“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Collateral Parenting



Stella, my nail tech and friend, apologized over and over. “I am so sorry I’m running this late. See that woman over there under the hair dryer? Well, she’s the spoiled brat who ran me late. First she demanded to eat the lunch she brought; then. . . .”

“I get it. No problem, Stella,” I said. “I have a baby sitter.”

In a nano-flash, she looked up from my nails into my face. Just as quickly, I caught her yet un-voiced reaction. I broke out laughing. “I am 65 years old. Did I just say I have a baby sitter? What the hell???”

She broke out laughing.

I hope it’s healthy to be able to laugh at a sad and scary situation, because I’m going to need all the health I can dream up.

I was born in late summer 1943 and my husband of nearly 40 years in early 1945; do the math. It says I’m on Social Security and Medicare.

Nope, this is no tabloid Enquirer front page about a wrinkled 65-year-old who’s miraculously had a baby; this kind of story is a tabloid’s worst nightmare – real but not sensational. My husband and I have custody of our deeply loved 20-month old granddaughter, Joanna Leigh. We’ve got a toddler to raise. A toddler.

We are among a growing number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, too often because of their own child’s drug and alcohol addictions. Our daughter has been an unrelenting, unremitting drug addict for more than 20 years. For all those years, a yawning abyss seemed to be one misstep away.

Now that we have Joanna Leigh, the abyss is no longer an option. For the past 14 of those 20-plus years, I have faithfully met with my psychiatrist to whom I give the credit for getting me through this morass of heartbreak, fear, anger, revelations, depression, loss of hope, and grief; he has kept me from disappearing into the abyss. 

A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves to a night out, dinner in Birmingham. We got a baby sitter. On the way up there, I turned to him and asked, “Do you think that when the baby starts realizing something critical is different between us and the parents of her friends that she will be mad with us for being so frigging OLD?” A man of few words, he said, “Yeh, probably.”

No Virtual Reality

Paul, my psychiatrist, said to me earlier, “I don’t believe in prophylactic worrying, but your concern here is justified.”

In another decade, I’ll be almost 76. This is not young any way you cut it. And Joanna Leigh will be. . . oh, my Gawd, 12 years old. Pre-adolescent and headed for her teens. When I look forward, all I see is a strange toy box, filled with frightening possibilities. Reality says I’ll do well to see her get her driver’s license.

According to an online piece from the Waco Herald Tribune, the U.S. Census Bureau says that “6.1 million grandparents were living with their grandchildren in 2008. That number is up from 5.7 million in 2007. Experts attribute everything from the poor economy to the 2006 spike in teen pregnancies — which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports is the first in 15 years. Updated data are not yet available.” (http://www.wacotrib.com/news/content/news/stories/2009/01/26/01262009wacgrandparents.html )

A spokesman for a support group for grandparents at the nearby Waco Methodist Children’s Home describes the various situations: “Some of their children had children too young. Others are incarcerated. Hooked on drugs. Deployed by the military. Financially unable to care for their children. Removed from their children by Child Protective Services. There really is no demographic of grandparents affected,” the spokesman said. “It has nothing to do with income.”

The local Focus on Senior Citizens (FOCUS) holds support group meetings for grandparents parenting their grandchildren. Right now, don’t take anything to the Bank, but believe it, I’ll be going next month.

I plan to post essays on Grandparents Parenting or Toddler Whisperings on Thursdays. I would like to hear from other parenting grandparents.

No Spitting on the Premises



Nice people simply do not spit. Common people spit.

“Nice People” is outdated Southernspeak for people from “nice families”; “nice families” is outdated Southernspeak for those whose background passes muster, whose genealogy goes back a long way, which is far more important than money unless your money goes back a long way.

Common people are those who have no upbringing. When they say “nice, white, rice,” the “nice” rhymes with “ass,” the “white” rhymes with “brat,” and the “rice” rhymes with . . ., well, I’m not really sure. It’s country-fied.

“Tacky” is Southernspeak for, among other criticisms, nouveau riche people who have no taste. Their “people,” who were probably Yankees, might go back one generation at the most. These ancestors probably did spit.

But smart Southern women of a certain age, even those from nice families, have likely resorted to “spittin’ grits” at some point in the past. I have.

In 1965 after college, I was driving in La Jolla, California, on some jaunt or other. Even though I had grown up as an Air Force officer’s brat and lived all over, I still had my Southern accent and I had never been to California. I was driving the wrong way on a four-lane one-way street at night. How tacky.

Not very far into this stupid maneuver, I saw the flashing lights of a police car that had made a U-turn and was behind me. I have no memory of where I pulled over. It must have been into a service station lot, one where your gas was pumped for you, your oil was check for you, and for dessert your windshield was cleaned for you.

