Friday, June 2, 2023

The Soapbox: The Keepers of the Beehive

Brandi Chambless

…People are always asking me ‘What do you want people to say about you a hundred years from now?’…I want them to say, ‘Dang, don’t she still look good for her age’?’ ”—Dolly Parton

One of the casualties of growing up in a rural agricultural area is that unless you want to drive a tractor for a living, you will most likely move away from what we all call home. Like myself, those who were raised with land in their roots seem to never leave it emotionally. No matter the distance or size of my city as an adult, home is always right where I left it.

For me, that has always been where seven generations of my family poured forth, including my 95 year old Granny. Famously known for her signature beehive hair-do that I recently featured in my column The Beehive, Granny’s long hair truly warrants its own Twitter page.

It wasn’t very long after The Beehive column that I received the “emergency” text from home that caused my heart to fail for a second. It was my aunt who was in a tizzy. My Granny’s 70-year-old beehive had been CUT by the hairdresser at the nursing home without the family’s permission and she was virtually unrecognizable to anyone who knew her. No one alive had ever seen her with short hair. The pictures were so hideous and obscene that they could not be posted or sent to relatives.

This hairdresser. Had she no idea of the rules of my childhood???! Nobody but nobody messes with Granny’s hair…not even on Thursday nights at bedtime just a few hours before her 50-year standing appointment with hairdresser Mrs. Shirley, God rest her soul.


I calmed my aunt down by promising to remedy this catastrophe with blue hair extensions. When it came to the support of our friends and family in the loss of Granny’s beehive, we received everything but casseroles delivered to Granny’s cottage. I would have started a GoFundMe page called Save Granny’s Beehive except Granny has so much money buried in tin cans located somewhere that she alone knows I felt we’d survive the financial repercussions.

We are not too worried about recovering all of that money, because even though she has a little bit of memory loss, the word “money” really perks her up and she reverts back to land manager for just a bit. Just the other day, she won several hundred thousand dollars in Monopoly money in her daily game of bingo in which her aides Anna and Kiki faithfully assisted.

“Oooh Mrs. Gloria you have a lot of money.”

Granny gets so excited, “Do I need to endorse it??!….You better get to the bank!”

“Oh no Mrs. Gloria, just put it in your purse until tomorrow.”

And there Granny stuffs a wad full of $5,000 bills into her purse and sleeps with it. Red lipstick is optional.

The next day, Hayley the occupational therapist will paint Granny’s nails and then off they go to the “general store” where Granny can shop with her bingo money. She doesn’t like to go shopping before getting all dolled up with her jewelry.

So here was Granny, discovered by my aunt, completely defrocked of her crowning glory. The beehive had been cut to the ground and Granny’s face was locked in a frown. Living three hours from home, I fielded emergency conference calls for at least 24 hours. I thought about sentencing the hairdresser to one of my “special” free weekend haircuts that I often bequeath to the rural community or possibly have a talk with her about all things Southern and sacred.

The race was on to restore Granny’s dignity. The poor hairdresser couldn’t decide to plead the Fifth or go with the “we got her confused with the other residents” theory because it would be easy to confuse Mrs. Claus with so many people.

Nevertheless, we worked and worked on reconstruction and it has been a process, but Granny’s Beehive is BACK (at least in the front) so when she looks in the mirror she sees herself once again. Her frown turned upside down and she resumed spending her bingo money in no time at all. My aunt has calmed down and I’m back to work as usual until the next issue that arises when caring for an aging relative.

As difficult as accepting reality can be when someone you love is slipping away, you try to maintain their dignity and peace of mind. For Granny, this means dressing and acting like a Queen bee as she always has. From the years after her time as a little girl riding a horse named Dapple Gray, to picking pecans and making her popular pecan pie, to quilting and ironing, killing off snakes with a hoe, shelling peas, and giving life to her family as bees give life to the earth, Granny’s beehive has been around for almost every season. With the exception of one scissor-happy hairdresser, it was important to all of the rest of us to keep it around just a little bit longer.

Brandi Chambless
Brandi Chambless
Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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