Oddities and Grandma’s Wisdom

LVal_2010The world is burning and Nero fiddles from the balcony and we, the peasants are dancing in the streets to a song we barely know and have long since forgotten the steps to. Now and then though something occurs to us, something leaps out and bites us on the ankle, perhaps a memory of days past when things were simple and life didn’t break our hearts. For me, despite some folks in my family were crazy as hell and honestly didn’t have the sense the Good Lord gave a gnat, some of that time was time spent with one of my grandmothers in South Texas.

Valentines Liquor Store 6903 - 3-69-45

My Granddad’s Liquor store

I didn’t see a great deal of her, didn’t spend much time with her because my father and grandfather didn’t see eye-to-eye, this is mildly put. My grandfather was a mean son-of-a-bitch, he was a bigot and a card-carrying member of Racist-R-Us, if he didn’t have white sheets hanging in his closet I would be shocked. Because of my olive skin, dark hair and dark eyes my grandfather regularly called me a spic, papoose and even nigger; frequently asked my father why they didn’t return me where they got me since I was obviously not White and they never should have adopted me. My grandfather gave me my first drink of whiskey and my first cigarette when I was eleven years old, said he could prove I was an ‘injun’ if I got crazy with firewater. He and my father got into a fistfight on that visit, though it wasn’t just over this it was part of it.

Back to my grandmother, she was mostly a good South Texas Lady. How she ever tolerated my lying, cheating polecat of a grandfather for more than fifty years is beyond me, but she did. When I was seventeen I spent two weeks with her while she was recovering from surgery, it was the most time I had ever spent at one time. During that time she imparted her lifetime of wisdom, she made me laugh hysterically and often, she made me question her and my own sanity. All of this while we sat at the dining room table over coffee and cigarettes, my grandmother by the way smoked like a chimney until the day she died in her 80’s.

Here is the wisdom of my very Southern Grandmother and some of my thoughts about that wisdom.

    1. Never go out without lipstick.
      1. I try to remember this one, sad to say though I carry at least two tubes I rarely remember to smear it on my lips.
    2. Never go out without your hair done properly and don’t ever leave the house with curlers in your hair.
      1. Well, yeah now that I am growing my hair out my stylist has taught me how to wield a blow dryer and a brush, I am getting pretty good at it actually. Five days out of seven I do in fact actually somewhat successfully do something with my hair. Previously not so much, but I think my grandmother would be proud. There was a time I followed her rules much more closely and was a good Texas girl with the mantra of ‘the bigger the hair the closer to God’.
    3. Always wear a hat, this protects you from the sun prevents freckles and in your case dear stops you from turning so damned dark.
      1. Yeah, well thankfully we have sunscreen for this now. I own hats and wear them now and then, but this is for show not to protect me from the sun.
    4. Don’t wear pants in public, unless you are gardening they simply aren’t attractive and those jeans the girls are wearing now are terrible. Wear skirts or dresses, women should look like women.
      1. Okay, I don’t know what to say to this one, does anyone? Pants are my go to wardrobe choice most days.
    5. Always wear foundations, honey you need to wear a bra.
      1. Is there anything sexy about the foundations she was talking about and still wearing when we had this conversation?
    6. Wear high-heels, your legs look better in high-heels.
      1. This is the one I entirely agree with, wear them, collect them, even sometimes salivate over them.

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    7. Wear stockings, only floozies go out bare legged.
      1. Come on, I live in Texas where it is sometimes +105 for days at a time. Suffering for beauty is one thing but this takes things just a little too far.
    8. Do not ever get drunk in public, it is fine to have a drink at home but never get drunk in public.
      1. This is one we should all agree with. Nothing more to add.
    9. Marry where you love. Don’t let other people stop you not even your Daddy.
      1. Great advice from a woman who married “down” and was disowned by her parents for her choice in spouse, I often wonder if she ever regretted it.
    10. Be kind to others, kindness will always get you further than ugly.
      1. I have always tried to follow this.
    11. Don’t move with the crowd, they will push you over the cliff when you get to the edge.
      1. Isn’t this the damned truth.
    12. Honey, don’t compete with men they don’t appreciate a woman that can beat them at their own games and don’t need their noses rubbed in it all the time.
      1. Well, this is the truth and yet sometimes there is no choice is there?
    13. Don’t raise your voice in anger. Speak softly, force them to listen to you.
      1. It took me years to understand this one.
    14. Stop marking your body up, those tattoos are for bad girls and sailors.
      1. My grandmother hated my tattoos. I wonder if she would have changed her mind. At the time she said this too me I had two small ones on my back, now I have eighteen and many are sizable.
    15. Don’t let your past hurts color your world, live. You are young and your life is ahead of you.
      1. I try to live by this one. I knew what she was telling me at the time and we had many long talks about forgiveness and letting go at that table over those two weeks. It took me a very long time to absorb this lesson. I am grateful to her for it.

