I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. Here it is leap year 2016, a Monday, the day before Super Tuesday. I am not liking what I am hearing, people. The unkindness of this year’s politicians – ugh! My father would give them a good knuckle burn on their skimpy-haired heads (I’m talking all of them) and my mother would wash their mouths out with soap.
I digress. Happy leap year, y’all. Last night, instead of the Oscars and all their political rhetoric, I opted to watch Downton Abbey’s Manners program. It was highly informative and entertaining.
Apparently a gong was used in the big manors to announce lunch, dinner and tea. How that brought back memories of my grandmother’s dinner gong.
My German-Texan grandmother was raised in upper middle-class German-Texan society. In other words, her father had property and money. He was a Lutheran Sunday School superintendent for a large area of middle Texas and he was extremely smart about what property to buy. They owned a lot of property up and down the railroad. That was then. There isn’t much of a railroad industry now. They originally disinherited my grandmother when she married my grandfather. It’s a long story full of misconceptions. My grandmother married my grandfather and moved immediately to South Africa where my father was born. My great-grandparents thought my grandfather was a black man as they had not met him and only knew he was from South Africa. He’d moved there from Scotland when he was two. See, it’s a long story. And isn’t that a nice tie-in to the Oscars?
The great-grandparents are buried in Nordheim. I haven’t actually been there but it’s south of San Antonio. My grandmother was born in 1897 in Weimar, TX. It’s just west of Houston about 45 miles. The picture is of her birth certificate. I’ve been to Weimar. Every old lady I saw looked like my grandmother.
Anyway. She had this brass gong. She would ring when it was lunch, tea time (4:00) or dinner (8:00). It sat on the kitchen counter. It wasn’t big but it was loud. If we didn’t respond to the gong, she brought out the cow bell. My grandfather was Scottish. But my German grandmother was the one who actually made the steady income in the family. She managed three apartment units on their property. She saved up all that money for years and put it in a CD my grandfather knew nothing about. (Thank goodness or it would have been spent.) She actually sent me $5 a month when I was living in the wild city of Chicago in the ’70’s.
They lived in South Houston near Old Galveston Highway and Spencer, I remember the meals we had around that small table in the kitchen with the moths batting with a barely audible thwat thwat at the light bulb above the table at night. We had the windows open because to use the air-conditioning meant spending money, frowned upon by grandfather. He demanded his tea and my grandmother had been trained to make it the proper way. Boil the fresh water, pour immediately into the teapot to warm it. Then into the hot water add the tea, wait, strain into the cups. My grandfather would add four teaspoons of sugar, a bit of milk, pour it on his saucer and slurp it loudly. He’d give a long prayer of thanksgiving with his long rolling ‘r’s woven into the words before we ate. After this ritual we were always starving.
Then off to bed, the smell from the asphalt factory permeated the damp summer air, and the chirp of crickets soothed us, the wee bairns, to sleep.