Dear Reader, in order to understand this story, let me introduce you to the characters. Mind you, I have studied them all of my life and I still do not fully understand them. Along with their real life identities, I’ve listed a description of their personalities along with their Native American names.
Mom – The Queen of Precaution, “Clan Mother Just In Case”
Granny – A Little Blue-Haired Spitfire, “Mema Real Boss”
Nannie Tanner – My fairy godmother, equally handy with a needle, a hacksaw, or paintbrush, “Shoots Like A Girl”
Ms. Geraldine – Spiritual woman of the The Owls Nest Ranch, “Works Like A Man”
Bernardo – The Cowboy, “Rides Like The Wind”
Andrea – The Cowboy’s Wife, “Stands With An Enchilada”
Pedro – The Cowboy’s Son, “Duh, I Speak English”
Mrs. Shirley – Hairdresser #1, “Coffin-Hairdo Guarantee”
Mrs. Lily – Hairdresser #2, “What, You Think I Work For The Gossip Alone?”
Last weekend while relaxing in the Louisiana countryside I call home, I decided to go the distance on foot around the entire prairie…alone and unarmed. This is a very dangerous feat my mother would have said while guilting me into believing everything from “wild animals want to eat only me” to “there have been several giraffe sightings”. I realize that. I didn’t care.
I started out very late. But when I get an idea, sometimes I convince myself that the odds don’t apply to me. Statistics never made sense anyway. Does anyone REALLY get the difference between probability and possibility or do we just nod and smile so we can make straight A’s. Yeah. Uh-huh. That’s what I thought.
Halfway around the prairie, past the point of no return, I approached the entrance of The Owls Nest Ranch where Ms. Geraldine discovered me on her way out for the day and offered to bring me home. I could see her glancing over at the sunset as we both silently determined that I didn’t have enough daylight to make it through Devil’s Lane. Alone and unarmed.
“You sure you don’t need a ride?”
“Oh, that’s ok. No….I couldn’t possibly. Nannie Tanner is on her way to get me.” (Fetch me, rescue me, get me outta here).
I didn’t let it show that I was somewhat panicked about her driving away as I politely refused her help, assuredly declaring that I wasn’t scared in the least. That would have probably meant that my mother was right about something for once. I also didn’t let her know that I had already calmly and casually called for Nannie Tanner to come and get me…seven times.
“Nannie, ummm, it’s me. I may need you to pick me up on your way home from church. If you could just swing through Devil’s Lane that would be good. You know how it’s a little foggy at dusk.” She would have heard blah, blah, blah as she rolled her eyes and turned the car around to track me down.
After a while, I wondered, “Where was Nannie Tanner and why wouldn’t she answer my call?” Off NOT doing needlepoint again somewhere. Probably making some new callouses on her hands with MANUAL LABOR while I’m off playing princess. Again.
I didn’t know what was going to be worse. Sneaking back home after dark OR not sneaking back home and being read the riot act if picked up by either Granny, Mom, or Nannie Tanner for being caught in the woods after dark. Alone and unarmed. They didn’t even approve of my going around the prairie in broad daylight, for that matter
Stubborn. I know. Admit this mistake. Never. Work it out. Have to. I’m forty years old. I can make my own decisions.
Approaching Bernardo’s place at the ranch, the last home on Devil’s Lane known to have people actually in it, I began to smell something wonderful. Like some sort of fragrant offering. As the tiny place became life sized to me, I saw the flames and I heard my favorite music on earth…the sounds of Tejano. What’s this? Grilled beef? Fiesta? Bernardo is having a party. What fortune!
Should I stop? Give up now? Nannie Tanner could be right around the corner on her way to my rescue…But, the aroma.
I have a choice.
The treacherous swamp-laden pathway of Devil’s Lane is one that has rocked my world in broad daylight, let alone in total darkness. There are animals there that my Mama just doesn’t need to know about, not to mention some imaginary indigenous ogre waiting for someone like me. Alone and unarmed. I’m confident my Mama would rather me take cover at Bernardo’s Latin Fiesta. It was the grown up thing to do. Shoot, it wasn’t even Cinco de Mayo!
