No disrespect to any grandmothers in the rest of the world, but the ones we have here in the South cannot be topped. They define everything a grandmother should be, and everything that the South should be. They were the originators of the “look good, eat well, #dontcare” lifestyle, and they’re eager to teach the younger generations exactly how to live with their legendary southern-fried lady-swagger.
If the following list doesn’t convince you that southern grandmothers are basically angels with perfect big hair filled with secret recipes, just have one of your friends from the South take you to their grandmama’s house – company is always welcome.
Let’s lead with the obvious greatest thing about southern grandmothers: the food. The very first thing you’re likely to hear upon walking in to your grandmother’s house is, “Have you eaten?” Not that they are listening to your answer; they’re about to feed you regardless. Their ability to prepare and serve the most amazing, artery-clogging meals every conceived by humans is truly unmatched. They might be so old that it takes them 45 minutes to get up a flight of stairs, but by god, when it comes to cooking, no physical ailments exist – they can still dominate the kitchen enough to feed several generations of family members enough fried chicken, biscuits, gravy, black-eyed peas, collard greens, mashed potatoes, 8 kinds of pie, and various jars of pickled things and homemade jams. I’m not saying all southern grandmothers cook like this all the time – but they all definitely know how. There is literally never not food cooking or being eaten at any given point in a southern grandmother’s house.
It’s indescribable – maybe it’s their hand cream, or some shampoo that was discontinued decades ago for being so environmentally heinous but that they still mysteriously manage to get their hands on. Maybe it’s whatever spray they use to clean all the old stuff in their house mixed with the perfume they’ve worn since they were in high school that now is vaguely detectable on every one of their belongings. Whatever produces that smell, it’s distinct, immediately recognizable, and for the rest of your life will bring you right back to being a little kid.
The Way They Are Always On Your Side
When you were a teenager and hated your parents, you could always go to your grandmother. She would listen and more often than not, would be on your side. Southern grandmothers are the most skilled family peacekeepers and negotiators – while you sat at the kitchen table eating something amazing, she would be on the phone with your mom, arranging for you to stay for the weekend and go back home when everyone had mellowed. There was something so solid about that trust and sense that they were totally there for you that makes you feel like you always have a powerful ally, even well into adulthood. Sometimes you would end up listening to her more than your parents, even when their advice was the same.
The Stories About Your Parents
While all grandparents are capable of letting you in on stories about your parents back in the day, no one will do so with quite the amount of joyful revelation as southern grandmothers. They have absolutely no qualms about telling you stories that demonstrate exactly what a hot mess your parents were when they were younger, then shooting your mom or dad a look that says, “See? You weren’t so perfect, so you better just take it easy on my grandbaby.” Stories from your parents’ embarrassing youth have been known to level the playing field in southern families since the beginning of time.
The Total Disregard For What Other People Think
Southern grandmothers are not here to impress anyone. Ever. If you’re out in public and they instinctively move to the front of any line, and you bother pointing out to them that other people are annoyed, they’ll look at you like they have no idea what you’re talking about – it never occurred to them to even think about those other people, and frankly, if they don’t want someone to get in front of them at the Golden Corral, they shouldn’t stand there like a bunch of dumb cows – and once they do realize it, they just shrug and carry on. And really, no one ever questions them anyway. Southern grandmothers are the most embracing, warm creatures on earth, but god help you if you cross them.
The Real Talk
God help you if you cross them, indeed. Your southern grandmother will be your biggest supporter, your most ardent cheerleader, and your greatest comfort, but if you ever “mouth off” or get in trouble, you’re about to see a whole other side of them. You probably saw that side very early in life, only a few times, which was really all it took to put The Fear in you. No matter how old you get, nor how far you travel, the threat of getting put in your place by your grandmother will be an ever-present force that keeps you in line.
There is literally no problem that cannot be solved by the laying of one’s head upon the comforting bosom of a southern grandmother. I don’t know what the science behind it is, but it’s like as soon as they reach a certain age and their children have children, all southern women’s breasts immediately form a solid shelf of reassurance. It’s like The Bosom is the final evolution for breasts; first they’re for sexy fun, then they’re for feeding babies, then they’re for letting your grandbabies hide in, making all the scary things in the world disappear. (For the record, I get that phrasing it as “laying your head on a bosom” is a little creepy – in reality, you’re just hugging her or maybe cuddling on the couch watching Supermarket Sweep – but they call it their bosom, and that word should never be used in any context other than grandmothers.)
The Hard Candies
You know she has them. She always has them.
Oh lawdy, the pocketbook. It has everything: tissues, HARD CANDIES, spare reading glasses, hand lotion, an actual address book, an actual check book, and 20-year-old makeup because a southern lady is never too old to keep her face game on, and you can’t convince her that beauty products ever expire. And yes, it’s only called a pocketbook. You carry a “bag”, your mom carries a “purse”, and your grandmother carries a “pocketbook” (although, honestly, she less “carries” it, and more “stashes it next to her armchair” or “clutches it like it contains the secrets of the universe” which – to be fair – it kinda does.)
It really takes a lot to rattle southern grandmothers. The fact is, you can’t have lived in the South for most of the last century and not have really seen some things. So when you come to them with any problem, no matter how big and important it seems from your perspective, your grandmother has the unique power to both make you feel understood and validate your feelings, but also to make you see that – in the big picture – this thing you’re so worked up over (job, relationship, friend drama, etc.) isn’t such a big deal, and maybe you should just eat a little something and you’ll feel better. It’s the kind of effortless blending of love and lessons that southern grandmothers do better than anyone else.