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You Never Know

by MISSY BEATTIE

For years, my sister Laura and her partner Erma worked at a residential treatment facility with children whose behavior made it impossible for them to be educated in a traditional setting. After nine months to a year of behavior modification (and mandatory parent participation), the children were mainstreamed to their conventional schools.

Cursing was minor compared to other offenses endured by the staff at Central Kentucky Re-Ed. Replacing the “F” word with “Grandma Fletcher” was sanctified.

Example: “Get the Grandma Fletcher out of my Grandma Fletchering face, you Grandma Fletchering Grandma Fletcher.”

My sister and Erma are retired now. Took the “early”.  Laura has no children except for the cats, Maggie and Oscar.

While maintaining a strict, conduct-governing system (the Grandma Fletcher rule) for my grown children and for me during visits and vacations, Laura and Erma allow Maggie and Oscar to live outside the law. Undisciplined rascals these felines are with a playground that includes kitchen countertops and the dining table.

Last year, The Sisterhood (Oscar hadn’t joined the jumble yet) spent three weeks in Georgia. I opened a bottle of olive oil to make a salad one evening and then noticed that Maggie was sitting in the salad bowl.

“Oh, isn’t that precious?”

“Oh, isn’t that precious?” Laura says this often to Erma. And they make eye contact in radiant appreciation, exactly the way my husband Charles and I did, transmitting recognition to each other that our children had said or done something clearly indicative of Grandma Fletchering genius.

Here’s just one illustration of son H’s brilliance: “Mom, what’s the word you think of when you have to substitute Grandma Fletcher, the word you think when you hear Grandma Fletcher?”

“You’re so Grandma Fletcherin’ right,” I told this particular prodigy and then, I gasped with longing for his father, for that shared acknowledgment of the gift we presented one another. And not seeing those blue eyes, I looked to H’s brother, my other Grandma Fletchering phenomenon. Each of these young men once graced the playground of my womb and later dined at my breasts as I held their soft baby bodies and buried my face in their innocence. These two were loved and nurtured, so indulged, that either could have or could not have been enrolled in a residential treatment program for “problem” children somewhere during elementary, middle, or high school.

You never Grandma Fletchering know.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore. Email: missybeat@gmail.com

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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