I recall waking up in my princess bedroom at my Grandparents home the morning after the exquisite nite out with the Governor of Texas, his wife, and grandson. I was fairly sure I had died and gone to heaven having experienced most of what I had ever dreamed necessary. But no I wasn't dead. I was alive and getting my face licked by Duke who needed to be taken outside. I grabbed my shorts and away we went. I was surprised to see Grandad sitting on the front porch watching me. He was usually up, dressed in his white shirt, nice slacks, western hat, and out the door to work.
Grandad owned Morrison Painting and Decorating Company in Austin. He had many employees whom he treated like family, or so he told us anyway. I strongly doubt that was true. The company made bids on jobs as far away as Brownsville, Texas which sits on the Mexican border. They bid a lot of school jobs. All of the schools in Texas were segregated making for even more schools and job availability. Actually all I recall regarding segregation is that I accepted it as normal for this part of the country. It was different in Northern Wisconsin for sure.
I found this old photo of Grandad's business when it first started way back when. Grandad is the one in the hat with the white bibs. As the years passed he would become the bossman overseer never to be one of the laborers again. The business served he and his family well over the years until his death. I heard tell from Nana that he wasn't so good with money. She took care of the money although gave him whatever he needed. Turned out one day she took him out to the Utility Room, the room out the back door of the kitchen, through a breezeway. She opened one of the freezers and took out a fairly large beige bag of money she had been saving. Fact is it was enough cash money to pay off the mortgage on their home. That was Nana! From that day on my Grandfather worshipped the ground she walked on even more than he had before.
I finished walking Duke around the yard when Grandad got up off his bamboo porch sofa, walked over tot he screen door and summoned me inside. I got somewhat nervous that something might be wrong. Then he smiled and asked me to have a seat in the matching bamboo chair across from him.
Oh boy, I could tell this was going to be a lecture of some sort. And not to prove me wrong he began.
"Julianna, I have lived a long life. In life there are times when you come to a crossroad and making the right decision can affect your entire lifetime. Personally I made a few errors at those same crossroads you are at presently. Those errors muck up the fresh waters of life. Cleaning the muck out can be a struggle leaving people hurt in its path of destruction. Mud is mud honey. With Billy you would be a woman of luxury. Never having to worry about anything monetary ever again. And just imagine the people you could meet. You know what the old saying is! You are who you are with."
"I know, Grandad, but...."
"No buts." He said. "When opportunity knocks, answer the door. For if you don't it may not come back and knock again."
I sat in the chair with my head down. Grandad could see I was struggling with this decision. I had met a sweet cowboy who turned out to be the next thing to a Prince. No frogs in sight let me tell you.
He was a millionaire. All I had was my Pink Cadillac, my savings, and Duke. Well that is all I thought I had.
Grandad left for work after giving me a big hug. I didn't remind him regarding Nana's story. I think possibly his male ego didn't allow it to surface or he had merely forgotten it over the years. My Nana was engaged to Gene Autry when she met my Grandaddy who was by the way a "bad boy!" Let me rephrase that. Granddaddy was a bad boy with manners and the best sense of humor Nana had ever come by. As well as he may have had other things I was not aware of and rather to not think on. She ditched the rich and famous Cowboy movie star Gene Autry and married my Grandad who didn't have two dollars to his name. I knew he just wanted me to have the best. He always thought of himself as the best which is why the old Gene Autry story didn't come up from either of us. I should have guessed that one.
I just wasn't sure the hippie in me could play the princess game. All around me I was learning how the South was run. Southern men weren't always honest. Hell look at J B J daddy rich britches. They smiled and put on a good front when all the while they were calculating their next moves with their own son. Me, I was an honest what you see is what you get flower child. I would have to succumb to the male in my southern household. The men ruled the women. Men could do anything and get away with it but women were not allowed such luxury. Then there were the unspoken rules of the rich.
Never wear white shoes before Easter or after Labor Day except is if it is a bride.
Thank you notes are a necessary component of being gracious and appreciative.
Never chew gum or smoke on the street.
Never show anger in public. Smile and act like a lady.
Act helpless and confused when it's to your advantage; never let them know how clever and capable you really are...
Charm, Charm, Charm.
Be elegant and graceful.
Add to all that the unspoken rules of the being in the political arena. Television. Traveling the political circuit. I wasn't sure I could play the game. I needed a shot of Granddaddy's Canadian Club. And that is exactly what I did. One jigger and I was out.
I woke up to Billy standing over the top of me with the weirdest look on his face.
I said, "What's the matter?"
"You smell of whiskey darlin!" he said.
"Yes I do Mr. William Connally! I had me a shot of Canadian Club. No rocks, no mixer. Straight up and down the hatch!"
"Might I ask what the occasion is?" he said, a bit sternly.
"Maybe later we can discuss the matter. Right now I would like to be alone if you don't mind."
"I do mind," he said. "I have rented us a moped, packed a picnic basket, and intend on taking you up into the hills around Lake Travis and bed you down ma'am."
"Oh really...." I said in total shock. "Bed me down as in cattle? Or bed me down as in making love??"
Then we both broke out in serious laughter. We were back on track. I gathered myself, left Duke in the care of Nana and rode off on the moped with the heat of the sun breaking my coldness of heart, the wind gently blowing away any thoughts other than beautiful ones, and the blue sky full of the most beautiful puffy clouds as I headed toward the mountains for a picnic and who knows what else with Billy Connally. Was I home?