I loved Gramma Carson. It broke my heart to see her so upset. Since our Mama died, she was the center of our world. Andi and I had never doubted that we were loved and safe.
Of course, we knew Gramma was different. Her bouncy enthusiasm and know-it-all manner got on people’s nerves sometimes. My sister and I were acutely aware of her tendency to brush aside instructions and guidelines, adding her own touch to everything. Mama used to say Gramma had a disease called “Maybe-just-a-little-bit-more.” Her syndrome came in sporadic attacks.
On this particular evening, as a result of one of those attacks, Gramma was holed up in a bathroom stall across from the church fellowship hall. Andi and I were trying to coax her out, assuring her that it wasn’t as bad as it seemed.
“No, I’m not going back in there. Not ever.” She spoke in a muffled voice. “Bess didn’t have to take on so. She kept hollering for water like a wild dog.”
“But Gramma,” Andi stammered, “Her face did get red… and she sort of choked.”
“And Stuart hammed it up too. Imagine a grown man like him bawling and hanging out his tongue in front of everybody.” Gramma was crying and angry all at once. “My chili wasn’t that hot. I added just a little bit more cayenne pepper. I can’t stand bland food.”
I snickered as my eyes met Andi’s. We had seen Gramma add just a little bit more detergent to the washer, and watched suds overflow the entire basement. We remembered when she added just a little bit more wax to the kitchen floor. She had hurried through a few minutes later, slipped and shot across the room like a bullet in an apron, finally sliding out the screen door on her backside.
Yet, when the syndrome kicked in while Gramma was cooking, things sometimes got out of hand. Both Andi and I had forgotten to sample her chili that was for the special church supper.
The event was to welcome our new pastor and his wife. We had spent hours decorating for the occasion, hoping to impress them with our warmth and love. Well, Gramma had added some warmth, all right. As part of the youth group, I could only imagine the retelling of the scene. Andi, looking mortified, was probably thinking the same thing.
Just then, through the bathroom door walked the lovely young wife of Pastor Phil.
“Hello.” She smiled timidly at Andi and me. She surmised the situation, and then spoke to the stall door.
“Mrs. Carson, I’m Karen Sorenson. Phil and the others would like to see you in the fellowship hall. They have taken care of the problem. They combined your chili with Mrs. Ebberly’s, as it was very lightly seasoned. It turned out to make a tasty dish that everybody is enjoying. Phil is getting ready to express his appreciation for everything, and we’d really like you to be there.”
Gramma peeked out before slowly emerging from her hiding place. Her eyes were swollen, her hair in disarray, but she made an attempt to smile.
“I guess that might work. Mona Ebberly never gets enough pizazz in her dishes.” Gramma’s eyes began to recapture their twinkle.
Once we were all seated in the fellowship hall, Pastor Phil rose to address his first personal words to his congregation.
“I am so happy to be here as a part of this loving church family. Thank you for all you’ve done. The food is delicious, especially the chili, made from the combined efforts of Mrs. Ebberly and Mrs. Carson."
After a hearty chuckle all around, the group relaxed, and he continued.
“Many of you have told me about Mrs. Carson’s cards and visits when you were sick or needed encouragement. You’ve expressed that she always does more than her share, never failing to extend that extra touch of kindness and caring. That is a true gift, and I look forward to knowing her better.”
Andi and I froze when Gramma stood up. We never knew what was coming next.
“Thank you, Pastor. And I promise, with the Lord’s help, to try to keep that “gift” in check.” She smiled sweetly and sat down.
Our new pastor and his wife had passed their first test. The people already loved them, especially Gramma Carson.
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