General Sherman and My Nana
My Uncle Truman was in the army during World War II. Clearly he had not thought this plan all the way through. He assumed that no boats would be involved in his tour of duty. He was almost right, but finally his orders came through and he was on his way to the Pacific. You guessed it - by ship. The first day out it seems that Uncle Truman offered to buy the ship if they would just return to dry land. By the third day he was desperately looking for any small island he could swim to. At that point he was willing to surrender to anyone including a tribe of cannibals if that is where fate sent him.
Uncle Trumanís pride and joy was a vintage four door Dodge sedan built like a Sherman tank, hence the name General Sherman. Inside the leather was as soft as butter and there was a marble knob on the steering wheel. No leaf had ever rested on the hood longer than thirty seconds. Yes it was his pride and joy.
Now here comes the second time my uncle did not think a plan all the way through. He gave the keys to his mother, my Nana and asked her to start the General a few times a week.
After the war my Uncle Truman, who I think had a passing thought of just living in Japan on dry land, did get back on the ship and returned home. He, like so many coming home from the war, took opportunities that were offered and began a different life. His pride and joy did not fit into his plans. Thus Nana and the General embarked on a courtship that lasted many years.
My Nana was very good at many things. She baked a funeral coconut cake that I am sure the dearly departed would have loved to have had a piece of. But the one thing Nana never quite got the hang of was driving. She had two speeds, 25 going forward, 120 in reverse. So Nana and the General would majestically creep through our small town, she with a death grip on the steering wheel and the Generalís hood ornament nose stuck up in the air.
Now my sister barely acknowledged me as a family member much less include me in her activities. This was fine with Herman my lion with the slightly broken tail and my other tea party friends. We referred to her as Saint Anne. Itís not that she didnít do things she shouldnít, she just never got caught. I on the other hand could just think something and find myself and Herman in the quite corner. However, there was a time we did work together and tied a Japanese flag, that Uncle Truman had sent us, on the Generalís radio antenna. It was discovered as the General and Nana glided through town. Saint Anne and I both landed in the quiet corner. When Daddy came home he found me grinning from ear to ear and pointing to my partner in crime. Life was so sweet that afternoon.
Our city council decided we needed a traffic light and the perfect street corner was next to our only funeral home. Nana and the ladies of her age explained to our chief of police that if it was convenient they would stop for the red light, but if not they would blow their horn as they went through. There wasnít much the chief could do, since his mother was the spokesperson for the group. The only time this was a problem was during tourist season. The out-of-towners didnít know the rule so you would hear cars coming to screeching stops and very lady like toot toots floating through the air.
Every Wednesday the General and Nana took me to my piano lesson. During that hour it looked like aliens beamed up all creatures great and small to their spaceship. Nothing was seen on sidewalks, in trees, or on porches. To our knowledge Nana had never intentionally hit anyone, but she was death on fences, flowerbeds, and believe it or not even tombstones got in her way.
The General, Nana, and I took many trips to Charleston and went all the way to Columbia, always at the speed of 25. I am so glad that my last trip with the General and Nana was to Charleston for my wedding dress. That day was the beginning of my saying goodbye to the nest where people loved me all the time and were exasperated by me about seventy-five percent of the time. My dear ones sent me out for a wonderful adventure with the only person I could share it with.
Brenda Loyd Allred grew up in Summerville when it was a very small town. She now lives at Franke at Seaside with her husband Les.