Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rest in peace, Miss Kathy.

When I was a little girl my family lived in Jacksonville, Florida. My mom had a best friend named Jennifer, and she had three children. I didn't like her children, but I didn't like any children other than myself, so I suppose nobody thought anything of it that I barely tolerated their existence. She eventually had twins after that, so had three girls and two boys. And a lot of weekends when we didn't go to the beach, Mom and Jennifer took all of us up to Melbourne to visit her mother, Miss Kathy.

Miss Kathy had a big house with a big yard around it behind high fences. There was a little creek that cut through the back of the yard. Miss Kathy turned all of the land around her house into a giant garden. She grew her own everything: peaches, bananas, plantains, apples, oranges, lemons, strawberries, blackberries, cherries, tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, green beans. Anything you could think of that could be grown (except corn: Miss Kathy didn't believe in corn for anything other than cornbread) she grew it herself.

Her yard was a wonderland of adventures waiting to happen, ripe for exploration, and great for secret snacking while exploring. We weren't allowed to pick anything, of course, but you can't really expect to turn nine children loose on a garden of yummy without them eating something. I got caught almost every time I shimmied up a tree to get a banana. (They were my favorite.) I always thought it was tragic that the banana trees grew right in front of the living room window where it took great skill to get up and down without being seen.

Now, I don't like peaches, but Miss Kathy made the best peach cobbler in the world, and I always made sure to eat some. I preferred the apple cobbler, of course, but apples were mostly used to make apple sauce and pies and preserves. Miss Kathy was strict about letting us eat too many sweets, and always made sure to serve up plenty of vegetables when we visited. She never served red meat, just chicken and pork, but it was always yummy.

Though the rules of her house were strict, everybody loved her because as long as we followed the rules she was fun. The rules were simple enough: no running inside of the house, shoes left on the mat by the door, no screaming inside, wash your hands after playing outside, don't pick the things growing in the yard, stay away from the creek unless with an adult (we broke that rule once and promptly found the biggest snake in the world, so we never went back but we did confess so that Miss Kathy's husband could go kill the snake), no fighting or arguing, and absolutely no back talking.

When Daddy left and Mom sent us to live with Memaw and Papaw when I was ten, we missed going to play at Miss Kathy's place. She was always so funny and nice, and she made lots of good food.

We never got the chance to go back and see Miss Kathy, but she always asked about us and kept tabs on how we were doing through Mom. In July Jennifer and DJ came up for a visit and she told us that Miss Kathy had cancer. I sent my best wishes, and thought that I'd go down and visit her for New Years.

When I signed onto my Facebook this morning my sister had written, "Rest in Peace, Miss Kathy. You are loved and missed."

And that was how I found out that she died last night.

Mom is...in denial. She's just pretending it hasn't happened, and she hasn't called Jennifer yet because calling her makes it real. I'm pretty much better at dealing with death than my family is, they've all been crying and trying to comfort each other at home. But I came to work anyway because it's best to go on like normal. I can't go to the funeral anyway, so I will grieve in my own way in my own time. I'm pretty compartmentalized, and I keep telling myself she was in a lot of pain and couldn't do the things she loved anymore and she's in a better place.

She was a good lady, and she loved children (though God only knows what she saw in us) and she took care of everybody like they were her own, and the world is short one kind, loving woman who never worried about herself so much as she worried about everyone else. And even though I haven't seen her in twelve years, I still remember everything she did for us and how she loved having us around, and I'll miss her just the same.


  1. I'm sorry for your loss, Chanel. It's always hard to have someone so good leave this world. Thanks for sharing a little bit of Miss Kathy with the world. We all could use a person like that in our lives. :)

  2. Thanks. If there's a life after death, she's probably still growing her own garden. It's what she loved best.


My Shelfari Bookshelf

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog