I would like to thank APOOO for the opportunity to give much love to one of the most powerful women in my life: my grandmother, Audrey Marilyn Bacon. She made my mother an extraordinary woman, and in turn, she made me a strong woman.
A Tribute to My Grandmother, Audrey Marilyn Bacon
(1931 - 1998)
In the peach sherbet glow of morning sunrise, my grandmother makes her way to the kitchen. She's been up for hours. Has made a run-through of her home, has taken out my grandfather's clothing for the day and ironed it, has bathed, and dressed, and has awakened my grandfather so that he can bathe and she can shave him.
It's Sunday, which means it's a baking morning. Pans are greased, the dining room table is lined and floured, and my grandmother already has breakfast on the stove and preparations for dinner on standby.
A shadow of a girl emulated every move of this strong, tall, formidable woman; that shadow was I.
I loved spending the weekend with my grandparents in their big ol' house. I loved squealing as PopPop grabbed and tickled me. I loved playing Red Light, Green Light in my grandparents’ expansive yard or playing volleyball with my cousins out back, using the clothesline as a net. I loved taking trips with my grandparents down to Brandywine to see my great uncle and watching them go off to hunt squirrel and rabbit.
But most of all, I loved two things the most: 1) the smell of coffee and the warmth of Grandma’s inner thighs as she slid me up between them and brushed my long locks with warm coffee and 2) helping her make what seemed like a million loaves of bread for various family members and for Sunday dinner.
Grandma would give me my own small bowl and pan, and then would break off a chunk of dough for me to knead and beat down.
I'd cut my eyes over at her, watching her thin, nimble brown fingers knead, stretch, and caress the dough lovingly. She always wore the sweetest smile on her face when she molded the dough and placed it in a large bowl to sit.
Awhile later, we'd returned, and I was always amazed to see that the dough had swollen like a pregnant belly.
Grandma would grip the dough and slam it on the table - no, not lovingly like when she kneaded and stretched it. Even her always bright, heavenly-lit face appeared to darken, ready to pounce on the fat dough.
"Ball your fists up, baby girl," she would tell me, and I would oblige, almost looking like I was ready to fight something or somebody.
"Hit it hard," she said in a low tenor voice - her secretive voice. "Hit it like you mad at it."
I closed my eyes tightly and tried to think of things that made me mad. Every hit create a small dent in the dough.
“Making bread helps…” Grandma said.
“Helps what?” I asked, still punching my dough.
“Makes you feel better. You can beat the dough down, and get all that anger inside of you out.”
I looked at my now flat and battered dough. “But it’s just gonna rise again.”
Grandma laughed one of her good-to-your-toes laughs, where she had to hold her back and lean forward. It always ended with a little cough and a loud, high-pitched whoo.
“I know that’s right, baby girl,” she said, winded. “And when it rises again, you just beat it down again.” She placed her beaten dough back in the bowl and covered it with a slightly damp towel.
“You win in the end.”
I scrunched up my face. “Win what?”
She shook her head and chuckled. “Bread with butter and jelly.”
I had no idea what she meant then. In fact, I had no idea what she meant for several years. It wasn’t until I was able to fully see how she touched her daughter’s (my mother) life and how both of them touched my life that I was able to understand Grandma’s whole dough metaphor.
As a child, with tiny fists, I beat down dough because my cousins wouldn’t share a toy or because I couldn’t get more ice cream after dinner. As an adolescent, I beat down dough because I was angry over my baby brother’s death and because of the deterioration of my family. As a late teen, I beat down dough because of the sexual assault I faced a month before my high school graduation and because of the low self-esteem that quickly followed.
All of my life, I have been beating down some type of “dough”, but now – as an adult – I feel everything my grandma tried to convey to me on our Sunday mornings together. Without me knowing (and no doubt with her fully knowing what she was doing), Grandma taught me how to keep on beating things down when they arose because by doing so, eventually I would become the victor. By beaten down my anger, by making my adversaries my footstools, by living my life not by the negative pains of the past but by the bright future ahead of me, I would rise and become the warm, loving, strong woman that I was destined to be.