There’s That Bettie Again!
A recent nippy and damp April morning began with my usual trudge to the kitchen to make coffee. As I stood impatiently waiting for the Folgers to brew, I looked down and contemplated the warmth of my tan suede moccasin house slippers. They had been a gift from my dear friend and “Co-Granny” Bettie Bradford.
I made a small spill on the counter top and reached in the drawer for a dish-rag. And as I picked it up, I thought ‘there’s Bettie again this morning’ for she had gifted me over the years with fancy dish towels around which she had sewn crocheted lace. Now as a rule there’s nothing more homely than a dish-rag, but Bettie gussied them up into works of art which she enjoyed making and sharing with friends and family.
I scrambled Roger some eggs and made some toast, buttered it, and wanting something tangy to put on it, went to the pantry for some pepper jelly. The jar was labeled “BB-15.” I opened it and sampled. Zing went the strings of my tongue. Bettie was infamous for making hot stuff and taking a look around my pantry, I then viewed both red and green varieties of her Jalapeno jellies (made for Christmas dipping with cream cheese and Ritz.) In there also are BB Bread and Butter pickles and Kosher Dills, BB Salsa, BB canned tomatoes, BB pickled pepper sauce in recycled Jack Daniels bottles...the list goes on. I tuned up and had a little weepy spell right then and there when realizing how many hours of her work inhabited my pantry.
Then there is my freezer which Bettie helped fill every year with packs of white crowders and pink-eye purple hull peas she had raised, ready-to-fry breaded okra, and Ziploc bags of paper-shell pecans.
It was time to get dressed for work. I opened the bathroom drawer only to pull out another of Bettie’s specialties, a lace-crochet decorated wash-cloth. I used it to cleanse the tears from my eyes that did not stop coming.
I opened my closet to get out something to wear to the clinic. During Covid, scrub shirts and jeans have been my uniform. My closet is full of multi-color scrubs that Bettie bought me whenever Shoup’s Medical Supply in Ashland would have a sale, and jeans that she had hemmed-up for me or patched when ripped.
I brushed my hair and then squirted some perfume on, and saw the brown bottle of Estee Lauder Youth Dew that had been Bettie’s (as well as my own mother’s) signature scent. There’s Bettie again I thought.
That was just about enough grieving for one morning, but this experience gave me a realization of how much joy Bettie had added to my life. This spring I think of her when I am at the Tippah Co-Op and still look for those Celebrity and Arkansas Traveler tomato plants that were her absolute favorite varieties to grow.
She always called me “Missy” and my name for her was “Betty Boop.” When I see a funny t-shirt I still want to buy it for her..the same when I run across a Find-A-Word puzzle book.
She was a fantastic cook and I remember once telling her that we could make a mint marketing her super special baked beans... “Bettie Beans” would have been the brand name!
Bettie Childers Bradford was a plain and simple person, an extremely generous person, and a loyal and dependable friend. The two of us had several things in common...a love of down home country life, of watching things grow, of both being tomboys and daddy’s girls, and of course the three grandchildren we shared together, Molly, Jeb and Quaid.
When all the material gifts she shared are consumed, or worn out and forgotten, her best legacy to me will remain, her sweet daughter and my daughter-in-law, Kimmie Bradford Williams.
Our Bettie died too soon this past February at her home in Ashland after a hard six month struggle with metastatic lung cancer. She was only 69. Bettie’s favorite meal was a bottomless mug of sweet tea and a bag of chips, with a Berkeley cigarette for dessert. A half century of smoking is what took her from us. She tried valiantly but was never able to quit. Bettie had been miserable for a long time when she passed. Her death, as hard as it is for us to take was a relief for her and set her soul free.