Weensie Harper

Memories of Grandma Britt


My dear cousin Lydia reminded me that tomorrow, March 30, would have been our Grandma Britt's 99th birthday.

That's our grandma, the little 4-year-old barefoot darling in front (who looks SO MUCH like Mama and my sister Maria) with her parents and siblings.  Grandma always hated it that she didn't have shoes on in this photo, but apparently she had a sore foot that day and it hurt too bad to put on shoes.

(My deepest admiration for their mama Hettie Thompson who I'm sure worked hours to get all those white dresses, shirt, and pants scrubbed and ironed and then all those children dressed.  And also, being a photographer myself, what a feat it was for them to all stand so still for several seconds in order to get such a good shot.  But I digress...)


Britt1951 ShirleyLoisBenice EarlHazelLarryLor

That's Grandma, surrounded several of her own 10 children, in 1951.  Mama is in the middle, right behind Grandma.  (I love this photo for many reasons, not the least of which is that Larry is not happy to be there!  There's always one...)

Mama married Dad in 1955 and moved up to Indiana, so my relationship with Grandma was long-distance, with visits two or three times a year.  But those visits are special memories in my mind, and had we lived closer I know I could have had a beautiful, close bond with Grandma Britt.

She was the ultimate optimist, never complaining, and always finding good in everyone.  I wasn't able to attend her funeral, but Mama told me it was said about Grandma Britt that she never spoke a mean word about anyone.  She always looked past the flaws and bad decisions of people around her and only saw the good qualities.  Grandma was an encourager and a believer in the good of people, despite the circumstances.

My siblings and I would be giddy with excitement for a trip to see them.  No matter what time of day we pulled up their red dirt driveway, she always hurried out the back door to greet us and took us inside for a hot, full-course meal.  I don't know how she did it!  She always had food on the stove, ready to eat, and always, always biscuits!  Home-canned peaches and pies to top everything off.  At the time I didn't fully appreciate how much work that was for her, but now I am amazed!  Feeding people was one of the main ways Grandma showed her love for all of us.

Sometime during our week-long visit, many of Mama's brothers and sisters would bring their families over for a big family get-together.  Grandma packed a LOT of people in her tiny house, and she was thrilled to have us all there.  In my younger years, the house they lived in didn't even have indoor plumbing (we walked through the cow pasture to use the outhouse)...all those people without a bathroom even!  I vaguely remember Mama even giving us girls a bath in an old washtub on the porch...what fun that was (for us, anyway!).

We'd all gather around Grandma's huge oilcloth-covered kitchen table for a feast of southern cooking that would rival anything you can imagine.  SO MUCH FOOD...how she ever was able to feed all those mouths out of her small, inconvenient kitchen is beyond me!

Often, many of the others would stay overnight at her house as well, and she'd fix us a "pallet" on the floor where all of us kids slept side-by-side (remember that, Lydia?).  Such fun we had quietly giggling into the night!

Grandma and Grandpa, as hard as they worked, were big believers in porch-sitting.  Truthfully, it was too hot in the house most of the time, so the porch with its occasional breeze was the coolest place around during the summertime.  Sometimes we'd help her snap beans or shell peas, but often the grown-ups would just sit and talk while the children played in their yard, mostly packed red dirt and gravel with a few sprigs of grass here and there. 

Before her 15th birthday, she and Grandpa had run away to South Carolina to get married, lying about their ages.  In 1933, at the tender age of 18, she lost her mother and her 2-year-old firstborn son, had a baby girl who died before she was 3 weeks old, and gave birth to very tiny premature twin girls (who defied all odds and both survived) that November.  ALL AT HOME...there was no going to the hospital for them.  Can you even imagine???

Her married life was hard and the children kept coming, giving birth to 12 in all with 10 surviving into late adulthood.  Grandma was a very strong woman with a deep faith in God, a survivor, and it seems lame to just say she was a hard worker.  She did what she had to do, with a smile on her face and a happy heart, and always, always put her family above her own desires or even needs.


Britt Grandparents July 1989

I don't know how much my children remember about her, but we took them down to see her and Grandpa many summers until her health failed.  She loved her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren, that's for sure. 


Hazel & Andy Britt July 1989

The world and our family truly lost a very special woman when she went to Heaven in 2003.  But she leaves all of us with smiles as we reminisce and think back to our...

...memories of Grandma Britt.



The comments to this entry are closed.