Like Indian Jones, my grandmother hated snakes. She and Indy could have started a support group for snake haters, maybe Snake Haters Anonymous (SHA) or the Society Against Snakes (SAS).
Like most hatred, my grandmother’s came from fear. She was afraid of snakes, deathly afraid of snakes. Her fear might have been a phobia. Sometime in my grandmother’s life, her fear had grown to hatred, but the fear was still there too.
My grandmother was something of a pioneer woman. Born in the nineteen teens, she lived through the Great Depression. As a kid, I didn’t realize how cool the woman was, but looking back on her now—Wow! Every year until she was in her 60s, she planted and tended a huge vegetable garden. In the fall, she canned the produce for winter eating. She sewed her own clothes (always pants with matching tops—I don’t recall ever seeing her in a skirt or dress) and knew the way to kill a chicken for a gumbo (hang it upside down from a fence until it relaxed, then whack its head off with a sharp butcher knife). She was a fantastic cook; I’d give a toe to taste her aforementioned gumbo again, and every year for Christmas, she made the most luscious six (or was it eight?) layer coconut cakes. Once I watched her pluck a small game bird my uncle had shot; she submerged the carcass in boiling water, then pulled it out and removed the tiny feathers. She raised seven kids, then lived thirty years as a widow after my grandpa died.
MawMaw was a woman who knew how to prepare for tough times and live through them when they came. I wish my parents had packed me off to spend summer vacations with her so I could have learned her homesteading ways. Instead, I spent my summers in my family’s air conditioned mobile home, reading fiction and longing for a boyfriend.
I never asked my grandma what she was scared of. Maybe she had a whole list of fears. I knew she hated snakes because my mom knew and told me. It became a joke with me and my mom and my sibling. MawMaw is scared of snakes! Isn’t that funny? I’m sure MawMaw didn’t think so.
One time my mom told us that MawMaw was so scared of snakes, we shouldn’t even say the word. For years after, instead of saying the word “snake,” we’d spell out “s-n-a-k-e.” Even when we weren’t with MawMaw, we would spell the word to each other. Don’t let MawMaw see this picture of an s-n-a-k-e. I hope MawMaw doesn’t find an s-n-a-k-e in the garden. I was a child at the time and thought this spelling was great fun, but now I wonder what kind of passive-aggressive bullshit my mother was up to. It’s not kind for a grown kid to make fun of her mother’s phobia.
I wish I had known my grandmother better. I know she had a green thumb. I know she was a great cook. I know she was always kind to me, and I know she hated snakes.