later in Dothan, I refused to go. I haven’t eaten at Cracker Barrel in Dothan at any point in time. As my grandmother has passed away, I have no real reason not to eat at the Dothan Cracker Barrel as I make no such journey to north Alabama.
Mama Lay’s house was tiny in comparison to my own house and the houses of most of the people I knew. To wit, she and Papa Lay had only five rooms- the living room, the kitchen/dining room, a bathroom, and two bedrooms, one which served as their bedroom and the other which served as a guest room.
Mama Lay’s bed had an extra mattress on it or something. I remember that I slept in the bed with her a lot when I was a kid, and that there was a strange incline that let up to her and Papa Lay’s room. Her room also had an incredibly creepy picture of Jesus that hung in it; He’s in the picture, sitting at a table, just staring at the viewer.
My grandmother made breakfast for us every day. She would also boil water in a tea kettle, and this was one of the few times in my life I remember anyone using a tea kettle. The premise of a tea kettle is that it whistles at the spout when the water has reached boiling temperature. I remember waking up to the sound of the whistling kettle and the smell of bacon and sausage frying in the pan, as well as seeing Mama Lay make biscuits. Eggs came next. She would also make coffee, I think.
Mama Lay was also a big fan of sweets- she invariably had some kind of cake in her house, and she enjoyed eating a piece of cake with a cup of coffee for breakfast.
I inherited that tendency!
Also, she was a big fan of the Price is Right, just like Ms. Alice.
Mama Lay’s filled her house with various knick-knacks; her shelves were lined with them, literally. She had a fake fireplace that I never quite understood when I was a kid, and around the fireplace were three cat statues and some stuffed chickens. The chickens always creeped me out.
Without fail, Mama Lay always wore dresses. I never, ever once saw or heard tale of her wearing pants. I thought this was something to do with her upbringing and generation for the longest time- until my grandfather passed away, and her siblings came to visit. One of them in question was wearing pants- so it was peculiar to Mama Lay to wear only dresses.
She was a fairly reserved person; I never once heard her complain, other than to say she was cold, and that seems to also be my main complaint these days. She kept quiet most of the time, but I know from personal experience of secret conversations we had that she was far sharper and aware of what exactly was going on than most people realized.
Since I’m taking this trip down memory lane, I’ll probably continue the blogs for a couple of entries.