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  • Writer's pictureSheila Hayes Smiley

Thoughts of My Grandmama, bySheila Hayes Smiley

Sheila Hayes Smiley's cousin and son, Brian


I posted a picture on Facebook of two of my cousins and my oldest son, Brian Hayes. Someone liked it and commented “memories.” Later that day, I watched the movie ‘Are You there God, it’s Me, Margaret?’ As I watched the movie, memories came to my mind of my grandmother and the times I spent with her.

My grandma lived about half a city block from me in a residential hotel. Our address was 6616 S. Yale and hers was 6640 S. Yale. She lived in what was called a kitchenette apartment and it had a Murphy bed (a bed which folded into the wall). I would go to her house two or three times a week to visit or run errands.

6640 S. Yale, Chicago

Some days she would send me to the store with a note and upon my return, she would give me a quarter. Often, I would go to the store for other tenants and they would pay me as well. Sometimes, these neighbors would give me bottles and I would return them and get two cents or five cents depending on the size of them.

Grandmama would write letters to her Cousin Lovie B Lane who lived in Pulaski, Illinois and I would walk a block over and put the letters in the mailbox. There were days that I would accompany my grandmother to the bus stop and keep her company while she waited for the bus to go to her job as a domestic for the Kulp family way up on the North Side.

Every so often, my grandmother’s husband who she called “Baby” (his real name was Henry) would drive her to the doctor on 71st and Exchange. I would just go along for the ride and he and I would sit in the parking lot and wait for her to come back. I wonder what we talked about.

I remember going to visit Henry’s relatives who lived in Kankakee and thought that was such a long journey. There were no expressways back in those days which meant we rode through small towns and on two-lane roads. Sometimes, Henry would let my Grandmama drive a little, but not too much, because she just was not that good at it.

My grandmother would keep her money in a handkerchief inside her brassiere and her favorite saying was “If Lincoln can’t get it, Jackson will.” At the time, I had no idea what that meant. I fully understand it now of course.

The smell of juicy fruit gum always reminds me of her. When speaking of herself she would say JMS, which stood for Jessie Marie Spann. To me she was just Grandmama, and it is only now with the distance of years that I can recognize her as a great woman who withstood a lot.

I wonder what my grandchildren will remember about me?


Sheila Hayes Smiley

Sheila Hayes Smiley

My last occupation was as a financial counselor at Advocate Trinity Hospital on the Southside, and I helped patients applying for state medical or financial assistance thru other government programs.Retired in 2013 and my desire is to complete my wish to visit all 50 states. I have 11 states to go. I'm married, have 2 sons, 3 granddaughters, and one great grandson.

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