Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer – Linda Bethea – It was a wonder to see my two Grandmas in combat.

I am delighted that Linda Bethea is going to be joining us on a more regular basis, sharing posts of family, humour and words of wisdom….

It was a wonder to see my two grandmas in combat.

Mettie Knight Swain – Mamaw

It was a wonder to see my two grandmas in combat. Daddy always dreaded seeing Grandma Holdaway, my maternal grandmother, from the start. In his defense, she was inquisitive, intent on getting all the latest on his folks as soon as the pleasantries were done. By way of explanation, I have to admit, Daddy’s family gave her plenty to be nosy about. “How is your mama? Is she still living with Ola Bea?”

Mamaw moved house more than anyone else I’ve ever seen, rarely living in a place long enough to even have to dust the furniture. It was not uncommon for her sons to move her into a place, then get the news she wanted to move again before the rent was due. I was always impressed with the little places she’d find: little duplexes, rooms in houses she’d share with a friend, garage apartments, and tiny cottages. It’s hard to imagine how someone who didn’t drive nor have a telephone could find places so readily. In the event she didn’t move out on her own, she’d move in with one of her daughters or Uncle Parnell, whose wife Julie was like a daughter to her. Uncle Parnell even built a house for her on two places where he lived. She’d eagerly anticipate moving into her new house, then get discontented after a short time and decide to move elsewhere. If he was frustrated, he never complained and moved her back in her little house as often as asked.

  My maternal grandparents Mary Elizabeth Perkins Holdaway and children. The little blonde girl is Kathleen Holdaway Swain, my mother

When the two old ladies got together, they moved in for a hug, but held each other at a distance. After a few brief pleasantries, they got to the veiled insults. They took turns with insults recycled from their last visit.

“Miz Holdaway, you’re looking mighty healthy. Looks like you might’a put on a few pounds.” Mamaw might remark, slyly.

“Lord, no. I’ve taken off weight. I was gonna bring you my nice navy church dress but I run off and left it. It just about falls off me now. I know you could use it.” Grandma retorted. “You’ll probably need if Jenny’s girl gets married. Sure looks like she could use a husband.”

Mamaw changed the subject. “I brought Willie a fresh apple cake. He does love a good cake. I guess Kathleen tries, but she just ain’t much on making cakes. I raised my girls up in the kitchen from the time they was knee-babies. Every one of ‘ems a fine cook, yes, ma’am.”

Kathleen is a fine cook. Bill don’t look like he’s missed any meals. Did Ella May and her husband ever get back together? He seems like a good man. She needs to try to get along with him.”

Me with a gaggle of my first cousins. I am the messy girl in back row standing next to woman holding baby. This was taken on Christmas. That was a new outfit Mother made me for Christmas. It didn’t survive the cousin football game. I got home missing three buttons and most of my skirt hem. Mother was not pleased.

Daddy’s family gathered together most weekends, either at our house or one of theirs. It was a madhouse of raucous adults and screaming, door-banging children, since I had more than forty first cousins. Mamaw was very casual in her affection for the herd of banshees, most concerned about getting trampled or knocked in the head by flying objects. I can’t say that I ever saw her cuddle a baby or hug a child. Please understand, I don’t mean this as a criticism, there were just too many of the little heathens to keep up with. At least she didn’t smack us when we ran by, which probably required a bit of restraint. On the other hand, Grandma only had six grandchildren that she doted on. She showered us with beautifully handmade clothes and whatever inexpensive gifts she could afford on her meager old-age pension, seventy-seven dollars a month. Though Mamaw also got by on her Old-Age Pension, Grandma’s life was probably financially easier since she and my grandpa, who had his own pension, had always lived with family, avoiding the expense of running a house.

