The rain, as we say around here, is just getting it, though the way it's spoken, is jist a-gittin it, sounds better, has momentum, iambic emphases. If it were "just getting it," it would not be a sayin' used by 'bout ever-body for its flat tone. "Jist a-gittin it" means it is raining hard, lightning, thunder, a thunder shower, not a thunder storm. I associate storms with wind. This is a straight down rain, lightning and loud thunder. Lightning rumbles in the distance as the cloud passes through. I felt no danger from the lightning, traced it by sound moving from west to east a few miles north of the house. It sounded like it was following the air flow over Wilkes Gap that follows highway 18. The rain has ended now. It is a day of clouds in motion. Rain fell earlier, cleared up and sun came out. Sun may be back after this rain. I like this kind of rain. Fewer people use the old expressions every year. Younger generations grew up on school grammar and television. The old-time grammar don't sound right no more. My grandmother spoke the old way. I was discouraged from saying aint, and them for those, by mother who did not want her kid sounding like a hick, especially her mother-in-law. She, in her family, was the first generation not to grow up on a farm. First generation city girl growing up in the Twenties and Thirties. Home influence and school influence had me believing city life was the only valid existence, until I learned I'd jist-a-soon go with the country people.
I thought of grandmother, Christina (Tina) Marie, the sanest one in the family. I don't think anybody liked her, except me. She was head-strong, opinionated, gossipy, had a way of talking about people I had to train out of self when I went on to live in the world. It truly is an unbecoming trait. Having purged self of such talk, it sounds awkward and odd when I hear someone talking down about others. I expect she got it from her mother. It's a kind of smugness about self from a higher station than others. Ego. I learned after growing up, my mother didn't like her at all. She probably rued her mother-in-law's influence on the kid. The last time I saw mother, I said once in conversation my grandmother "was the most important person in my life." I don't know what she made of it. She didn't volunteer an opinion, nor did I ask. It was something I realized after living in the mountains most of my adult life, grandmother's influence on who I am is extensive. She was philosophically minded, which she passed to me and I appreciate. She taught me practical, everyday life morality. Church and home morality amounted to, no, don't, and you-better-not. No explanation of why, just punishment. The preacher sez. Grandmother taught me the why behind moral behavior. She was a great teacher for a lonely kid whose destiny was to go into the wilderness in search of the way of the spirit.
Her family had moved to Kansas about forty years before she was born. She had several brothers and sisters grown and gone before she was born, and she had a younger sister, Aunt Ciller. Two of her brothers were fiddlers and one of them is said to have traded horses with Sitting Bull. She was the one to tell me, so I trust it. Her parents went to Kansas from eastern Kentucky, Pulaski County. They grew up in mountain culture, carried it with them in their home. I can tell, because their girl grew up a hillbilly. I visited some fourth cousins in Perry, Kansas, where she lived before getting married and moving to the city. Perry was always home. I was told very cautiously by one of the cousins that nobody liked her. It was ok. I assured him I anticipated it. None of her kids liked her, either. They only tolerated her. Evidently, she was a mean mother, ill-natured with a wicked tongue. I told them my experience with her was grandmother. She knew I wasn't getting any training at home, and I believe she took it upon herself to train this child, teach it a thing or two, like no rubber-necking in church and how to take care of birds, including chickens. Taught me how to transplant an iris, day lily, anything, and it live. She taught me appreciation for the plant world. We worked puzzles together. I listened to Grand Ole Opry with her.
When my role is called up yonder, she's the first one I want to meet. I want to say to her, "I finally got it." Meaning, I finally got the music she liked, old-time fiddle & banjo music and the Carter Family. I watched Kate Smith with grandmother, who was shaped something like Kate Smith. We both loved to hear her sing, When the moon comes over the mountain. I loved the song as much as grandmother did. Watched Lawrence Welk with her on her seven inch tv and thought it wonderful, him with his exotic foreign accent and accordion, guests that sang so good. And the kid discovered rock n roll. There was the time the kid was nutty over Teresa Brewer's new song, Jambalaya, or something like that. I showed grandmother a picture of Teresa Brewer. She said, "Her face looks like a cat's ass." I didn't agree, but never saw the picture again without seeing a cat's ass. She let me see Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show on her tiny tv. It was better than nothing. I could get up close, wouldn't be in her way. The kid was deeply grateful she let me watch Elvis on her tv. I've wondered who she is now, have we met? I've never felt it. She may have chosen to be one of her great-grandkids I've never met, or not. I've enjoyed this visit with grandmother, remembering her so closely. I thank the rain shower for bringing her.
photos by tj worthington