My grandmother was an amazing woman. She had a command that demanded respect from her five grandchildren. Between 1980 and 1990, as a child and youth, I traveled to South Carolina and spent summers with her because my parents worked full time in Virginia. We could not afford babysitters, and my parents did not want my brother and me at home alone.
During my summer visits with my grandparents, I knew what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior around the house and in the neighborhood because of her disciplinary actions. My grandmother spanked us with a switch whenever we misbehaved or disobeyed her. When we committed an infraction punishable by a spanking, she sent us outside with, “Go get me a switch!” and always finished her command with, “and if you don’t get me a good one, I’ll go out and pick one myself!”
Often I watched my brother and cousins intentionally bring in a smaller switch. My grandmother would get up in a huff, and go out in the heat (or rain, because that is often when we were couped up in the house and got more rambunctious). She would enter back into the house with a decided consternation to handle adequately the offensive child. I learned that it was not worth what happened when she had to go out and pick her own switch, and I made sure my first pick was prime.
Our newspaper boy also supplied switches for the neighborhood. We would see him approaching with the “Daily News” canvas bag thrown over his shoulder. In his bag along with the rolled, rubber-banded newsprints were long switches he had cut on his paper route as he traipsed along. He gathered switches as a side job to make a little extra money in our poor black southern country neighborhood. Pot (as he was coined), would always respectfully greet my grandmother, “Hello Miss Gill, how ya doin’?”
“Fine, fine, Pot. Looks like you picked up some switches,” looking at the package on his side.
“Yes ma’am, and looks like you got all the grands here for the summer,” acknowledging all of us with his friendly smile. Then looking at my grandmother he’d ask, “Like a few?”
“Yeah, watcha askin’ for each?”
“Ten cents, Miss Gill.”
She muses, then places her request, “Give me ten, Pot,” as she reaches into her change purse to offer him a dollar bill.
None of us children ever despised our grandmother for her discipline. She was a wise, reverent woman that helped us through our most troubled times. In fact, it did become a joke over time about the “wrap around the corner switches” that Pot sold to the neighborhood. We grandchildren entertained ourselves often with story after story of when Grandma Peaches chased us through the house. Seemed as though no matter how fast you ran from her, inevitably that switch would reach around a corner and find a way to sting your thigh or buttocks.
We never, ever questioned if were being abused. We loved Grandma and knew that we meant the world to her. Thankfully, she survived to see three out of my four children before she passed away. I consider her my hero, and tell my children stories of their great grandmother. I believe it is a right taken away from a child if a loving, caring grandparent loses his or her privilege to spank them. I believe it robs the elder of his dignity and denies the younger the chance to regard his grandparents with awe. I hope to one day hold my grandmother in a affectionate embrace in a time free from selfishness and pain. She deserves such honor.
Leshem shel Habakkuk