There was no Christmas in our house until Granny (Santa Claus) Gwen arrived. Granny Gwen is my maternal grandmother. Her name was Gwynola Underwood. She was called Gwen for short. She was the lady from Pig Mouth Hollow.
Granny Gwen lived about 25 miles from our home on the farm in Fountain Run, Kentucky. She lived in the City of Scottsville. It had something to do with Scottish Highlander immigrant settlements.
Every Saturday, momma would take us to Scottsville to visit Granny Gwen. I loved it. It meant I could play on the playground behind her house near the Scottsville Colored School where my paternal grand father, Clyde Crawford, Sr. was a teacher. It was in this school that my grand father first pointed out my mother to my dad.
In earlier years before moving to the city, Granny Gwen lived in Pig Mouth Hollow. It was ten miles out in the country. She lived with her mother and father; my Mama Hallie, my Papa Hubert, and my mother, Betty Jane Underwood. They lived on Cockrell land and farmed as sharecroppers. My Granny Gwen was a single mom before there was politically correct term for the context.
As a child, I never understood why every Saturday, a white man would come to the back door while we were there to visit. He would knock. My grand mother would answer. The man would give her a big brown bag and then leave. It was never explained to me who he was or why he was there.
I would later learn that he had been the landowner that had privileged himself to more than the labor of his sharecropper tenants and laborers. He had privileged himself to my grandmother and would be a great grand father I would never know about until he died. There are many other funny stories to tell about this once I learned about it.
While reading the paper one afternoon after work, my mother broke down and cried. Later, my brother and I were out with dad and asked him what had happened. He told us that other had read that her father had died.
This is the back story of Granny Gwen who would have to live and work away from home as a domestic servant to support herself and my mother while my mom lived with her grand parents. As children, we all knew Granny Gwen worked very hard. Actually all our family did on both sides.
That is what made Granny Gwen’s Christmases so special. Out of her little, she created much joy and beauty. When she arrived at our home for Christmas, she got the rock star welcome and treatment.
When we would all get up early to open up presents on Christmas morning, we all felt loved and blessed. The tree will have so many gifts under it, they spilled out all over the living room floor. She would sit on the floor distributing them all one by one calling out our names.
We beamed with the light of love and thankfulness on our faces. We had actually met Santa and he was Granny Gwen. We all loved her so very much and there are no thoughts of Christmas without her being central to them all.
I named my first child after Granny Gwen. Her name is Gwynola Tiffany and now she has children of her own.
When she joined our ancestors, my mother asked me to do her eulogy. It was one of the great honors of my life to pay her tribute. We will always remember Granny Gwen’s Christmas. Her spirit lives. It lives in us all.