Have you ever read the book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?” It’s all about cause and effect and how one thing leads to another. If you give a mouse a cookie, then he’ll want some milk…and so on. That’s how Wednesday unfolded for me, all because I told that story about spending summers watching Grandmama Eunice write the “News In Gay.”
If you tell a town a story…you wake up to a message from DeeAnn saying that her mama found some of your grandmama’s old columns and has already passed them along to your mama (who calls later to say that she has them set aside and will visit soon–they’re too fragile to mail). Because our mamas have been friends since the late 1940s and our grandmamas were friends too. Miss Ruby and Mr. Hoke lived right down the road from Grandmama Eunice and DeeAnn said she used to HATE it when her Mimi got on the phone with Miss Eunice because it meant they were going to talk for a WHILE and DeeAnn was going to have to cool her jets.
If you tell a town a story…the boy you had a crush on since before you could remember–yes, Jeffrey from last summer’s story about peaches–who also happens to be DeeAnn’s baby brother, has sent you an email to say that he remembers the exact sound that old metal drink box at Jack Findley’s made. He says he’ll pass the article along to the Findleys’ daughter, Alice, so she can read it too. And then your friend, Lynn, from back in elementary school writes to say that she is all teary with sweet memories because Jack was her Daddy’s brother and that was her Uncle Jack and Aunt Bessie and she loved them so. And I tell her how it was at Jack Findley’s store that I first learned how to whistle, sitting there on the upturned apple crate at the end of the counter while Miss Bessie talked to Grandmama and Grandmama enjoyed an Eskimo Pie from the freezer chest. Then Joe Nash, whose mama taught me at Vacation Bible School for many summers, says he remembers going to Jack’s to buy Chef Boyardee. Joe just opened The Fat Chihuahua restaurant in that little town and it sure ain’t Chef Boyardee!
If you tell a town a story….Lori Lee calls her mama from Florida to tell her about the story about Miss Eunice and before Miss Susie has even had time to finish her breakfast, the two of them are crying and laughing over the good times that Lori Lee had with her Nannie on those summer days long ago. How Lori Lee ate great big bowls of fresh peas right after swimming lessons and before the soaps. Before she hangs up, Lori Lee tells Miss Susie how she understands that it’s important for her own Max and Morgan to get time with their grandmama.
If you tell a town a story…Miss Susie shares that story on Facebook and one of her friends, Carol, says how she remembers my grandparents so fondly because she spent a lot of time at that very house while she and “Sammy” were dating. And I squawk, “You’re THE LEGENDARY CAROL?” The one Daddy still mentions now and then as he clutches at his heart while Big Gay rolls her eyes. And then Carol subscribes to Baddest Mother Ever and now I’m Facebook friends with my Daddy’s prom date.
If you tell a town a story….Sonya, who just last year married the boy that SHE had had a crush on since the 1970s, reports that she was going through some old papers at the bank and remembers seeing some of Grandmama Eunice’s columns. She promises to take another look and let me know what she finds. In the meantime, Stephanie, a Wesleyan sister, sends me a tip about a project via the UGA library where they’ve preserved small town newspapers on microfilm and I might want to check it out, seeing as that’s about two miles from my house.
If you tell a town a story…you find out that your VP at work knows that town because her husband was roommates with Willis, a boy from right up the road. Instead of talking about work, you end up talking about shelling purple hull peas and how to make that sweet tomato relish and how it was good to be the girl baby in the family because it meant your grandaddy let you stay in the air-conditioned office at the packing shed while your brothers had to pick peaches. Even the SharePoint developer who was there to talk about site design and governance starts hankering for a big bowl of peas and a glass of tea.
If you tell a town a story…you hear from Mrs. Love, the wife of your elementary school principal and she says she read the story to him and he says hello. My cousin, Greta, who was one of two guests at my first birthday party, says it brought back so many memories of Aunt Eunice’s house. My cousin, Annette, who’s 92 (but you didn’t hear that from me) and still the life of any party, remembers how kind Aunt Eunice was to her after her parents died when she was still a teenager.
If you tell a town a story…you get more stories in return and your heart opens up and you learn things you never knew about people you’ve known all your life.