I've been thinking a lot today about my maternal grandparents, Cecil and Dewey Forrester. They are both gone now, Papa in 1988 and MaMa in 2002. I miss them both so much, especially at this time of year. When I was a child, and continuing through my teenage years, the grandchildren got to spend a week during our Summer break from school with Mama and PaPa. At any one time, there might be 10 or 15 of us, plus the grandchildren who lived near them. I was always so jealous of the local grandchildren, who got to spend as much time at MaMa's house as they wanted! Their house was a sanctuary for my brother and sister and me. My own home life with an alcoholic father was volatile, and driving up into their driveway was like coming up for air after being underwater for a long time. We couldn't wait to get there and we hated to leave.
Spending time with my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins were the best times of my childhood. The days were usually spent in the kitchen with MaMa while she cooked, learning at her elbow how to make cornbread dressing, fried apple pies, buckeye candy, and all from scratch of course. We had to do chores while we were there because my PaPa didn't like lazybones. From sunup to midday, we would be working in their huge vegetable garden, but PaPa always made it interesting. And as a reward, we would get to go to the local Dairy Lane and order chocolate dipped cones with the best vanilla custard ice cream I've ever tasted. After chores, the granddaughters would hold pageants and dress up in my aunts' old prom dresses, made from yards and yards and yards of gathered tulle and chiffon. There was a baby blue one and a white one. The white one was spectacular, and I never got to wear it. My older cousins always got dibs on it!
We played baseball in the side yard, and there were always enough cousins around to field a decent team. I remember marathon Monopoly games that lasted all night with my Uncle Bo and Aunt Dale, who at the time were the only unmarried children still living at home.
My Momma used to rent out an old school bus which had been converted to a camper. She would drive it to Tennille and park it in the back yard, and the grandchildren would sleep there at night. In those days, no one locked their doors, and we would come and go as needed, back and forth between the house and the camper. I didn't know until I was a grown woman that MaMa used to sit up practically all night watching over us on the porch.
I learned what love of family really mean from Cecil and Dewey Forrester. PaPa was very strict, but he loved his family more than anything. There was nothing any of us could ever have done to change that. As strong as PaPa was, MaMa was the backbone of our family, steel encased in a velvet glove, and the very best of us. They raised 8 children, 20 grandchildren, and as of today, 36 1/2 great grandchildren and 4 great, great grandchildren; all of whom are good, kind, generous people with a strong faith in God and a strong sense of family, and who are raising the newest generation in the same way. I am so proud to be a part of it!