However, Grandma did earn her way by keeping house, cooking, doing laundry, and caring for a grandchild. Though Grandma did not get a free ride at all, Mamaw was envious of what she perceived as her “easier life.” I suspect most of Mamaw’s money went toward her frequent moves. According to Grandma, Mamaw wasted a good deal of money buying Cheerios and tiny cans of Green Giant Niblet Corn. I always got the lowdown after Mamaw left. Grandma said it made a whole lot more sense to buy oatmeal and family-sized cans of corn, preferably store-brand. I was with Mamaw on that. Had I had any purchasing power, I would have gone for the Cheerios, assuming I couldn’t get Sugar Smacks. I definitely admired those tiny cans of corn. By the way, I never got a taste of either. Mamaw had way too many grandchildren to be passing out food.

©Linda Bethea 2018

About Linda Bethea.

Linda Bethea brings humour to her stories that are usually set in what was a dire time in American history in the great depression. There is no doubt in my mind that Southerners are tough, resilient and have an amazing sense of fun.

win_20160620_13_24_45_proHere is Linda with a little bit about herself.

Now that I’m done with the bothersome business of workday world, I am free to pursue my passion, capturing the stories I’ve loved all my life. The ones you’ll read on my blog are good old Southern stories, a real pleasure to relay. Here in the South, we are proud of our wacky folks. I’ve preyed shamelessly on my family, living and dead, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, often changing the names to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

My mother illustrates my blog. I come from a rollicking family of nuts, hence the name of the blog Nutsrok Enjoy.

Linda has captured the essence of her family history in her book Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad

51qb8fm4dql-_uy250_About Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad by Linda Swain Bethea (Author) with Kathleen Holdaway Swain (Collaborator & Illustrator)

Born to a struggling farm family in the deepest of The Great Depression, Kathleen enjoys a colorful childhood, enhanced by her imagination, love of life, and the encouragement of her family.

She’s determined to build a better life for herself, getting herself into hilarious situations all along the way. Distinguishing herself in school and the community, she never takes her eyes off her goal.

Just as she’s about to get started, she meets Bill, the man who is going to help her on her way. Everything changes. And then changes again. The true story of a remarkable woman who will inspire you, make you laugh, and see life from a new perspective.

One of the many excellent reviews for the book.

……… you fall in love with Kathleen’s family.

Bethea’s style of writing as she recounts her mother’s memories has made her one of my favorite authors, and I couldn’t put this book down once I started it.

Kathleen (Kitten) takes us through her childhood growing up during the Great Depression by sharing her memories, and we find ourselves cheering for the little girl and her family while we get to know them. Vivid descriptions about unwanted house-guest’s habits are hilarious, while stories of sacrifices made by the family for each other brings tears to the reader’s eyes. We find ourselves cherishing the favorite stories Kitten hears from her Mama and Daddy while she snuggles next to them much as she did at the time of their telling. As Kathleen recounts the difficulties she faced as a young adult, we too want to return home to her parents’ warm home, full pantry, and open arms.

Read the reviews and BUY the book:

And Amazon UK:

Also by Linda Bethea

About the book


In this collection of six serials, Linda Swain Bethea weaves narratives of women through several centuries. The stories span from 1643 to 1957. Beginning in England in 1643, a young couple travels to Jamestown, Virginia, to begin a new life in the American frontier. The rest of the stories travel from West Texas to North Louisiana to the Texas Panhandle to East Texas.

Disease, death, starvation, and prison are faced with stoicism and common sense, and always, with a sense of humor.

The women in each tale stand tall and possess the wisdom and tenacity to hold families together under the worst conditions. Through it all, they persevere, and Linda Swain Bethea’s storytelling is a testament to the legacy they left.

Conversational and homey, you’ll fall in love with the women of Just Women Getting By – Leaving a Legacy of Strength, which celebrates the courage of those women who had no choice but to survive.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon UK:

Connect to Linda


My thanks to Linda for sharing her story and she would love your feedback. Thanks Sally.


33 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer – Linda Bethea – It was a wonder to see my two Grandmas in combat.

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer – Linda Bethea – It was a wonder to see my two Grandmas in combat. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – St. Kitts, Mother Sauces, Family Drama, Music, Short Stories and Humout | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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