My grandmother was a no-nonsense woman. I was reminded of this a few days ago while visiting with my sister, who brought up the time that Gram taught my sister’s son how to spit.
Gram and my great-uncle raised chickens. At the time of this story, they both would have been in their 80s. My nephew, the older of two boys, would probably have been 5 or 6. As grandmother and great-grandson trundled from the house to the chicken barn, one leaning on the cut-down ski-pole she used for a cane and the other carrying the egg bucket, Gram loudly cleared her throat and spat, sending phlegmy goo in a gentle arc through the air and into the yard. My nephew, being a boy and therefore prone to copying anything that involved sending bodily fluid through the air, grinned and spit into the dirt at his feet.
“No,” Gram said, “Like this.” She tipped her head back, cleared her throat again, and spat, forcefully expelling the results from her lips and into the air. My nephew followed suit, and the two practiced all the way to the barn. By the time they arrived, Gram had successfully passed her spitting wisdom down to her great-grandson.
From this story, you’d think that my grandmother was uncouth. The truth is, at that point in her life, she had already been through the Depression, a few wars, countless marriages, divorces, births, deaths, children, grand-children, great-grand-children, and who knows how many hundreds of other things. Spitting in her own yard just wasn’t a big deal. There were many other more important things in the world to worry about; however, if you were going to do something, even spit, you should do it the right way.
My grandmother lived to be 98 years old. While she passed many small bits of wisdom, like the proper way to spit, down to us, what she ultimately taught us was not to worry about the little things. Family is important, and not all family is related by blood. You don’t have to be young to be a kid, and it’s okay to fall asleep in the middle of a conversation when someone comes to visit. If it’s important, the discussion will continue after you wake up.