I think one of the signs that you have grown up is when you forgive your parents for being human.

Parents with child Statue, Hrobákova street, P...

Parents with child Statue, Hrobákova street, Petržalka, Bratislava (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lauretta Hannon, author of “The Cracker Queen,” describes her own life through the lens of her parents’ and grandparents’ lives.

She explains the difficult childhoods her parents had, leading them to make their own mistakes in parenting.

In a book filled with insight, humor and pathos, probably the statement that sums up the reason for her parents’ poor parenting skills best was, “they should have tried to heal their wounds before they wed.”

From a grandmother who abandoned her mother as a child, to a mother who tried to have an abortion before she was born, sick at soul after five miscarriages, Hannon’s decision to be feisty instead of bitter empowers her.

She had role models – good and bad, sometimes at the same time.

Her father never recovered from seeing the prisoners when they were freed at Dachau and died of a stroke when she was 17.

She inherited his love of good music.

Her mother taught her generosity and compassion as well as a rock-hard bent to flout rules that made no sense.

Hannon describes seeing chain gangs when her mother took her on forays in her father’s poker-won Cadillac around town.

They’d zip over to a convenience store to buy cartons of cigarettes and then fling packs of them to the roadside prisoners, who returned their gifts with tears of surprised joy.

Even though her parents separated because of their violent, alcoholic rages when together, Hannon felt fiercely loved.

“During my preschool days, we tooled around in the butter-colored Cadillac, which was stocked with vodka and orange juice.”

“I sat on the armrest in the front seat, biting at the air rushing from the vents.”

“This was before child seats and airbags, but I had the ultimate protection, the Mama Arm of Steel.”

“At the slightest tap of the brake, her warm would nail me against the seat.”

In the chaos of her home life, she found aunts who showed her a different way to be in the world.

Her father’s aunt “feasted on life.”

“She wore hats with plumes and grosgrain and spoke flawless Italian to the waiters at the restaurant.”

“She traveled to Europe and quoted Chaucer at length.”

“I wanted to be like her, but that was impossible….Italian was not going to be taught in my high school; and major travel for us meant going to the big city of Atlanta, for which Mama had to take a nerve pill….”

“Aunt Martha had money and advantages; we had the troubles that come from being at the bottom of the heap….”

“Quite gradually, I realized that what made Aunt Martha captivating was not the fancy hats and trips or  topaz ring – it was her love of life and the loving way she responded to every person and situation, as if in a state of perpetual gladness.”

Finally, it was grandmotherhood that forced her mother to stop drinking.

Her sister gave their Mom an ultimatum.

“Either stay sober or don’t see your grandson again.”

After that, “she was such a fixture at all of Dusty’s [her grandson] softball games through the years that she is still known around town as Team Grandma.”

In the tradition of Southern writers, Hannon’s childhood gave her much material to write this autobiography.

As she says, “I could easily focus on 30 years ago, but driving a car stuck in reverse is not my idea of fun.”

In that same Southern tradition, she combines humor, affection and storytelling to make you forgive her parents, too.

Order “The Cracker Queen” from amazon for an example of how to weave the values and lessons you learned from growing up in a dysfunctional family, or just because it’s fun to read about someone else’s family.

 

Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma?”

http://newgrandmas.com

 

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