I remember thinking, “You’d better start spittin’ grits ASAP.” The cop leaned down.

I said, “Good evenin’ suh. Ah know what Ah’ve done hea-uh (here), but Ah’ve nev-uh been to Califon-yuh.”

You add to that verbal sprawl your fluttering eyelashes and a big smile. You morph into a combination of Scarlet O’Hara and a Valley Girl. I didn’t get a ticket.

Spirit and Image of Grits

But I damned well wouldn’t resort to such trickery now. First, it’s against my principles. (Yeh, right, lady.)

Second, the idea of a 65-year-old Southern woman (who is myself) spittin’, grits is grotesque. Plus I’m a grandmother from a nice family.

Third, the Southern accent, like so much else distinctively Southern, has become watered down by all the moving around people do these days -- except for grits, which you indeed water down and which is the subject of another post.

“Spittin’ grits might not have to be such a crass, unladylike phrase after all. In my 1987 edition of The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins says that “spittin’ image” could be a corruption of “spirit and image.” This means, of course, that “spittin’ grits” is in the spirit and image of Southern niceties. (http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-37073764_ITM).

There. That’s solved.

Except For This Part

Fourth, my father used the phrase, not as a Southern nicety but very specifically. When I was 14 and 15, in junior high school at Bellingrath in Montgomery, Alabama, in the mid-1950s, we went to Sock Hops. I am not making this up.

My father, an Air Force officer and pilot of jets, was an imposing Southern gentleman, stationed at Maxwell A.F.B. and an Alabama native. We were not allowed to ride unchaperoned in cars with boys, not even to Sock Hops. That policy put quite a damper on “dating,” which was probably the real intention of the policy. Anyway, I had been asked to this Sock Hop by this boy I was nuts over.

Dad said to me, “Young lady, you are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving, and that’s THAT. I am not spittin’ grits!”

I knew the dreamboat’s parents weren’t going to be driving. He and his friends were 16 and already at Lanier High School. I promised dad the parents would be driving. I sneaked, snunck, or whatever the verb tense is.

We had not been at the Hop more than 30 minutes when my 6-foot 3-inch dad marched in, got me by the arm, and marched me out.

He was not one for Spittin’ Grits.

NOTE: There will be no post tomorrow. I will be at a reunion.

Special NOTE

clip_image003© Maggie Mae and Patty Cake napping. They are now five years older, but, like most women can be, continue to be very close friends. They are also close friends with our two-year-old granddaughter.

NOTE: Spittin’ Grits© will be UNDER CONSTRUCTION for the next several weeks while I continue to try and figure out the HTML code so that I can re-format some items. A real novice, I hope you will be patient with me, as it will be my pleasure for you to return, read, and comment often.
I hope to post three times a week, beginning ASAP, with (generally) Mondays devoted to Grits, Southern Stuff, and related topics; Wednesdays to a variety; and Thursdays to Grandparents Parenting and Toddler Whisperings.
Spittin’ Grits is a registered trademark and is the sole property of Joanna C. Hutt. Copyright 2009, all rights reserved.

About Spittin’ Grits

© Maggie Mae and Patty Cake napping. They are now five years older, but, like most women can be, continue to be very close friends. They are also close friends with our two-year-old granddaughter.

Spittin’ Grits©, from Joanna Cravey Hutt, presents observations, beliefs, and information about topics including (but not limited to): Grits, Grandparents Parenting and Toddler Whisperings, Drug Addiction, Funny Bones, Politics, Reunions (I have been to a few), Southern Stuff, Travels, and Words and Language. Some lives turn out pretty much as expected. A lot of mine is not what the script called for. As I ad libbed my way through the surprises, amazements, shocks, disappointments, I learned some stuff, which inspired me to create Spittin’ Grits©.
Why these subjects? I know grits and Southern stuff from having lived only in Alabama since 1961 when I entered The University of Alabama; my husband (of nearly 40 years) and I are raising our (now) six-year-old granddaughter because of our daughter’s nearly lifelong, intractable drug addictions; as a retired writer, editor, adjunct English instructor, and freelance writer, I have worked with words and language all of my professional life. Other topics reveal interests.
            Welcome to my thoughts and experiences. Some will be more personal than others, particularly those posts on drug addiction, which I have come to know because of my daughter’s addictions. Some will be informative, I hope, which contributes to my goal of sharing what I have learned. Some will just BE.
            Thank you for visiting. I hope you will return, comment, and tell others about Spittin Grits©. Comments must be civil, short and to the point. Obscene, profane, abusive and off-topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for abiding by these rules and for taking part. 

Spittin’ Grits is a registered trademark and is the sole property of Joanna C. Hutt. Copyright 2009, all rights reserved.
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