The black tunnel inside the branchy canopy of Devil’s Lane further convinced me that I just couldn’t see going another step without a spontaneous social call to my friends. No one ever accused me of not being neighborly. Besides, at what cost would I have made it home? I recalled the wisdom of my friend Donna once when I was increasingly growing in fear and stature, pregnant with my son. “Remember, there are no heroes in the labor room. You just get that epidural and push that baby out.” And I did.
There are no heroes down Devil’s Lane. Sure, I’d be a quitter, but eventually Nannie Tanner would find me. When Bernardo and his wife Andrea offered me a nice beverage, there was really no decision to make. None at all. They pulled up a chair for me and I joined the party of Spanish speakers. I asked Bernardo what kind of steaks he was grilling. I knew they were from the ranch because rather than say “T-Bone” or “Filet” he just pointed at his own body to explain in his own way just exactly where the cut was from.
One hour later/Una hora más tarde….
Here I am practicing my Latin moves under the stars, when up pulls my 87-year-old Granny in a Lincoln dust cloud to rescue me, MIA from my chores. Recalling the reasons why everyone appeases her with reminders that she is STILL The Real Boss, I questioned whether I may have actually been better off just running home through the dark woods.
After several weeks, I’m still kinda fuzzy on who jumped out of the SUV first…my son with Bernardo’s son Pedro or my Granny’s arthritic little pointer finger. I think it might have been pointing right at me, but it was hard to tell. My gut instinct and experience with being at the end of that finger confirmed it…Yep. It was pointing at me. I can only imagine what that finger was thinking since it was out of its ordinary evening routine at the ungodly hour of 9 PM.
“Young lady, you’d better get in that house and quit running through these woods! I have a good mind to….”. The rest was a blur. I didn’t need to hear the words. The tone was familiar enough to communicate all she had to say, that little spitfire. I wondered how tall she’d be without the Blue-Haired Pentecostal Pouf on the top of her head that has been there since Truman was president. It has been responsible for the highlights of her social life for the last 60 years as she traveled to and from Mrs. Shirley’s Beauty Parlor and paid $7 per week to wash and brush her hair, including reassembly of the pouf. That was before hairpieces and extensions were sold at Sally’s.
I used to beg Granny to take down her long blue hair every Thursday night and brush it so we could play dress up or something, but she always refused saying, “No, somebody might die.” Instead we’d wrap that pouf with toilet paper and a quilted custom made piece of fabric to keep it in tact while she slept.
She and Mrs. Shirley had a pact that if G
ranny died first Mrs. Shirley would fix the pouf one last time in the casket. But when Mrs. Shirley died first, I don’t know whether Granny was more upset about losing her friend OR her budget being out of whack since her new hairdresser in Morrow charges $8 per week and that’s without the coffin hair-do guarantee.
So, after Granny’s fiery lecture, we waved goodbye to our friends and headed home to get our own dinner. Leftover spaghetti. Oh well.
Even though I’m 40 years old, my Granny and my Mama will always see me as a little girl when I’m home it the country. I don’t resent it. I’ve come to love it, roaming throughout the secret places of my childhood. Stealing my Nannie Tanner’s favorite new nightgown from her chest of drawers and walking into the living room just waiting to see how long until she makes some kind of comment without raising her head from her reading, “Old habits die hard.”
They sure do. And as much as I want them to notice me for something like keen business acumen or sharp intellect, the truth is that I am very blessed to be that girl from time to time, savouring each moment I can on the prairies of home. My Mama is constantly thinking of new phrases with which to preface her sentences other than you need to. She tries so hard, but then we all crack up when she says, “Maybe you might wanna think about…..”.
When I hit the road to return to the city, there are many favorite Alison Krauss lyrics that minister to my soul as I say goodbye to that same prairie land that has always seemed to get me in trouble with the Marthas of my life. But the words that seem to peel away the layers of my heart the most quickly say something like this:
It’s been a steady pace to keep my steps between these cracks on Broadway, and my stride in rhythm to the beat of home, sweet home.
The thought of home always brings me joy. No matter what, Dear Reader, may you be blessed to always find your way home. May you always have a memory of this month’s Resurrection Sunday as one of being around a large banqueting table with those who never forget who you are! Whether you are alone or together with loved ones, the most important message of the season is that there is ONE who will never forget His love for you. Jesus is His name. He rescued us, each and everyone, from darkness to light, nevermore to be a stranger. Let the name of the Lord be praised!
Read Brandi’s column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.