When we took Della, the vintage camper, back to her parking spot on Sunday, a bunch of weeds caught my eye. Seeing them took my breath away. No, not because of allergies — although, they're really giving me a run for my money at the moment — but because they reminded me of my Mammaw's house. Those weeds were the scent of my childhood.
I spent so much of my early years at my Mammaw's house, wreaking havoc with a gaggle of cousins. Many of my happiest childhood memories are running free in her yard, picking persimmons, and doing things that would cause modern parents huge amounts of anxiety (but were perfectly acceptable for children in the 80s).
After my sister taught me how to get sent home from school — go to the nurse twice in one day for any reason — I spent most of the first grade recovering from my "tummy troubles" and "headaches" at my grandmother's house. The school secretary would call her up, and she'd pull into the school parking lot in her ancient bronze-gold car and I was free. In between watching her shows and eating canned chicken and dumplings together, she taught me how to sew and quilt.
My grandmother passed away more than a decade ago, and I can't tell you how much I miss her. Sometimes it hurts to think about it, and I wish she were around to meet my husband and be entertained by my crazy dogs and sew tiny quilts for the babies I hope to have someday. While she's no longer here, I'm still constantly learning from her.
My grandmother was still sharp as a tack when she passed away at 90, likely due in no small part to her daily word search habit. She kept her mind engaged and didn't let it turn to mush. Whether this was a conscious effort or just part of who she happened to be, I'll never know. I try to follow in her footsteps, and I think of her as I'm scanning the jumble of letters for the right word or when I try something new that scares me.
My grandmother was the most generous person I've ever known. She grew up poor in an area that was poor long before the depression hit. She could have, and logic would dictate, should have been tight with her money. Instead, she spent all year crafting handmade Christmas gifts for her family and random strangers that tagged along, shared food and whatever she had with anyone who needed, and slipped me a $20 bill for gas money every time I came home from college. I am nowhere near as generous, and I would like to cultivate this same spirit of generosity in her memory.
My grandmother recognized the importance of family and always put them first, and they in turn loved and adored her. While she grew that family, she had 11 children after all — we're quite fertile people, sometimes you build your family in other ways whether that be friends, fellow volunteers, marriage, adoption, or procreation. I need to be better about checking in with my people, building them up, and loving and supporting them along the way. Sometimes I let distance be my excuse, but one of my goals is to be a better friend and family member.