"Did you see that car that just went down the road?" my Granny asked her friend Lola. "I haven't seen it before, wonder who they are visiting." Every morning when I stayed with my Granny I would hear one side of this conversation, only varying in type of vehicle and the driver's assumed business in Rugby.
There were two phones in Granny's house. One hung on the wall in the living room, just within reach of the large scratchy floral print chair that faced the TV, its cord curling to the floor and back up to the receiver. The other was an old black rotary model that sat on a small antique table facing the one window in my grandmother's room. There was a small chair tucked underneath the table. The window looked out over the front porch, yard, and the road beyond the garden. I used to love playing with this phone because you could put your finger in a hole, pull it around in a circle and let go, where it would make a delightful ringing sound. From this phone my Granny made her important morning calls.
Every day she had a rotation of female friends whom she called, or who called her, detailing the community gossip of the day. A lot of the time the topics would include gardening and trips to town along with the curiosity over a new vehicle on the road. Also, obituaries were a pretty big deal.
I mentioned in my last post that my dad's Granny would never miss the Grand Ole Opry or the obituaries on the radio. The same can be said of my Granny, about the obituaries anyway. Every day at noon, right before her 'stories' she would sit and listen to a little black radio, roughly the shape of a loaf of French bread; not a baguette, but those smaller fatter ones typically used for garlic bread, adjusting the antenna to be sure she heard every syllable. I remember the radio well, it sat in the living room also within reach of the large scratchy chair. Every day gloomy organ music wavered from the speakers before the announcer would read through the list of community members who had passed on. I knew never to disturb Granny during the obituaries because it seemed of dire importance that she hear each name read off. My aunt told me the other day that once when I was very small I accidentally knocked the radio off the table, and worried I had broken it, ran to tell Granny, "I'm sorry, I think I broke your obituary."
My dad told me that Granny Ollie (his granny) would also listen to the obituaries religiously. He said that sometimes the radio would happily announce that, "Today we are blessed with no deaths." She would look disconcertingly at the radio and grunt, "Huh." and switch the program off. I suppose that just meant there was less fodder for conversation with her friends later, not that she was particularly upset that no one died that day. My dad also joked that maybe she felt the need to listen to be sure she wasn't on it.
It seems kind of ridiculous that these ladies would pay so much attention to the deaths of their neighbors, or if a foreign car drives through their tiny pocket of the world. I think though that it is an incredible display of community that isn't often seen this day in age. I remember someone not from here complaining to me that they attended a fundraiser at the rescue squad and were not received as highly as they expected to be, given the amount they donated to the cause. My reply was that this tight knit community is not driven by money, so it is not necessarily possible to buy your way in. You have to be a respectful neighbor, take notice of the odd visitor, and maybe even listen to the obituaries.