My great-grandmother, Marie Watson Anderson, was always busy. Born Lucy Marie Anderson in Texas in 1899, she spent most of her life in Oklahoma. At some point, she had her name legally changed to Marie because she liked it better than Lucy. She worked as a housekeeper, raised seven children, outlived two husbands, and lived to meet two of her great, great-grandchildren before she died in 1988 at age 89. I don’t remember what her voice sounded like. Can’t remember any words of wisdom she passed down, but I remember her nimble fingers always moving.
They were slender like her and I can picture them perfectly arched, reaching out to pluck the spatula from its appointed space when I visited her in Clinton, Oklahoma when I was about seven. She’d use the spatula to expertly flip her beyond brag-able buttermilk pancakes or scoop the Canadian bacon out of the frying pan. So delicious were her buttermilk pancakes that back home in New Jersey after the trip, I begged to drink some buttermilk from my grandmother’s refrigerator, sure it would taste as sweet and perfect as her mother’s breakfast treats. Let’s just say, it’s a long way from the milk itself to the pancakes. One experiment with it was enough to make me think there was just something special about Great-Granny Marie’s food. For many years after eating her breakfast that year, I would order Canadian bacon whenever I came across it, convinced that it was a delicacy, but every time, it disappointed. It never compared to the Canadian bacon that came out of Great-Granny Marie’s kitchen. Speaking of, I spent most of that first visit on the floor of her spotless kitchen. She had an old-fashioned formica table with metal legs that I loved to sit under where I could take in, undisturbed and without detection, my family’s interactions with each other. Plus, it was the best smelling place in the house.
Great-Granny Marie was a perfect picture of composure and grace as she performed various tasks around her home. Her hair kept at a respectable length just beyond her ears, rested on the nape of her neck. She never rushed, but moved in a dignified manner in the dresses and skirts she wore hidden under a flowered or floral colored full apron. She knew I was under the table, but never addressed me except to sneak me an extra piece of her bacon or even as I recall a piece of cornbread. Somehow, she made me feel adored, even though I can’t think of any words that passed between us.
Sadly, I have not inherited Great-Granny Marie’s penchant for tidiness or cooking. I do my best to keep from being buried alive under accumulated laundry and papers and have about five stock meals that I can make for my family in under a half hour. I don’t aspire to her good housekeeping standards (I’d rather have a live in housekeeper), but the love she somehow engendered with all those meals served in perfect comfort are indeed a legacy I hope to pass on.