Today as I was cooking a big noon-time dinner, I thought about my great Granddaddy Holder. He was my Mama’s granddaddy, and we all loved him dearly. He lived in a house on a slight incline, so when we drove down their road we were looking up at the steps up to their screened-in front porch. The pond he loved to fish in was just down the road a piece, also on his property.
I can remember visiting him and Granny Inez from when I was very young. She was his second wife, as my great-grandmother who had the beautiful red hair and taught my Mama to cook died when Mama was 14. That was one of the worst heartbreaks of her life I think. Granny Inez never treated us any differently though. I can recall times when her grandchildren were there too, and we had so much fun. I loved playing on the porch. I think they were the only folks I knew with a screened porch at the time.
I stayed the night with them one time when I was spending a few days with my Great Aunt. They got an early start in that house–Granddaddy and I were up and headed out to his truck to check around the farm by a little after 5. We were back home and ready for breakfast around 6:30 or so. I remember the ham, red-eye gravy, biscuits and well, just all the fixin’s. I LOVED that gravy. The way it soaked into those biscuits. Some kind of goo-ood, I am telling you.
Granddaddy was a gentle man but he was strong too. He had lost his hand in a mill accident many years before. I don’t remember being frightened by his arm. It seemed to make his hugs even better actually. When we were all over there to eat with him and Granny Inez, that table was creaking from all the food spread out on it. All kinds of vegetables and a ham or roast, cornbread or biscuits, and desserts. I remember Granny Inez’s specialty was a lemon cheese cake (not cheesecake, this was layers of cake with something like lemon curd as a filling–divine!). The best part was I don’t care how high you piled your plate or if it was your first go ’round or not, Granddaddy was known for saying, “Take out and he’p yourself, you ain’t et hardly nothin’.”
To me that was the epitome of Granddaddy’s hospitality. If there was food on the table, he wanted to share it. Maybe that’s where Mama got it from–feeding folks was one of the ways she said “I love you.”
It’s a sweet saying that has been heard around the table at home all my life. It’s a way to remember Granddaddy, a generous man who was intelligent and hard-working; he served as a judge in his county as well. But it’s also become our way of showing love, just as Granddaddy did–a way of saying, “If I got it, it’s yours. He’p yourself.” And I particularly like to hear it at big meals like Thanksgiving–that part about having et hardly nothin’…..yeah, in that case, I will have another go at it., thankyouverymuch. There’s such generosity and grace in that. Just like in my great Granddaddy.