Southern secrets can be incredibly scandalous. And I've never told this one. Although back in the day when I was a mere child (that would be...oh....about 10 years ago) it wasn't as scandalous as it was just plain commonplace.
I don't know if she was gifted with a healing vibe or just knew how to get things done. All I know is that my great-grandmother - who lived next door in a little white house when I was growing up - had many old fashioned cures for whatever ailed us. If we had a bee sting she'd dip her handkerchief in wet snuff and make it better. I always thought it was the grossest thing in the world but there was no arguing - ever - with Grannie.
If there was a tee-tiny wart on someone's finger she'd bury a black-eyed pea in the backyard and wait for it to rot - which was supposed to coincide with the disappearance of the wart. Inquisitive and annoying child that I was, I asked her all the time to tell me her secrets. She would not. My questions bordered on disbelief. She could sense it. But others in our town had a great respect for whatever magic worked its way through her southern roots and graced our lives. We loved her and her mysterious ways. Grannie didn't talk much but she always seemed to know what to do about everything.
One of the most special things about Grannie was her faithfulness in small and meaningful acts. Every birthday of my life, even after I married and had a life of my own, she would send a card in the mail with a dollar bill inside.
When I was small it was the dollar that was exciting. As I grew older it was her remembrance and faithfulness that touched my heart each year. I still have almost every card and treasure them. They are all signed Love, Grannie.
And is the case with most southern ladies, she had another secret. Or two.
One of them made a believer out of me.
She could talk the fire out of a burn.
When I was two-years-old I lost my balance and fell open-palmed on the oil furnace grate in the middle hallway of our modest home. Both hands stuck to the metal.
My dad scooped me up and carried me running as fast as he could next door to his grandmother's. Later when I asked about the thin scars that still travel up the middle of both my palms the story was told like this by my aunt, who witnessed the event along with my uncle and parents: She took both your little hands in hers, blew on the burns and whispered over them. You simply stopped crying.
Uh huh. Suurreee I did ( I said later in my grownup common sense mind) until one day something happened to change my tune. I was in my early twenties, newly married and cooking at home (you know there's going to be disaster) and getting ready to play a piano performance at a local church. I somehow accidentally placed one of my hands palm down on the burning red hot electric stove burner in front of me. You could see the eye rings of the burner in my palm. I screamed and then nearly fainted. My once-upon-a-husband scooped me up and took me to his father's house, who was also rumored to have this "gift" of talking out fire - although I'd never actually seen him use it. Trust me, I didn't argue.
There I stood needing a healing, this time with grown up hands, and in pain. The man who brought me there and the man who stood before me with my hands in his, had more faith that this would work than I did. In fact, they never questioned it for a moment.
He blew on the burns and mumbled something under his breath directly on my hand - just like Grannie.
It took about 2 minutes.
They stopped hurting. Immediately. I played the concert. No pain.
I never had terribly bad scars and I never went to the doctor.
Suddenly in the absence of my Grannie's healing vibes, I was ashamed of myself for not believing in her all those years. My great-grandmother lived to be ninety. And I never properly thanked her for her special gifts. Perhaps she wouldn't share them with me because I was such a doubter. She lovingly gave them anyway. Her love came with smelly snuff, a walking cane, buried black-eyed peas and secret whispered words over a little girl's burns.
I can still faintly see the grid imprint of the furnace grate in my palms. And I remember the scorching pain of a stove burn. But one thing I will never forget. The memory of beautifully knotted French braids down her back in the mirror. The tender feeling of her hands in my own hair as she brushed and twisted.......and how that child grew up with healthy hands to play her great-grandmother's favorite songs.
There was indeed something healing about her touch.
Perhaps her gift to me was a knowing and silent belief that sometimes wisdom lies in things that cannot be explained. And somehow, in the criss-cross marks I've run my fingers along all these years in my common sense life, alongside the winding marks in my palms, runs a constant reminder of her faithful acts of love.
And that's no secret.
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