The other day, the unthinkable happened.
I ran into someone I hadn't seen in a while and just like Ouiser Bodreaux did with Drum Eatenton, I smiled at them before I caught myself.
"Mama," Cole whispered as we hurried past them, "I thought you didn't like them."
"I don't," I said, quieting him before he could say anything else.
Nursing a grudge is something the women in my family are able to do with a fierceness.
Granny's version was swift and without yielding.
Mama's grudge could be just as immediate but she had her moments of compassion and second chances, to which my grandmother would say: "You wasting time and energy, Jean. Go on and get to hatin'."
Granny often had fairly valid reasons for her grudges, or spites, as she would often call them. She had one sister that she swore had been out to get her since birth and she may have been right. The two seemed to have lived to annoy each other.
"I reckon I love her because she's my sister, but it don't mean I like her," Granny said once, recounting how her sister, Bonnie, had always wormed her way out of chores and leaving Granny to do double duty.
Granny carried that grudge long after her sister died and is probably still nursing it in the great beyond.
Mama once got her feelings hurt when we went to see someone who wasn't home, after they said they would be.
As much as I tried to tell her maybe something had come up or they had just ran out, Mama wouldn't hear it.
Instead of looking at the years she had known the person, she took one isolated incident and turned it into a great big grudge. She grew considerably cool towards the person, not speaking to them for years.
"They knew we were coming," she would say as her defense.
"Mama, mistakes happen. Maybe they got the day wrong, or the time. You didn't say, ‘We'd be there at 3:30,' you just said, ‘Hey, we may stop by.'"
She would not listen to a word I had to say.
Her grudge was set and it was staying that way.
Grudges, according to Mama and Granny, were a form of self-preservation, shielding us from those who had wronged us.
A grudge, when properly held, could be passed down through generations with Shakespearian depth to the point the original cause of the grudge had been long forgotten.
Or at the very least, blown way out of proportion.
So there I had stood, listening to this person yapping away like they had not made my life a living purgatory.
Mama still loathes this person to this day.
"If your grandmother had known how they treated you, she would still be spiting them from her grave. Maybe even haunt them," Mama said when I told her I had run into this person.
Despite Mama's disdain for this person, she is also the one telling me to forgive or try to see the other person's perspective. A bit rich considering she is still holding out a spite because she was asked to have Granny make something for a covered dish supper once.
"Not me, mind you; they didn't want me to make anything. They wanted Granny to and that's the only reason I was invited - to get Granny's cooking!"
Even though I had planned all kinds of things to say to this person, not the first one rolled past my lips.
I had smiled and nodded, instead of telling them everything I had thought, and everything I had said about them over the years.
And there had been plenty, believe me.
"Mama, why were you nice to them?" Cole asked me later.
I thought of how maybe this person's life wasn't what they had wanted it to be and they had dealt with their own battles over the years.
I had heard a few things from mutual acquaintances over the years and yes, there had been those passing thoughts that maybe karma was kicking their tail.
Even though I thought it, that doesn't mean it made me feel good.
Instead of cursing them as Granny would have, or bristling before telling them I had nothing to say to them as Mama would, I had exchanged pleasantries and tried to wish them well while I did, even if it pained me to do so.
Let me emphasize the "tried" part because I was a little bit upset at myself that I didn't tell them what I truly thought.
"Sometimes, you just have to kill someone with kindness," I answered.
I wasn't really sure if I believed that or not.
But, it was begrudgingly, the grown up thing to do.