Paw-Paw would be proud. I won 3rd place!
‘Summers with Paw-Paw’
© Traci Sanders 2015
(My Paw-Paw and Granny Nix)
Having grown up smack dab in the middle of eight children, it was easy to get lost in the shuffle quite often. What a typical child would refer to as ‘quality time’ with my mom or dad was a concept that was lost on me. There were just so many other mouths to feed and take care of. Add in the small detail that I suffered from grand mal seizures until the age of eight years old, memories of my childhood–whether fond or not–are scattered and unclear in my mind at times. However, there is one thing, or more specifically one person, who seems to remain a permanent, happy fixture in my subconscious—my mother’s dad. I knew him simply as ‘Paw Paw’.
I’m only familiar with most of my childhood memories because of stories I have heard from my siblings and parents. Sometimes I feel as if I recall certain details, but it could be only because I have heard these stories so often. My mother has told me many times that, as a young child, I was very shy. I wouldn’t leave her side to go to anyone or let anyone touch me but my parents, and of course, my Paw-Paw for some reason. He eventually nicknamed me ‘Touch-me-not’ for that reason. That became our connection. Once I stopped having the seizures, I began to spend a great deal of time with him.
I never had much of a relationship with my granny, his wife. She too had bore eight children, just like my mother, and always seemed to be annoyed by young children. Granted, she was in her sixties by the time I came along, so I suppose she could have just been tired by then. Nevertheless, I felt almost as if she hated me.
My Paw-Paw, however, reveled in my visits and I adored being with him. He always smelled of grape Fanta soda—it was his favorite. I never liked the stuff, but the orange Fanta was a different story. He made sure to keep some around just for me, or at least I imagined it was. In fact, he kept a secret stash of goodies that I was allowed to choose from each time I visited—moon pies, rice crispy treats, candy bars, and more. He and my granny lived in the city, so the ice-cream truck would come down their street at least once a day during the summer and he would scrape together his last quarter to buy me an ice-cream. It meant a lot to me because, even at my young age, I knew he really didn’t have it to spare.
My grandparents’ house was infused with the scent of collard greens and cornbread practically every time I walked in the door. They were Paw-Paw’s favorites. I never liked southern cooking as a kid. My mom often says she’s not sure I ever was a kid because I didn’t enjoy the traditional kid-friendly foods like macaroni and cheese, Kool-aid, and sweet tea. At times I even questioned whether I truly belonged in my family or not because my tastes in food, books, hobbies, and school were so different from that of my siblings.
I spent many summer days and nights with my Paw-Paw and Granny. I sat on their rickety old back porch and listened to the train rip through the town on a track nearby as Paw-Paw worked in his garden. The scent of fresh watermelon and roses are still ever clear in my mind. He loved to do outdoorsy things and took great pride in his gardens. I didn’t mind helping him plant and pick the food, but turned my nose up anytime Granny cooked them for me–which I’m sure did not encourage her to like me more. Looking back, I think perhaps she was jealous of my Paw-Paw’s affection toward me. I was his princess. He made me feel safe, special, and loved. When I visited, it was all about me, and I basked in that feeling.
One particular night, when I was about ten years old, I had just gotten out of the shower from a long day of playing in the yard. I had wrapped my hair and body in two separate towels and walked down the hall into the bedroom to get dressed. Granny was livid because they were a poor family and she felt I was wasting a clean towel. She cursed at me and I cried. I wanted to go home, but my Paw-Paw stood up for me. He reprimanded my granny for speaking to me so harshly and scaring me. I truly felt his love and protection for me and only decided to stay because of him.
When my granny passed away a few years later, it was just me and Paw-Paw during the visits until I became a teenager and life got busy for me. My heart was truly broken when he finally passed away just seven years after my granny. I will always have a special place in my heart for him and the fun times we shared together every summer.
I realize this story isn’t as dramatic and exciting as something like my first visit to the fair or my first slumber party; but for me, it was the most memorable time in my life because it took place with tone of the most memorable people in my life, my Paw-Paw Nix.