Growing up, I was blessed to have both my paternal and maternal grandparents in my life. I was born and raised in Illinois with my maternal grandparents. My paternal grandfather C.H. Barrett and his second wife Grandma Grace, (My father’s mother Nettie passed before I was born) lived in Dania Beach, Florida, a small town near Fort Lauderdale.
During the summer we would make the drive down south from Illinois stopping in Atlanta to visit family, and then travel to Dania Beach for a few weeks. I remember my granddad C.H.'s sense of humor, the banana trees in the yard, and the sugar cane field that he would cut stalks from for my brother, sister, cousins and me to chew on and enjoy the wonderful sweetness. All of us kids played together late into the evening and slept in the same room. Every morning we were awakened at the crack of dawn by granddad’s ornery rooster, who I believed intentionally chose our bedroom windowsill to perch on and cock-a-doodle-do. Every. Single. Morning.
Grandma Grace, a no-nonsense Bahamian woman, was tough on the outside, but had a loving and caring spirit. She wore a beautiful salt and pepper halo of an afro, and when she spoke, her accent reminded me of a song. An amazing cook, I especially loved her hot water cornbread that I can still envision crackling in that big black skillet.
Living in the same city as my maternal grandparents allowed me to speak with them every day, and see them at least several times a week. My grandfather Willie Turner was one of the most wonderful men that I have ever known. He loved the Lord and would tell anyone about God’s goodness. His eyes danced when he smiled, and he loved to laugh. Grandfather had a wonderful garden where he grew everything; corn, collard greens, okra, lima beans, tomatoes and more. But it was the special small patch in the backyard that I remember the most where he grew the favorite vegetables of each of his grandchildren, so that we could plant them and help with the harvest.
My birthday was two days after my grandmother Georgia’s, and we often celebrated together with our extended family by going out to dinner after Sunday's church service. She was such a lady, God fearing, and kind with the sweetest smile. She had impeccable style and always wore a dress or skirt, and I don’t recall ever seeing her in a pair of pants. Grandmother was my advocate and middle-woman. I can not count the number of times she intervened to keep me from getting into trouble with my parents, when I most certainly deserved it.
While the inspiration to write my book, Grandma Had a Grandma Too, came from the relationship between my mother and my niece, it was also heavily influenced by the relationships that I had with all of my grandparents. They were extremely important in shaping me into the woman that I am now, and their influence is still active in my life today. Each one of them set the example for me about the importance of little things, special moments, and how the way adults interact with children makes a lasting impression.
I hope that every child and adult who reads Grandma Had a Grandma Too is inspired to pull a little closer to their loved ones and make the most of the moments that count. I am so grateful for the legacy of love that my grandparents left, and the wealth of precious memories to recall.