Thursday, March 24, 2016

I Am Lucky

I am the oldest grandchild of 35 grandchildren. All of us called Beth Meacham, Grandma. That is a lot of people and a lot of moments and memories with common person. She just left us and today most of her 9 children (and spouses), most of her 35 grandchildren (and spouses), and a lot of her 36 great-grandchildren will be gathering today to say one final good-bye at a grave site memorial.

I am not. I am here in VA, in my kitchen, listening the the common everyday noises of having a 3 year old and company in town for Easter. It is pretty quite actually. It's peaceful. The relationship you have with a grandparent is different than with a parent. It's less disipline and more fun. Less work, more candy. I think that magical piece of the relationship is was makes all my memories of Grandma so full of rainbows and unicorns. My Book of Rememberance is at my mom's house so I can't stroll through books and remember photos of my grandma, which is all I really want to do today. So instead, while my huge extended family is gathered and Sterling is napping, I want to have my own private memorial of Grandma. She was the only Grandma I really had a daily relationship with for my entire life. My Grandma, for much of my young life, helped raised me. My parents worked full time and she was close and willing so I was at her house a lot. For every snippet of a memory there is a story attached. Maybe one day I will come back and add more context. For now, as a means to put me in my happy place, I am going to share a few stories but mostly spew a stream of consciousness surrounding my Grandma.

  • It's not my earliest memory, but close. When I was 5 or 6 my grandparents driving across the country to pick up my Uncle Kent from Duke University. Whether willingly or begrudingly, they took me along! For a multi-state, multi-day drive they brought me along! I remember sitting next to Grandma for hours on end while she would tell me stories. She had an amazing tale of about the sign that said "Watch for Falling Rocks." She said Falling Rocks was an Indian (she wouldn't bother with Native American, too PC) Princess who was captured and needed to find her way home so everyone was to watch for her and help her home if she was ever found. She sang the Pecos Bill song more times than I can remember. We played the card game WAR no less than a million times. I remember the pleather case that held two decks of cards that sat in the glove compartment at all times. I remember eating at Shoney's and only staying in "Holidomes" (Holiday Inns with a pool). 
  • She would take me to get my shots as a child and promised if I didn't cry she would buy me a My Little Pony. And she did. I couldn't get enough shots...
  • Sitting with her at church as a little child, laying on her comfy snuggly lap (she would be so mad if she knew I were publicly talking about her "comfy lap" but alas...) with her in her faux pearls, clip on earrings, and her dress suits while we watched Gpa sit up front and do the count.
  • Holidays. Christmas. Christmas Eve at the Oak Lane house with a feast and Santa Claus coming visit the children at Grandma's House before he would go out on his magical delivery route. Finishing up Christmas morning and heading over to the Oak Lane house to find the stockings for us that she had hidden somewhere in the house. Making cookies with the cookie press and delivering them to the entire world. Easter. Oh my gosh the Easter eggs hunts she would orchestrate. I remember the ones at Oak Lane best because I was young and it was magical. The tables she would set up of elaborate prizes you could pick if you found an egg with a number in it. None of this Dollar Tree crap either. I'm talking fancy plush bunnies, toys, barbies, huge candy bars, prizes upon prizes. It was awesome!! Halloween. The ELABORATE costumes she would make for me. Oh my gosh. I saw in the mall the other day Rainbo-Brite is coming back. Grandma made me the most insanely awesome Rainbo-Brite costume the detail and layers. Someday I will come back and add photos to the blog. One year she made me witch costume and a matching one for my Cabbage Patch Doll (I was such a child of the 80's). Then we would go trick or treating in her neighborhood and get the homemade donuts from the neighbors.
  • Food. Not to discuss the healthiness of the notion, but for my Grandma, Food=Love. So many of my memories of food trace back to my grandmother. Food she would make that will always be quintessential Grandma: Hershey's Chocolate Triple Layer Cake, clam chowder, potato soup, sweet and sour chicken, chocolate mousse, christmas cookies, chex party mix, peanut brittle, homemade carmels, raspberry and apricot jam, peach cobbler, pancakes and a huge breakfast spread, sloppy joes, potato salad, fruit pizza, chicken salad, and tapioca pudding. It isn't just memories of her making food for me either. Eating cripsas from Taco Time. It is memories of spending hours in the kitchen preparing food with her. Whether for a family gathering of 50 plus relatives, working a catering event with her for her catering company and spending hours cutting fruit and peeling potatoes. Begging her for recipes and her always saying, "Oh, I don't know. A little of this and a little of that..." Food. I sense traditional comfort foods morphing for me over the next little while.
  • Books. Being a little child and her taking me to the public library and letting me browse for house. Reading book after book after book (a lot of romance novels made the list) and how many times did we later on return or check out a book for her? Wendy gets the prize for going most often, but I had my fair share of runs to the library for her. Never buying a book though. That was a waste of money to her. It's why instead of flowers I decided to make a donation in her name to the public library. 
  • Playing. Not always playing with her, per se, but near her. We did play lots of cards, work puzzles, play RACKO and occassionally LIFE if you could catch her with in the most willing of moods. She always had the best toys on hand and playing at her house was every child's dream. Swimming in her pool, jumping on the trampoline, playing in the playhouse. Walking to the children's clothing store she owned because it was down the hill from my elementary school. Trying on the clothes when new invetory came in, hiding in the racks, helping use the tagging gun to put all the hand written price tages on. Even long after her children were gone, keeping her house a Mecca for children at all times.
  • And the rest of the little moments that hold a place, too many to share, but I can start. Years and years of going to Bear Lake and all of those memories, vague memories of Disneyland trips and Capistrano trips, living with her and Gpa right after Wendy got married, living with her with Beth and Alyssa in "the new house", her mocking Joni Mitchell and "singing" her songs when she'd hear them playing on my cd player, teasing Jack for falling asleep and locking himself in the back bedroom on Thanksgiving Day in the back room the very first time she meet him, teasing any and everyone for just about anything, her terrible handwriting that I loved, complaining about people who use bad manners, eating and loving black licorice together (NIBS, of course), that ONE Mother's Day, nursing me while Jack was in CA and my mom was in VA and I was on bed rest for 4 weeks pregnant with Finn, being one of the first to know about and meet Sterling, long talks on any and everything including at a lot of weddings and other events she was catering, watching her clip coupons, watching her sew a million different things mostly for other people, watching her care for so many people-often me, walking to church with her, running errands with her and for her to get a discount on something-somewhere, watching her work on genealogy. 
There are more. So many more. Some private and sacred. Some trivial and ridiculous. But for now, these will do. These will serve to bolster me when I feel sad about her leaving. My friend Carol shared this with me and I like it.

“Many African societies divide humans into three categories: those still alive on the earth, the sasha, and the zamani. The recently departed whose time on earth overlapped with people still here are the sasha, the living-dead. They are not wholly dead, for they still live in the memories of the living, who can call them to mind, create their likeness in art, and bring them to life in anecdote. When the last person to know an ancestor dies, that ancestor leaves the sasha for the zamani, the dead. As generalised ancestors, the zamani are not forgotten but revered. Many … can be recalled by name. But they are not the living-dead. There is a difference.” ― James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me

Grandma has joined the ranks of the sasha. May those of us who knew her speak of her often until those who never knew her, know enough to revere her.
Til we meet again, Grandma.