With dinner tonight I made sweet iced tea. Just the way I used to help my Mamaw make it every day when I was four years old. I boiled the water and the Lipton tea bags on the stove and then poured them into my curvy pitcher that looks just like hers did and added the sugar and ice cubes and stirred with my wooden spoon creating a tornado in the middle of the glass until all the sugar was dissolved. I could picture myself right in the middle of her kitchen, kneeling in her far right kitchen chair and looking over the tea pitcher in front of me on the round table. I remember the wooden spoon, curved on the end and stained all the way up from years of stirring tea and sugar together.
When I was little, before I started school, my parents both worked and my older brother and sister were in school, so every day I would go to Mamaw’s house. I would help her cook and clean up the kitchen, help her make hummingbird food and fill up the feeders, feed the cats in the barn and fill up the bird feeders out in the yard. We would sit outside in the hammock or the swing and talk for hours and play “I Spy” or The Car Game, where I would get cars and she would get trucks and we would count them as they passed along the highway and whoever got the most won (Cars were always more numerous, so I always won). We would sit at the dining room table and I would build things with play-doh or I would tear off huge sheets of white paper from the big roll she had and I would draw and paint with watercolors on them. She was a retired schoolteacher so we would often play school as well. She taught me how to read and would write out math problems for me to add and subtract. I remember her often taking a sheet of paper and dividing it into boxes and then writing a word in each one like “ball” or “wagon.” Then I would have to read the word and then draw a picture of the object in the box. I also liked to dress up in her make-up, scarves and jewelry and put on plays for her in the window seat in the back play room. I thought it was a stage built just for me.
Almost every single memory I have as a young child has her in it. I attribute a lot of myself to her. The way I think, the way I act, my morals and values, my interests and passions, in many ways a lot of my own character comes from her. I am very thankful for that. She truly was an amazing woman.
She passed away unexpectedly in her sleep one night in September of my Sophomore year of high school. She was 86 years old and in good health, so it wasn’t something I ever saw coming. I was 15 years old and knew I wouldn’t be able to have her in my life forever, but I never thought I would lose her so soon.
Since she has been gone for almost five years now, I’ve gotten used to her not being in my life. I don’t expect her to be sitting in her usual chair when I walk into my grandparents house or on her usual spot in the pew on Sunday mornings at church. I thought that the older I got, the easier it would be to deal with her not being there for everything. But in fact I think it just gets harder every day. Every day more things happen in my life that I’ll never be able to share with her. She never got to see me dressed-up for proms or meet any of my boyfriends. I never got to drive her to her Friday hair appointments in my car like she always wished we could do once I got my license. I didn’t get to share the good news with her once I got accepted into colleges or got the scholarship that would take me to one. I didn’t get to rush into her arms and show her my engagement ring and she won’t be there to watch me walk down the aisle and say “I do.” One day I’ll have kids she’ll never meet and all kinds of other things she won’t be there for. I feel even worse for my little sisters who got to have her in even less of their lives than I did.
I’ve always thought about her often, but lately it has been a constant thing. Every little thing reminds me of her. It is hardest now because I’m in my first home of my own, just getting used to cooking my own meals every day and planning my wedding. I want so bad to ask her how she made certain recipes that she used to cook or ask her what it was like to be a bride-to-be when she was young. To ask her for relationship advice or household tips or how she made it all work with the calmest demeanor and without raising her voice.
When I was home last, my dad and I went through every single nook and cranny in my grandparents house searching for my Mamaw’s wedding dress. We thought that it might be somewhere and I would have liked to see if there was a way that I could wear it on my wedding day. I had no idea what it looked like or where it might be, but we looked anyway. We didn’t find it, but in a box in the top of the closet we did find this:
I’m really happy that we at least found this photograph of what she looked like on her wedding day. I wish I could ask her all about that day. Where she got her dress or if she had it made, if it was borrowed from someone in her family or what happened to it in the end. What made her pick those shoes or flowers and what did she wear that was old, new, borrowed and blue. I wish I knew who the other people in the picture were and what the ceremony was like. My dad did say that it is her grandpa walking her down the aisle.
Finding this picture and thinking about my own wedding made me realize that not only was my grandma only here for a short amount of my life, I was only in hers for a short amount as well. The hardest thing about losing her when I was younger was that I never thought to ask her more about her life. About her childhood growing up in the twenties and thirties and making it through the Great Depression and being about my age or a little older during the war and what that all was like. She saw so much change during her lifetime and I wish I would have asked her more about it all. I wish I could know more about what she experienced and what made her into the person that I knew her to be.
It’s hard to know that I never will have the chance.
I do feel amazingly grateful though that she was the grandmother that God gave me out of all the possible ones out there in this world. I’m so happy for the things that she taught me in her lifetime and how those things have helped me to grow up well even once she was gone. I’m happy I still have memories of her and personality and character of my own that was shaped by hers. I know I have a long lifetime ahead of me without her, but luckily she started me out in the right direction.
That is a note I have from her from when I was little. I’m pretty sure it came from my lunchbox that she packed for me when I stayed at her house one week in 3rd grade when my parents were out of town.
I love you too Mamaw.