Those were the truths of my grandmother. It has been a very long time since I have thought of her or those conversations. Someone who is special to me and brings me a great deal of happiness reminded me today of these conversations, of wearing skirts instead of pants, of girdles and oddly of what it means to be feminine without losing who I am as a woman. I am grateful for the reminders and for being able to step outside of the world for a minute.

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of my grandmother and her wisdom, I surely enjoyed the memory.

Because we should all have memories that bring us back around this is dedicated to someone I love.


  1. I loved learning from my grandmother. I cherish the memories and tell you do too. I read the part about you salivating over some high heels and giggled – for me it is all about the purses!

  2. How did I miss this? Your grandma sounds delightful. Lord, how did she put up with the man she married?

    • It was always a question in the back of my head, believe me. I think she stuck it out because that is what ‘one did’. He cheated on her constantly and she turned a blind eye, this is only example.

  3. In Oz (Adelaide), we have a very casual dress thing happening here.
    if you make an effort you stand out from the crowd.
    (that is not really a good thing here).

  4. I so so enjoyed this and yeah loads resonated with me!!! Bare legged floozies what a great image! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel.

  6. I would have enjoyed talking with your grandmother. Some of her rules were great. Even in my early feminist days when we burned our bras, I went home and put on another one. I was a nurse and knew where the girls would end up without one. Great post. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Barbara

    • I wish someone had told me back then! She was funny, I thought so many of pieces of wisdom were silly back then, now I look back and think dang she was right.

  7. Gosh, Val, you look White to me! Brown eyes run in the Caucasian race, too, just like blue and green eyes run among Negroes and Indians – believe it or not.

  8. Your grandmother sounds like a sensible woman. We could all use practicing some of these rules. I can see you turning this into a book of your grandmother’s wisdom mixed in with anecdotes and stories you remember of her. Maybe even a recipe or two of hers.Thanks for sharing!

  9. Thanks for sharing her wisdom with us. I had to laugh at “never wear pants in public” my gram was the same way, women were to always were dresses or long skirts AND a nice fashionable hat. (she was born in 1901)

    • I think mine was born in 1890 something, I would have to look. I know my dad was born in 1927 and he was the baby, she was considered old to have a child when he came along.

  10. This grandmother is an interesting woman. One she married this (far-from-my-choice-man-had-I-known-her) man but still she had spunk and she held to tradition. What else could she do? She sounds super interesting. ❤

  11. Holy cow…your grandmother was a saint for putting up with that man of hers! I mean no offense, but damn…he called you, his own flesh and blood, such horrible names! I can’t fathom that. One of my grandfathers died before I was born, the other shuffled off this mortal coil when I was 7 so I feel a little cheated in that regard. But I’ve also still got one grandmother going pretty strong at 96, so I guess it all balances out. Thanks for sharing this wisdom. Some of it is dated, but it’s mostly good, honest advice.

    • Well first, I was adopted so he felt no connection to me at all. He looked at me and decided I was ‘other’. I am not offended at all, btw, I have called him far worse over the years.

      Dated? Actually, all of it is quite good just in how you spin it I think.


      • Ahh…gotcha. I don’t think I realized that.

        I just meant some of her advice, such as pants and stockings and her aversion to tattoos. But I think probably a lot of the older generation feels that way! She sounds like a very wise woman.

  12. frigginloon says:

    Great post Val. I love granny wisdom. More please 🙂

  13. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Your Grandmother sounds like a feisty lady—I like feisty.

