This essay is another tribute to a strong influence in my life. CDS
Kitty Hortense Morris Davis was my paternal grandmother. Granny Davis.
She was born in Mt. Pleasant, Alabama in Monroe County on January 23rd, 1911. She married my Granddaddy in 1927. Grandaddy was a sharecropper. They moved from farm to farm to work in the fields. Granny always worked alongside Granddaddy.
In 1946 they purchased a farm. The farm was theirs-Granny and Granddaddy’s.
They raised cotton, corn and, of course, spent harvest time picking the crops by hand.Granny also helped take care of the hogs and cows they raised. They sold the farm in 1951. Granddaddy said he sold the farm because he couldn’t get Granny out of the fields. She was such a hardworking woman and working in the fields was backbreaking work.
In 1957 they moved to Mobile, Alabama-an area called Chickasaw. My daddy describes this change as culture shock leaving rural Alabama where they had a community of family and friends to this bustling port city where there were so many people. It all seemed quite chaotic to the quiet farm family from Monroe County.
My grandparents were determined and courageous people to make such a bold move.
They settled into the next phase of their lives. Granddaddy worked on a tugboat and Granny worked at home alone while he was gone. They had seven children one of whom died when he was nine years old.
When describing Granny it could be perceived that she was a submissive woman. She did not give her opinion. In most situations she yielded to other people. She was
quiet. Granny spoke when spoken to and exuded a meek demeanor. I only heard her raise her voice one time. She was about 5′ 4” and probably weighed 110 pounds. She appeared almost frail. If you didn’t know her you would think she needed extra care. But, I did know Granny and she had a spirit and a will as strong as steel. She had a stoicism about her. Emotions could not get in the way of life’s obligations. When her son died in 1937 Granny grieved, but she quickly retreated into the manual labor on the farm. When she moved to Mobile she took care of the children and their home while Granddaddy was away for weeks at a time. Neither Granddaddy nor Granny ever owned a car and neither of them ever learned to drive. Granny walked or took the bus when she needed to go to the grocery store or run errands. Friends and community were made through the church which was situated out the back gate behind their new home in Chickasaw and they soon became friendly with their neighbors.
The only time I ever heard Granny raise her voice or yell is when my Daddy and my uncle told her that my Granddaddy had a serious heart attack on the tugboat and was being transferred to the hospital in Dothan. She soon regained her composure. Granddaddy did not recover and he soon died. This was 1969. Granny continued being strong and resilient.
When my cousin, Les, and I were little Granny would keep us and cook delicious meals for us. At different times my other cousins and my little sister would stay with her. She had nine grandchildren as well as great-grandchildren. I always felt safe with Granny. Despite her stature, her attitude of strength surrounded us. Everything Granny did she did well. Her flowers always thrived. She embroidered and sewed pieces that exhibited the work of a skilled artisan. Cooking. Granny was an excellent cook. She could create a meal out of a few dull items. My favorite she always made for me was macaroni and tomatoes. This sounds ordinary, but Granny’s cooking was extraordinary. I still make a version of it today, though it never tastes like hers.
Some of my favorite memories are when Granny would come to visit us. She would let us sleep late and she always did our chores for us. She had a servant’s heart. She was not particularly affectionate, but doing these chores for us was her way of showing love to us. We watched TV shows together. Perry Mason, I Love Lucy and The Carol Burnett Show. She was always stitching something as she watched TV. She also read a lot. Mostly novels and romances, but she did occupy her mind.
What I learned from Granny is that being alone does not mean being lonely. I also learned that if I wanted something I could walk or use my resources to get it. She was a resourceful and self-sufficient woman. Even though her children would ensure her needs were met, Granny did not wait around for anyone. She did not wring her hands waiting.
My daddy would help her with projects around her house as would my aunts and uncles. But, Granny often liked to change her decor and where her furniture was in her house. She did not call anyone to help her move a bed or a chest. She did it herself! There were many times we would return on a visit and the entire furnishings in her house would be moved. Even after she moved into a senior living apartment we would show up and her chest of drawers would be moved to a different wall in her bedroom. Granny believed in the notion if you didn’t work hard you would be weak. I learned this from her.
Granny loved to shop and she wore suits and skirts with blazers. She loved a blazer! I think this was where I get my love of blazers. She had her hair done weekly and she always smelled so fresh. She would talk of coming from a poor farm family, but she said they knew how to use soap and water. They were always clean. Granny’s home and appearance were always in place and spotless.
Granny Davis was a strong woman who despite humble beginnings raised 6 children some of whom were college- educated and all were successful in their careers and business. Her legacy was a quiet strength, strong work ethic, and courage to move to a new place knowing no one and thriving while doing so. These were just a few of the values Granny Davis taught me.
15th March 2020 CDS