The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Grannie Nannie

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1988

Issue: December, 1988

Ivalien (right) with her Grannie, Nannie Hall (left).Ivalien (right) with her Grannie, Nannie Hall (left).Over the river, through the woods to Grandma's house, the song goes. For me the song is: Over the creek and through the field to Grannie Nannie's house.

My Grannie is Nannie Hall, born in the Elamsville Community of Patrick County, Virginia 94 years ago. She came on the mountain at a young age. Grandpa has been gone now for several years and Grannie stayed on at the homeplace.

Grannie Nannie is every inch a Grandma. She looks like a Grandma and always wears an apron, and has dozens, some for every day wear and Sunday. I've never seen her without one at home. Grannie always wears a brooch or as she calls it, a breast pin.

Her home is a simple white cottage, trimmed with green. In winter, smoke curls from the chimney of an old wood range. A big woodpile in the yard fuels the stove. The kitchen is cozy and warm. Over the years the aroma of coffee perking fills the entire house. The kitchen is my favorite place, with an old table covered in oil cloth. As a child I always headed for the kitchen and the cookie jar. Ever since I can remember there was a cookie jar on the table. They changed from year to year. Last year a smiling Snowman cookie jar was sitting in the center of the table.

Grannie has a favorite chair by the window in her living room and enjoys seeing the neighbors passing, the school bus and antics of squirrels in the trees. She reads quite a bit, sometimes without glasses.. Grannie does many daily chores and housework.

This spring Grannie was seen out raking her yard. Some of he neighbors said to us, "You all shouldn't let her do that." My cousin replied, "Why? I think anyone 94 years old should do as they please."

When Grandpa was living I remember a funny incident. I bought a jar of pickled hog feet. Grannie tasted them and liked them and just kept on eating until they wee almost gone. Grandpa said, "Nannie they will kill you." Grannie finished the jar. That was 25 years ago and Grannie is still going strong at 94. I still get a chuckle from that incident.

Grannie had a most unusual way of dealing with snakes. Once we were walking to the bean field and spotted a huge black snake. Grannie was carrying a water bucket full of water to Grandpa in the field. She took the dipper and threw water on the snake until he ran away. Another time Grannie saw a snake stick its head out of the drain in the sink. She grabbed a teakettle full of boiling water off the stove and let that snake have it full force. Needless to say that snake was never seen again. Yes, Grannie sure has a different way of dealing with snakes.

A favorite food that Grannie cooked was rice custard in a pie crust. She really did know how to cook them. My cousin always thought Grannie was an expert at fixing hot dogs.

One Christmas I have a special memory of is the one that Santa came to Grannie's. All the family came to Grandpa and Grannie's on Christmas Eve. There was a knock on the door. When opened, a real Santa stood there with a sack of presents. After Santa had given out the packages, he went walking on up the road. I have never forgotten that Christmas Eve.

Now as Christmas nears in our Blue Ridge Mountains, I think of past memories at Grannie's. Today, going to her house is a present day thing. I'm so thankful for her. You know what? I think I'll walk through the field to Grannie's and have a cookie from the Snowman jar. Maybe I'll have a peppermint stick also.

Editor's Note... Recently Ivalien Hylton Belcher has undergone a great tragedy in her life, the loss of her son and grandson. Ivalien is a person of great courage and spirit, but we know how much sorrow there must be right now. If you would like to show your concern and appreciation of her writing by sending her a card this Christmas, her address is Route 1, Box 74A, Meadows of Dan, VA 24120. There is comfort in knowing people's thoughts and best wishes are with you in your time of need.