  14. I enjoyed this post, Valentine, very much. Your Grandmother was a special lady, for sure. What amazed my particularly, was the fact that she chain-smoked and lived to that age. As far as your Grandfather – well, you said it all – as much as you were willing to say. I have lots of memories of my grandparents, of course, and some run parallel to yours. It was a different time in all of our histories. I will be covering more of my memories at a later date. I appreciate your forthrightness.

    • I have spoken about much of my family here in this blog in depth. Much of the history of my grandfather though, well I didn’t know him well so I got him through others.

      I hope you write about your family. We tell our stories so others understand how far we come.


  16. Your grandmother was a very intelligent, insightful woman.
    I’m quite surprised she was married to your grandpa! WOW.
    …..But perhaps he would have much more racist and horrible had she not married him! xxxxx

    • I always thought their marriage was quite odd. He must have had some redeeming qualities, I simply cannot for the life of me figure them out.

      My most vivid memory is of him coming home from the store and yelling across the house, “Woman, where is my food!”

  17. Val, this was a hoot! I grew up with some of the same mandates. At one point in my life I was more afraid of being hit by a car while wearing dirty underwear with holes in them then I was of death itself. Crazy, huh? And those girdles and bras . . . oh my God! Thanks for the trip back to a time that I am glad has been left behind. So glad to see that you did not inherit your grandfather’s DNA. Take care.

    • Thankfully, I wasn’t actually related to him! I think that is why he felt free to say the things he said about me. He did not love his adopted granddaughter (me) but was fond of my brother (also adopted).

      I have friends (male) who think that underwear is very sexy. Who knew.

  18. Valentine, thanks for this poignant, reflective piece. Amaya, thanks for reblogging. I wrote about my grandmother recently and it brought a tear to my eye to see your post. Grandparents, like parents, are not perfect, but it is great that you can remember her fondly. As for your Grandpa, I cringe when I hear bigotry from folks I love. It was a different time, but it does not make it right. I have found myself with choices to say something, let it slide or change the subject. Or, I may say simply I don’t feel that way and move on. But, to say things to a kid like that… if I were an adult I would have to say something in your defense. Again, great post, BTG

    • Well, I was too young to understand the source of or the depth of his ugly. It would be years before I understood he didn’t like me because of what he perceived as my difference, by then he was dead. My grandmother actually explained it. He wasn’t the only one in the family who felt that way. My father protected me and kept me away from them.

      My grandmother was partly a woman of her time and place and partly not. I adored her.

      • She sounds like a person I would like it meet. I adored my Big Mama as we called her, as well. Thanks for remembering her well.

  19. My great-grandmother gave very similar advice, in very different language. Another south-Texas lady. xxx

  20. Reblogged this on BrabbleRabble and commented:
    Valentine’s post reminds me of my paternal grandmother, or Granny as everyone called her. She was a tough old lady. She drove up and down the eastern seaboard, visiting her five children unnanounced. She would often stay for weeks, upsetting the order of things. She disapproved of just about everything and never minced words. The most memorable, and painful thing she ever said to me was “I love you, but I don’t have to like you.” I was perhaps ten or eleven years old and couldn’t figure for the life of me why she didn’t like me. I never did. But now I can’t help but think the same thing about a few of my family members. At least Granny was honest! Visit Val’s page to read about her grandmother, who sounds as interesting as mine was, although I daresay much kinder!

    • Thank you Amaya. Truly I think we must all have a few of these in our family. I have more than a few. But Maudie (Grandma) she did like me though I suspect she didn’t always approve of me.


  21. Jueseppi B. says:

    Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat™.

  22. Your grandfather seemed like a piece of work. Whew … so cheers to your grandmother and her pearls of wisdom … and #11 got the biggest reaction from me.

  23. I loved reading your grandmother’s advice. There’s much truth to her words. But I can’t say I follow her clothing advice much. Not sure I even own a pair of hose. 🙂

  24. It was a different era wasn’t it? Fortunately my parents and grandparents left a good impression on me. They had their faults as we all do but we always knew they were on our side as children and adults. When we made our bloopers, and we made some big ones, they were there to help us get up again. But your experience was quite different. It has been an eye opener to me to read your blogs and see how unkind people have been to you, and to admire you for the courage you’ve displayed in not letting that traumatic past rule your life. now. You are an inspiration!

  25. Love all if it! Thx for sharing!!

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