Sharon Randall: A fight over green beans

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 25, 2011

By Sharon Randall
Scripps Howard News Service
I never meant to instigate a fight between my sister and her daughter. Why would I want to do that? Lord knows, when it comes to fighting, they donít need any help from me.
Did you notice that I said ěinstigateî? That was the word my mother liked to use to justify her part in any fight with her mother or eight sisters or any other woman in her family, including my sister and me.
ěI never opened my mouth,î she would say, stretching her lips across her teeth tighter than a lizardís grin. ěShe instigated the whole thing.î
Women in my family have a thing for instigating. Iíll be the first to admit it. Iíve done my share. But in this case, I did not open my mouth. Speaking figuratively, of course.
All I did was call my sister in South Carolina and invite her to California for Thanksgiving.
How was I to know sheíd say ěyes!î and hop on a plane?
Could I ever have imagined she would abandon her children and grandchildren and our blind brother ó that sheíd leave them alone to fend for themselves and deep-fry a turkey without her?
I knew that she was hungry to see my children, just as I get hungry to see hers. And she was dying to meet my grandbabies, her great-nephews, who are 15 months and 2 months old.
Wait. Now that I think about it, maybe it was the babies who instigated the whole thing.
Women in my family have a thing for babies. When a new leaf buds on the family tree, we just have to get our hands on it.
But was it my fault for sending photos and bragging about how exceptional they are? Isnít that what grandparents do? She has done that to me for 15 years, ever since her first grandbaby was born. Was I wrong to take my rightful turn?
For the record, the fight between my sister and her daughter was not really about her leaving at Thanksgiving. It was about something far more important: A jar of green beans.
Women in my family have a thing for green beans. Theyíre in our genes, and especially in our arteries, thanks to years of seasoning with fatback.
Before my sister left town, her daughter stopped by to wish her a safe trip and said not to worry, her family would still celebrate the holiday without her.
ěCan I have a jar of your green beans for Thanksgiving dinner?î
She meant the green beans my sister cans and treasures like a set of solid-gold dentures.
Far be it from me to take sides. Whether one was too slow to reply or the other was too fast out the door, either way, the parting was less than cordial.
Luckily, my niece forgot a cellphone. The next day, she went back to get it and found it where her mother had left it for her, along with a jar of green beans.
I learned that from an email my niece sent while I was at the airport waiting for my sister.
ěTake care of my mama!î she wrote, ěand yíall have a wonderful time!î
Once, years ago, my mother and her sister, both in their 60s, old enough to know better, got in a big fight over a Popsicle.
Aunt Hazel called to talk, as they did every day, and my mother said, ěHazel, Iím eating a Popsicle. Call me back later.î
So Aunt Hazel hung up on her and they didnít speak for weeks.
Iím not sure if they ever apologized. I doubt it. But in time they got over it. They were sisters. Itís what sisters do.
Women in my family have a thing for getting over things like Popsicles and green beans and misguided instigations.
And someday, Iíll probably get over the fact that my sister did not bring me any of her green beans for Thanksgiving.
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