My Wish for a Black Grandma

My Wish for a Black Grandma

Growing up as a Blonde hair, blue/green eyed, caucasian girl, I was the fairest of caucasian a girl could be. My hair was so light you could see my pink scalp through it and in the summer often my head would get sunburnt.

I grew up with two Grandmas.  The "Fat Grandma" and the "Skinny Grandma". Not the nicest way to describe them, but as a child I didn't see how cruel these terms were. The "Fat Grandma" was my Mom's mom, Grandma Gintzer, the "Skinny Grandma" was my Dad's mom, Grandma Mohler.

My "Fat Grandma lived in Pennsylvania and I only got to see her a few times each year. My "Skinny Grandma" lived only minutes from us.....and I rarely saw her at all.

Grandma Gintzer would come into town and would stay with us usually about a week, then she would go stay with one of my Aunts. It seemed she came into town just a couple times a year. Grandma Gintzer was a bigger woman, but as she aged to a young child it appeared she was melting, her skin just became more loose with each visit. I loved sitting next to her, always in her same chair at our table, the one closest to the front window, and I would just hold onto her upper arm and feel the softness of her skin. She was a sweet Grandma and loved to tell stories, some real, some fiction, some in English and some in German. But the best language she would tell a story in was Pennsylvania pig latin. Her stories were often funny. I loved when she came into town and I could sit and just listen to her for hours. Mom would often tell me to go play so Grandma could have a break, because she would just finish up one story and I would be asking her to tell me another.

Grandma Mohler I do not remember that well. In my memories I see her constantly yelling at us. My memories of her are not fond at all. My father passed when I was three and it seemed Grandma didn't really stay connected to us. I remember my Mom not speaking to kindly about my Grandma Mohler. Grandma would get us a card for our Birthday, so Mom would take us to her house to collect our card, but other than that, I never saw her.

As a child and to this day, I love books. I wish I took the time to go to the library still.

Now with all this new technology seems everything is so impersonal. If you want to borrow a book, go online, click a button. I have a Kindle that I downloaded books to and I can honestly say I have never read one of them, I like the feel of turning the pages of a physical book resting in my hands.

As a child I loved Library day at school. As I type, I can smell that smell the old Libraries always had, that smell a bit musty, but so good of all the paper and pages. As I visualize the old libraries of my childhood, I still can see the old drawers of a card catalog. There is something about a old fashioned card catalog that draws me in and makes me wish to go back in time. I remember learning the Dewey Decimal system and going to the card catalog to pull the card and find all the information about a book. I remember selecting a book, and  removing the card from that little back pocket, writing my name as neat as I could in that way too tiny line and watching the Librarian replace it with a card dated with the due date, the day I had to return the book I held in my hand like a treasure.

I very clearly see a book cover from my childhood, it had a African American Grandma on the front, sitting in a rocking chair on a porch to a little wooden shack. Sitting on the porch steps near her are two little girls with braided hair, cute little pinafore dresses, bobby socks and faint powder blue bows on the end of each of their braids. I wish I could remember the Title, the cover is so vivid in my memory.

So often as a child,  I remember selecting books with similar themes. I was drawn to the books with the Black Grandmas. When I read these books as a child, the Grandma always seemed to be a character with a slow, easy, softness to her. She was always filled with wisdom she would share with the other characters in the book as she stared off into the distance. I always wanted a Grandma like those in the books I selected.  

I grew up with not a lot, we weren't poor, but being raised by a single Mom with five children to feed, we didn't have riches either. But when you pulled a book from the library shelf, if it had a white family, it always appeared they had these perfect homes, with a perfect family. A Dad, a Mom, A Boy, A Girl and a Pet of some kind. But when I pulled a book with a black family, often times it was  a Mom, a Grandma and usually a few children instead of just one of each gender.  It seemed the Grandma was always a constant in their life, not one that lived far away, often she lived with them in these books.

The books about the black families always seemed to be illustrated in darker tones, like even the background scenes were always done in less bright colors. While white family books were always bright. With little girls in vibrant pink dresses. 

Just to look at the earth tone books seemed to give a feel of a unhurried life, you just felt a calm when you looked at the illustrations. The African families didn't have a lot, yet always seemed content in these books, while the White family book always showed the Dad running out with a brief case in a suit, while the Mom had on her dress and pearls while washing dishes, children just left alone playing on a floor near by with blocks or some bright colored toy.

I was drawn to the calmer colors, and felt I fit in better with the characters in the stories whose main characters were African American. They didn't look to have fancy things, yet they seemed so happy just sitting on the porch listening to their Grandma, as she slowly rocked, pouring out her wisdom. The Grandma always had a good moral compass and was always teaching kindness and understanding in her tales she told.

As I watched the news today, they were speaking of racism. It is the last day of February as I write, the twenty ninth to be exact, it is a leap year. The year is 2024, Slavery ended in 1865. In 1868, African Americans were given the right to vote. The Segregation Era was from like, 1900 to 1939. And yet we still hear people being described by race or color. It is never "A man", it is always a "black Man".... in the news stories. Why are we even described in this way? Our race has nothing to do with our ability to be a good person or a bad person. Our race has nothing to do with our ability to be successful or unsuccessful. Segregation ended a long time ago. We are all the same in the eyes of God, so we should be the same in each others eyes.

I never saw African Americans as less than,  I would have loved to sit with  Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Harriet Tubman. To hear them share their stories personally.

Oh how I loved to learn about the underground railroad and the freeing of the slaves. I was a little girl that saw people being abused and hurt in my history books, I learned empathy while listening as my teachers shared the things that had happened in our country years before me to those of color.

 I would have been a friend to Ruby Bridges when she walked up that sidewalk to that school. I would have gladly slid over to allow Rosa Parks a seat next to me. And Maya Angelou, her calm voice would have been absolutely soothing to listen to as she shared her wisdom with me.

I never saw the difference between me and them, I only saw human beings.

One Christmas I even asked for the "African American" version of the Mattel Baby Tenderlove doll. My Mother (aka. Santa), bought me that baby doll and I still have it today.

I was a little White Girl who wished to have a Black Grandma.

Happy Black History Month

Be Blessed,

The Happy Farmwife


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