As a young’un, bad things did not befall me as long as I stuck close to my grandma. She sustained me in every way, and when I was at an early age she appointed herself as my protector from everybody and everything. When she took a step, I took a step. When she stopped, I stopped. When trouble was abounding, I would run around behind her and grab her dress with both my hands and then peek around her backside at whatever evil was pursuing me.
My mother, however, was an entirely different matter. She was very young and, shall we say, was very in touch with her inner feelings. And, shall we further say, fairness was not her forte, nor was it even one of her slightest concerns.
Well, one day I committed some misdemeanor that my mommy considered a high crime and, sure enough, her inner demons came pouring out. I immediately turned on my heel and ran, at warp speed, through the house, out the screendoor, across the yard, and out into the garden. You have to understand that I was guided by a highly developed inner grandma-seeking device that worked with much greater efficiency than a modern-day GPS.
I reached my grandma out in the garden, whirled myself around her so that she was between me and that crazy woman, and then peeked around just to see how crazy that crazy woman was today. I suppose I was contributing substantially to this less than optimal situation, for it seemed that the sight of me peeking around at her only heightened the crazy woman’s rage. “If I get a-hold of him, I’m a-gonna kill him,” she shrieked. Believing her, I tightened my grip on my grandma’s dress. Crazy woman followed up her introductory remark with “I’m gonna tear his arm off and wear him out with it.” Shall we say that I fully believed her? Let’s go ahead and say it. My grandma was the only thing standing between me and the end of my young and promising life.
Now even though I was my grandma’s angel, she knew how often and to what degree I fell short of perfection. But she had more patience with me than was currently being shown by the howling crazy woman. And my grandma also knew how my mommy got when something got her all tore up. After all, she had raised her. My mommy screamed, ” Let me have him, he’s my young’un and he’s got a whippin’ comin’.” I tightened my grip on my grandma’s dress even further, sending a silent signal of desperation.
Understand that my grandma was the law on that farm. And even though I had some confidence that the law was on my side, there was still the matter of the crazy, howling, purple-faced woman that had to be contended with.
My grandma raised up to her full 5 feet and 0 inches in height and waved her hoe in my mom’s general direction. Now there was no direct physical threat in that, but it was still a hoe. As she waved the hoe, my grandma said, “Go on back in the house and calm down a little. If he’s got a whippin’ comin’, I’ll see he gets one.” Defeated in her general murderous plan, my mother turned on her heel and stormed back in the house. Waves of relief washed over me, body and soul.
My grandma continued with what she had been doing. She chopped at the ground with the hoe. Chop. Chop. After a while she said, “You oughta know by now not to do things that are gonna get her that way.” Chop. Chop. “I ain’t always gonna be around to pull you out of ever ditch you get yerself in. You better learn to behave yerself.” Then she started singing. Singing and chopping. That meant she loved me and that no whippin’ was to be had on this day.