When I think of it, Saturday mornings are probably what first come to mind.
There were so many of those Saturdays, there at the little white house on Pine Drive, on a dead end road out in western Abbeville County, headed toward Calhoun Falls.
That was my Grandma Mac’s house.
My brother and I spent countless weekends there in our youth. Friends from school often were invited, too, and if Grandma ever had an issue with a house full of boys crashing her weekends, she never showed it. We were always welcome.
But Saturday mornings there had a particularly special feel, starting, literally, with her unique wakeup call. You see, my grandmother wasn’t a big fan of sleeping in, even on the weekends. Now, she (mercifully) didn’t expect us to get up at the same time she did. She was out of bed well before sunrise in the morning.
That said, she didn’t want us sleeping the day away, either. So, usually sometime around 8 a.m., she’d come in the bedroom — my brother and I always stayed in the guest room, and usually slept with a box fan blowing full speed and the radio playing — and start, for the lack of a more elegant way of saying it, making noise.
She’d open and close drawers in the dresser. Then she’d rattle the bracelets and necklaces in a jewelry box. Maybe she’d open the closet door and rummage around in there. She would raise and lower the blinds. For whatever reason, she didn’t want to literally shake us awake and say, “Hey, time to get up.” But the message was clear: When Grandma came in and started opening and shutting drawers and loudly rifling through that jewelry box, it was time to rise and shine.
This wasn’t always the easiest task, as my brother, my buddies and I were often quite tired after staying up half the night making prank phone calls and sneaking out to jump on the neighbor’s trampoline. (Sorry, Mrs. Harris.) But, when we were finally cajoled out of bed, the aromas emanating from the kitchen served as needed motivation.
She almost always made us a big breakfast on Saturday morning. Grits, eggs, bacon, spicy sausage, toast, the works. Every once in a while she’d mix waffles in there, too, and we’d wash it down with some Donald Duck orange juice. (Only the real ones remember Donald Duck OJ.) We’d flip on Saturday morning cartoons (ABC had the best) or maybe MTV in the living room and turn it up so we could hear it from the breakfast table in the corner of her tiny kitchen. MTV was a no-fly-zone at my parents’ house, but Grandma never minded if we watched it at her place. I think she preferred Beavis over Butt-Head.
While we ate breakfast, Grandma would often go out and hang clothes and sheets to dry on the clothesline in the backyard. As the years wore on, she eventually got a dryer in the house, but I can still see those sheets in my memory, gently fluttering in the spring South Carolina sunshine.
After that Saturday breakfast, the rest of the day always held seemingly endless possibilities.
There were basketball shootouts in the yard. The goal was a wooden backboard and rim hung on a cedar post by my Dad, but he put an official NBA net on it, and the ball would make the purest sound when you swished it. It was just a dirt court out in the country, bordered by my Grandma’s wellhouse and her neighbor Mr. Cochran’s vegetable garden, but to young eyes it might as well have been the Fabulous Forum out in L.A.
We’d also play a hybrid of football right near the edge of the front yard, where the sole objective was to tackle the ball carrier and knock him off the edge of the lawn and into the ditch by the road. Only by the grace of God did that particular game never result in an emergency room visit.
Some days we’d walk in the woods behind the house, all the way back to the creek at the edge of her property, at a spot where the stream dropped off into a little waterfall. Or maybe we’d light M-80s or ground bloomers or some other pocket fireworks we’d managed to buy in town at New’s Notions. And on my very favorite Saturdays, Grandma would pile us in her old Mercury and ferry us to Greenwood, where we’d go to the mall for Chick-fil-A and a movie.
My Grandma is no longer with us. She passed nearly two years ago, and I’ve missed her every day since. I especially could have used her quiet wisdom in 2020.
But time marches on, ever forward. Our family sold Grandma’s little house on Pine Drive last week. A young couple bought it, and they’ll make their own life there in the years to come. What was old is new again, and the world makes another turn.
But those Saturday mornings will live on, at least in my memories, where the rattling of a jewelry box is still the most effective alarm clock.