Berry Good

I thought I’d heard all the stories. My 88-year-old Aunt Ruth pulled me aside to look at the picture of the family home where she grew up and where all the family gatherings were held. “You remember Grandma Berry?”

Of course, I did. Until she died when I was fifteen, one stop of any part of a trip to my grandfather’s house was to pay homage to her. We would find this long-widowed grandmother in the home of one of her children or grandchildren as they passed her around. Dressed in modest high-necked dresses with sleeves at least three-quarter length, she lived an uncomfortable life in the Mississippi heat where some of her granddaughters ran around in short shorts. A small person, now stooped even further with osteoporosis, I remembered her mostly as old. Mama never failed to tell me I should have known her when she was younger.

Aunt Ruth pointed to the porch in the picture. “When I was engaged and brought your Uncle Leo Berry home to meet the family, Grandma Berry took me around to the back of the house.” Her finger traced their path heading for their private meeting.

I tried to figure what this unusual confidential meeting could have meant. Grandma Berry had graduated from eighth grade, as far as she could go at the time in their small community, and married Grandpa Berry at sixteen. Aunt Ruth had one year of college behind her and was marrying soon after her nineteenth birthday. Would Grandma Berry question her age? As young as it seems now, neither was unusual for their time.

Aunt Ruth continued the story she wanted me to know. “When we got to the back of the house by ourselves, Grandma Berry told me she hoped my Berry would be as good as her Berry.” She ended her story with a rather smug smile. I hadn’t known Grandpa Berry who died before I was born, but I have known Uncle Leo for the almost seventy years they have been married. Aunt Ruth, now the age that I remembered Grandma Berry, knew I would see that her Berry had met the standard.