REFLECTION: A southern woman’s shot of whiskey

Shelbie Goulding

Shelbie Goulding

This past weekend marked the five year anniversary of an amazing woman’s death. Every year, on Feb. 28, my family does a shot of Fireball Whiskey in her honor – her favorite. As some may consider this alcoholic beverage to be painful or too fiery for their taste buds, I consider it to be refreshing, especially because of my memory of her.

Melba Jean Goulding was my fire-spitting grandmother, the woman who taught me all I know in life.

She was a woman who devoted her heart and soul to her family and friends. She donated to charities and organizations most of her life. She and my family even developed the Goulding Amphitheater at Winged Deer Park, where concerts were played to the public. She had it built in honor of her husband, my “gramps,” after he passed. Shortly after the amphitheater was built, my family established the Melba Goulding Playground next to it to honor her.

For me, I grew up thinking my grandmother was an aristocrat. She dressed with class and acted with grace and sophistication all her life, and she taught me to do the same.

Every time I went to visit her in Tennessee, I’d leave with a new wardrobe she approved of, and boy did she not approve of my distressed jeans with rips and tears up and down the legs.

“Do I need to get my sewing kit and put a patch over those holes?” is what she would say. And, of course, I wasn’t allowed to have a smart-mouthed answer in return.  No, I would have to go put on a clean pair of jeans in order to please her, and I would do so because in all honesty, she scared me sometimes.

She had a way of being kind with just the right amount of sass, and it wasn’t your typical elderly woman sass. This was Melba Jean Goulding sass – a real southern woman with magic powers.

For example, she was the fastest driver in Tennessee; I kid you not. I’d seen this woman drive 85 mph in a 65 or 70 speed limit zone with not a care in the world. Where were the cops you might ask? Right on her tail, but she could sweet talk her way out of a speeding ticket in a heartbeat. I don’t know how she did it, but I can’t seem to master her skill.

Although I might not have been able to master her ability to get out of a speeding ticket, I have grown to master the life-long lessons she gave me to follow before she died, or at least the two I consider most important.

She instructed me to never stop drawing. She was an amazing artist, and always proud of my work, especially when I got two scholastic art awards in high school. To be honest, I stopped after she died for a while, but I’m learning to grasp my drawing tools and sketch again.

She also taught me that you’ll “catch more bees with honey.” When I was younger, I thought it was just some southern phrase she always said, but it’s more like a rule to follow. It’s what she followed in order to become the woman she was, and the woman I strive to be. To me, catching more bees with honey means to always be humble and kind in order to get the best of life and to be the best version of yourself.

I miss you grandma, and I hope you’re proud of who I am today. Cheers! (That fireball burned, but it’s worth it every time.)

Shelbie Goulding is a columnist. Contact her at [email protected].