My grandma Thelma’s friends were named Bee, Vacie, Mabel and Joe Anne. The four women lived within walking distance of each other’s front porches. Whenever I stayed at my grandma’s house, we would often go “visiting” in the afternoons. On hot summer days, I would tag along, kicking rocks and picking flowers along the side of the road.
I spent a lot of afternoons sitting at different kitchen tables. It was like a scene out of one of those late ’80s, early ’90s movies about southern women. I would study the room and listen to church and family talk. Their conversations flew above my ears, buzzing with stories that made no sense to a child. I sat patiently until one of grandma’s friends poured a glass of tap water, maybe juice or lemonade if I was lucky and put a few store-bought sandwich cookies on a napkin. I loved those visits and all those ladies who called my grandma a neighbor and a friend. I imagined growing up and having my own best friends as neighbors. My grandma, who lived alone, had a friend on every side.
You could always find Grandma at church, Big Lots Department Store, visiting a friend or sitting on the porch reading a book and drinking a glass of water or tea. She lived in a quiet neighborhood; there was no traffic to watch or as many friends to visit. Bee and Vacie passed away when I was young. That left only two friends to visit, but my grandma had a true southern view of life. Oh, she liked to go places and shop, wear high heels and visit family and friends. But she also liked the slower pace of life — the tradition of afternoon visits and front porch talks.