My Grandmother the Flirt

My grandmother was a Southern woman who dropped out of school to raise her four brothers and sisters when her parents died. I’m vague on the details, but life was hard. She got the kids off the farm near McClellanville, SC, and moved to Charleston.

She worked the cosmetics counter at the old Kerrison’s department store. She then became a star at Elizabeth Arden, when Arden was just starting out (”Miss Arden was a lovely woman”). My grandmother traveled to New York. She dated many men (”Men are like streetcars—another one will be around in 5 minutes”). She turned down a South American millionaire to marry my scrappy (and frankly sexy), grandfather.

From what understand, it was a pickup on Lee Street. He said hello to her on the sidewalk a few times. She said hello back. He asked her out, and that was that. Goodbye, South American millionaire.

She raised me when my parents were in Japan, working on the marriage, which ended in divorce. She kept a bottle of sherry by the water heater. She kept a bottle of Coke back there, too—because—well, that wasn’t any of your business, that’s why.

She was far from rich, but to the end of her life, she used only Elizabeth Arden products and she was perhaps the best-dressed person in Ehrhardt, SC where my grandfather worked after he had to sell his company, the old Cream Crest Dairy (now, Charleston’s West End Dairy).

Tuesdays were for herself. She often took a bus from Ehrhardt to see her friends at Kerrison’s or to catch a movie at the Riviera. She left her bags at a store called Hunley’s, where Mr. Hunley did a bit of flirting with her. I saw it, and as a ten-year-old, I learned something. But none of this was my business. She was quite clear about that.

She was famous for her sauerkraut, which I never tried because I hated the idea of sauerkraut. As a substitute, she gave me beets in a jar and she led me to believe they were made from scratch. They weren’t. That photo is of her recipe on how to commit fraud.

She laughed when I found out, a few decades later. Then told me about that man who was flirting with her—”He has a lot of Brand X.”

Her name was Leona Brunson Henderson. She was quite a bit more than “my grandmother.”

About Meakin Armstrong

Fiction writer, fiction editor, journalist, and copywriter.
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