When you've known someone since you were teenagers and have shared deep secrets ranging from boys to money to worries and wishes, you think you know them well and that there is nothing they can do or think that will surprise you. That would not be the case with Karen, one of my two best friends.
I know a lot about her. I know how she looks without makeup, with her strawberry blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. Only those closest to her get to see her like that.
I remember the day more than 20 years ago when she met the guy she would eventually marry. I shared her devastation when her father died, much too young, of cancer. I know that Doris Day is her all-time favorite and that her heart is pure, filled with love and compassion for everyone she meets.
I know how stubborn she is, how outspoken she can be and how quickly she can both forgive and forget.
I know, for instance, how every June she takes up walking and vows to get healthy and fit. Now, most people do this in January. Not Karen. She waits until the humidity soaks the air and the hot sun withers the grass before she commits. Then, she chooses not to walk in the cool of the early morning or late evening but in the suffocating heat of mid-afternoon.
Then come September, when the humidity drifts away and is replaced by a sweet, light breeze, she will give up walking, storing that good intention until the miserable heat of June returns again.
But recently she has made an announcement that has astounded me beyond measure. I am stunned. She was talking about a friend's toddler who calls her, "Kay-Kay."
Suddenly she announced, "When I have grandkids, I want them to call me ‘Granny.'"
I was speechless. My mouth dropped and I stared incredulously. "Granny?"
I repeated, thinking she was either joking or I didn't hear correctly.
"Yep," she said, grinning broadly. "I want to be called ‘Granny.'"
"You have lost your mind."
Karen is always hip and trendy. She buys clothes that are cutting edge, is familiar with all pop culture and, really, she is quite glamorous.
After all, she is an entertainer and one of the biggest stars in Southern gospel music. Somehow that image doesn't mesh with the image I have of women called "Granny."
The women I have known as "Granny" often wore their gray hair in a tight bun, their shoulders were slumped from the weight of a lifetime of work and worry, and often they wore simple, cotton dresses — sometimes made from fancy flour sacks — accented by the constant presence of an apron.
Karen guffawed in a way particular to her. It starts with a slight giggle and builds until it's a deep, guttural laugh that shakes her entire body. I wasn't laughing.
I could see no humor in one of my contemporaries being called, "Granny." I shuttered at the mere thought of such.
"Seriously," she said when she caught her breath. "I love it. I'm gonna love bein' called ‘Granny'."
We discussed it for few moments but she stood steadfast. She has her mind made up and I know her well enough to know that nothing changes that mind once it is set.
Finally, I said, "I'm gonna pray that Jesus delivers you from this."
I know that Karen and I both have spent a lifetime on diets, worrying constantly about a few pounds here and there but I'll tell you this — I'd rather she be called "Big Mama" than "Granny."
Of course, no argument of mine will change her mind. I know this too well. After all, how do you reason with a woman who takes up walking in the most miserable part of the year and gives it up as soon as it's cool?
Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of several books, including "What Southern Women Know About Faith." Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/ronda.