Friday, November 21, 2008
Meet Our Inspiration - The Original Geechee Girl
We greet you in the traditions of our ancestors the Geechee/Gullah people and also in memory of our Mom, Shirley Ann Grant Brantley or “Shirl.” Born in South Carolina, April 9, 1941. She was and is our constant inspiration a true Geechee. So what's a Geechee? We are direct descendants of the Gullah/Geechee people in Beaufort, South Carolina. The slaves brought to that region were West Africans and known for their agricultural expertise in the growing of rice and basket weaving! What makes the West African connection to the Gullah/Geechee people so special, is during the season when the mosquitoes would be so dangerous to the plantation owners, they would abandon their homes leaving the slaves alone to care for the fields of rice. Without supervision these slaves were able to maintain many of their traditions and ways of life and most importantly their dignity and self respect. Our mom was Geechee and proud of it and just like her descendants, she spoke with a distinct dialect and carried herself in a certain way. She was very spiritual, with a quiet pride. She was a rice eater with every meal no matter how many starches were on the table, clean to fault, intelligent and full of life lessons. Many of the things we celebrate and look to share with you were demonstrated in our daily lives by our mom. It was nothing for her to pick up a stray be it human or animal bring them home, clean them up, feed them, encourage them and send them on their way or keep them. She constantly brought diversity into our lives, ultimately teaching us how to make strangers family and a house a home. Long before the media made shows out of home gardening, cooking, arts & crafts, homeopathic treatments and makeovers our mom was already doing it. She was an original Martha Stewart. In an urban city she and my dad already grew vegetables in an asphalt garden. She was an extraordinary cook just ask anybody from South Carolina to New Jersey. She was known for her signature pineapple upside cake, scrubbings and chicken soup. As a trained midwife she could birth babies, make house shoes and bed pans out of paper and seemingly prepare a tasty meal from nothing and feed a family. One of her favorite things to do was make you over from head to toe, starting with your emotions and your insides, then she would bring you into her closet and dress you in additional hair if necessary down to her “pointed-toe, roach-killer” shoes, if you were a size 8 ½ of course. She would cruise her favorite neighborhoods and thrift shops where they knew her by name. She could take an old chair, bed, or sofa, haul it home in her van and make into something beautiful. Long before designers suggested you use sheets for curtains, yep Shirley did that in our room. She knew the art of pampering the mind, body and spirit, with things that fostered creativity. Therefore, her bath time was sacred and her skin was flawless. She had a contralto voice to die for that could soothe any savage beast. In the spring of 2000 our mom, the Rev. Shirley Brantley, wife and friend went home to be with her heavenly father after a fierce fight with colon cancer. We miss her dearly, but she packed us full of all her goodness before she left. Her daily demonstration of life and can do spirit leave us with timeless memories and treasures we want to share with you. With love from the Brantley girls, those singing sisters, the 2Geechee Girls. “Doing what we do and sharing it with you” Who inspires you? Give them a shout out in response to today’s entry.
V & Coy