Photo and essay by Tonya Calvert
Miss Pearl sat in her worn rocking chair, and I sat on the couch with the vinyl sticking to my legs as the box fan blew hot air around the small living room. Miss Pearl, as she was known to many, was Ma-Ma to me. She was my grandmother. She was not the proverbial pearl-wearing Southern belle belonging to the Junior League. She was quite the opposite -- a snuff-dipping granny who drank Pabst Blue Ribbon while cutting her own grass. She raised 7 children in her small white framed house, and now she was old and alone. Remembering her now, I see that she is my example of what it means to be a Southerner. She was my example of pride and hospitality, true Southern qualities.
When I speak of Southern pride, I don’t mean the type we Southerners have in our states or our football teams. Miss Pearl did love baseball, so much in fact, that she had a framed picture of Jesus on the wall with an autographed Dale Murphy card stuck in the frame. As long as I can remember, it hung that way on her wood paneled wall right above the small tv where she watched her soaps every day. That picture showed her love for Jesus, having been raised in a God-fearing Pentecostal church and her love for America herself via a love of baseball -- the all-American sport. She rarely missed watching a Braves game on that little tv set. Cutting her own grass no matter how much her Arthur acted up and taking care of her own little home herself were other ways she demonstrated that self-reliant sort of pride we Southerners are known for.
As I sat with her that day in her little living room visiting, time seemed to slow to a crawl. It was as if she had nothing more important to do than visit with me. She always made me feel welcome in that small unpretentious house by just being happy that I had come. She would have sweet tea and candy she kept in the freezer just for such visits. We did not need constant conversation. She just wanted to sit a spell. As I rose to leave that particular day, the doorbell rang. She rose to answer the door with me right behind. I saw right away the lady was holding a copy of the Watch Tower. Most people would ignore the door or tell her to go away, but Miss Pearl’s face lit up. Apparently this was a regular visitor and though they had different religious views, Miss Pearl was eager to share that Southern hospitality with this lady. She welcomed her in as I was leaving, “Well now... I have not seen you in a while, come sit a spell...”
Originally published in Belle Rêve Literary Journal.