Saturday morning was fresh and beautiful. I got up, made some coffee, went through my morning rituals and routines and then put on my gardening clothes.
I set out to join my grandmother in the yard.
I wandered out into the yard, munching a piece of cheese toast and sipping a cup of strong coffee. I didn’t see Granny anywhere.
“It’s about time you got up! Good heavens it’s 8AM! Best time of the day is already gone,” a voice said with a bit of humor.
I turned and saw my grandmother.
Elizabeth Hope Todd stood about 5’4” and was about as round as she was tall. She wore a large floppy bonnet that covered the back of her neck and most of her long steel gray hair that she kept pinned up. She didn’t look a day over 50 but I knew that she was proud of every one of her 89 years. Granny attributed her youthful looks to “good humors and bathing daily in water steeped in moonlight”.
Yes, my grandmother is a witch. A very powerful one too. She knew how to pull a focused intent to her. She knew how to make potions that would cure things that doctors didn’t. She grew most of her own vegetables and traded out with others for meat and butter. Her little goats provided all the milk and cheese she needed and her chickens were good for meat and eggs. She knew how to live off the land but she also knew how to dress up in a fancy cocktail dress and go to one of the many functions held by the many nonprofits that she supported and volunteered for.
My grandfather really didn’t know what he was getting into when he married Granny. He was a rich boy and had known her all his life. When he came back from college with a pharmacy degree, he asked Granny to marry him and they made a very successful business together. She worked the front of the drug store together and sold band-aids and rubbing alcohol and “Evening in Paris” perfume gift sets to mill workers and factory laborers and housewives. My grandmother would rack up the sales of that nasty perfume at Christmas time and Valentine’s Day and when my grandfather complained about how bad it stunk up the shop, my grandmother would laugh and say “It’s smells like money to me!”
Meanwhile the folks that came in would visit my grandfather for whatever medical care they could. It’s not like it is now where you go to the doctor if you sneeze. Then, folks only went to the doctor if they really needed a doctor. For colds, rashes, and stuff like that you’d ask the pharmacist what to do and he’d either direct you to a ready made solution or in some cases would compound something to help. If he couldn’t help, he’d would either suggest that the person visit a doctor or would suggest they talk to my grandmother about “something” she might know about that particular ailment.
Sometimes, a tired woman, with multiple kids pulling at her skirts would come directly to my grandmother and you’d see them with heads bent, whispering. My grandmother would tell her to come to the back door in 2 hours. There, my grandmother would hand over a mimeographed sheet and a packet of herbs that would end a pregnancy. She would always end the consult with a gentle hug and a pat of the cheek.
This was long before Planned Parenthood or Roe vs Wade. But as long as there have been mama’s with too many kids, there have been abortions.
My grandmother would say that none of her patients would end up in a back room with a butcher.