Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Memory Lane: Etta Caywood

One of the sweetest ladies I have ever in my life met was Etta Caywood. She was the mother of my loser uncle David. He married my Dad's only sister, Auntie Ilene, and they had two children, Tiger and Julie. While David wasn't worth the powder it would take to blow his brains out, Etta was a jewel. My heart is so happy right now as I'm pulling up all of the Etta love I have for her.

Etta always sat on our pew in church. She sat next to my Grandmother and drove her crazy. Etta was a fidgeting non-stop mover. She was always adjusting the white sweater that she had permanently draped over her shoulders, or digging in her purse for the Fig Newtons she ate during church, or getting her finger nail clippers out for a quick trim. She was just fidgety and Grandmother hated fidgeters. Etta made change in the collection plate. In the Church of Christ we celebrate communion every Sunday and immediately following communion we pass the collection plate to get funds. Each week as the plate came by Etta would place the plate on her lap drop in her bill and take out the change. Grandmother would just huff! Loved it. At some point in the service Etta would lean over to Grandmother and say, "Newton...Velva?" Oh how that made my Grandmother's blood boil. I've posted this before, here.

Etta looked like Granny Clampet from the Beverly Hillbillies with Queen Elizabeth's hair and Aunt Bee's wardrobe (does that do it for ya?). Her lips always glistened and were very taught, I think from false teeth that were not quite a right fit. She also had a constant smile on her face and was just absolute sugar sweet. She smelled of Ponds Cold Cream, with an ever so slight Fig newton aroma. Etta had an elastaband watch with a Kleenex stuffed in it. I can't quite figure out how one old lady with a used Kleenex and clean up a 10 gallon spill and still use the Kleenex when I have to have a shop vac and 10 rolls of paper towel. How do they do that?

Etta's house was warm and wonderful. She lived on the Corner of Hearall and Delaware. Her house was built into a hill, as most homes in Neosho were. It was a White house with a perfectly manicured lawn. She had a stone wall surrounding her property which only went up to about two maybe three feet. Atop the wall was an old fashioned fence. It was like wire hanger wire made into connected arches, very cool. You parked on Hearall, walked to the gate, stepped down about four steps to the walk and went up to her house. The house was a white asbestos tile home, very tiny. It only had a living room, bedroom, bathroom, dining room, and kitchen which was the smallest kitchen I've ever seen in my life. I would guess the kitchen floor was 3x6, literally one person could stand in that kitchen and no one else. There was a door in the kitchen which took you outside to the yard. The two car garage that faced Delaware Street was bigger than her house. It had all kinds of wonderful stuff in there, but I wasn't' allowed in there. Had she been my Grandmother, you better bet I'd be in there.

Etta's kitchen being so small, she kept her refrigerator in the dining room. She had Milkmaid wallpaper and a linoleum that had turquoise and gold glitter in it.

There were three things that stood out in my mind which came from Etta's kitchen. First, popcorn balls. Her popcorn balls were hands down the best popcorn balls I have ever eaten in my life. Every Halloween we made a bee line to Etta's house for popcorn balls. They were the size of softballs, sweet, not sticky, somewhat salty, and all perfectly shaped and wrapped. She only made them on Halloween and they were a treat. I don't really like popcorn (gets stuck in your teeth) or sticky stuff that much, but I would eat her popcorn balls. I'm getting a craving for them right now, blast! Secondly, her grilled bologna and cheese sandwiches. She always put about two-three tablespoons of butter in her cast iron skillet, made three cuts in the bologna and fried it in the butter. As the bologna was cooking she buttered the super soft white bread, the bologna was put on a blue Melamie plate while she cooked the cheese sandwiches. I didn't really care for the fried bologna and cheese sandwiches because they were served with tomato soup which I despise. The sandwiches were ok, but I prefer my bologna cold with iceberg lettuce, white bread the kind that sticks to the roof of your mouth, mayonnaise, and cheese thank you very much. Last, but certainly not least: Macaroni and Cheese.

Etta's macaroni and cheese was off-brand Kraft macaroni and cheese, never anything else but that. She always served it in shallow soup bowls. Tiger and I would be called to the table and there sat our macaroni and cheese. She cooked the noodles until they were very, very done, no al denta here more like al mooshay. The milk, butter, salt and pepper were added as well, but no cheese. As we sat down she would come in with her sweet, lovely smile, "would you like some cheese?" "yes please." At that point she would take the envelope which had been carefully cut open with scissors and sprinkle some cheese over my bowl of macaroni. Hands down this is the most bizarre way I have ever, ever eaten mac&cheese. I wanted desperately for her to just dump that cheese in the pan and serve it like every American in the universe does, but she was so sweet I just couldn't say anything.

I truly loved this sweet, sweet lady and hated how her only son treated her and how her only grandchildren hated her. It was my goal to let her know how much I loved her and I have to this day longed for her to be my "other" grandmother. Had I had her and my Granny to love me there's not telling how my life would have been different however I have no desire to be the spawn of her wretched and horrible son. I'll have a post about him...maybe.


Tracy said...

i feel i practically know Etta. Wonderful descriptions Will! She obviously made a huge impression on you - how could her family hate her? must be some story on that? i guess they were just evil huh? Its funny you mentioned popcorn balls - watching Paula Dean with my mom the other day and she was makin then and i thought of being a kid at Halloween and my mom's best friend would make them - never had any like them ever since. wouldn't even bother cos nothing could compare (well maybe Etta's!) - i like fried bologna but we never put butter in the pan! LOL and then almooshay macaroni with noooo cheese - hilarious. i can't believe she didn't add it in LOL. too funny. you know i had to be married with children before i ever ate the Kraft kind? swear to god. my mom always made it homemade (me too)...

sherri (Tied Up In Ribbons) said...

I love reading the stories you post. You have such a wonderful gift for story telling. You get so few comments, and yet it is such a wonderful blog...maybe there are a lot of lurkers? I have been laughing about this story and thinking about the sprinkled cheese powder for days...didn't have time to leave a message before....Please keep up the great stories!

sherri (Tied Up In Ribbons) said...

Thought of you the other day, when I found out that the 17th of October is National Pasta Day....wonder if ANYone in the world besides Etta ate her macaroni that way.