I am already leaning toward Mother’s Day tomorrow, thinking of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers and the many ways I have been blessed through them. And there are too many, really, to ever truly count.
Within these memories, themes and images repeat themselves sometimes, becoming iconic symbols for all that was shared. Ceramic figurines of birds, the smell of hot pound cake or blackberry cobbler, an apron, a particular figure of speech, a favorite hymn from the piano – the memories and the love unfold.
My father’s mother and her mother are the source of my basic personality, of any sweetness I may still have and a quickness in giving trust and forgiveness. Pecans will forever in my mind be linked with Grandma, my great grandmother, who sent us out with paper sacks to gather them. Blackberries, red dirt, changing bed sheets while paying special attention to the pillowcases, and any type of card game bring my MawMaw so close I can still hear her voice.
My need to write, to be heard, comes undoubtedly from my mother’s grandmother, though there are gifted communicators on both sides of my family tree. The mention of contacting a senator or the editor of a national publication immediately has me thinking, “That’s exactly what Great Gran would’ve done,” and I am once again looking through the stacks of letters she pulled from her desk drawer.
My Grandmama, my mother’s mother, is still with us, but so affected by age that we are already grieving in small ways her loss of vitality and strength of mind. And though all of my grandparents and my parents loved me – I grew up with that blessed security – she had a special gift of making each of her grandchildren feel like the most important little person on the earth. Knowing, from a time before memory, that I was important and worth listening to, that someone was absolutely thrilled to spend time with me – that is a profound gift. And her house was filled with pretty things, overflowing with little things that served no other purpose than to be beautiful.
After marrying, I gained new grandmothers to love. Two of them, I had the privelege of getting to know well. Mama Dot was nearly as much an introvert as I am, so even though it took a little time and overcoming some nervousness to open up to each other, there was an instant understanding between us. Granny Smith taught me to cook some of my husband’s favorite dishes, talking me through them, making certain that I did each step properly. I make her caramel cake for holiday family gatherings, for church dinners and other occasions – never without hearing her over my shoulder, “That’s been boiling long enough now.”
Now that I have grandchildren of my own, I can’t help but wonder what will remind them years from now of time with me, what will bring my voice to their ear, what will cause them to smile and remember.
on the day of the funeral
a caramel cake for you.
made just the way Granny taught me.
burn the sugar
until you’re sure it’s ruined,
stir the smoking, sputtering liquid
into sweet buttery cream, then
spoon over split layers of
as friends come
to sit with you
in your raw, fresh grief
and to remember,
share with them a cup
of strong hot coffee
and a taste of this,
rich and dark