So this is who I am
And this is all I know
And I must choose to live
For all that I can give
The spark that makes the power grow
And I will stand for my dream if I can
Symbol of my faith in who I am
– Celine Dion feat. the Bee Gees
I have had writer’s block the past few weeks. Come Monday afternoon, I am scrambling around trying to think of something reader worthy. This week was especially bad… Tuesday came and I still had nothin’. Feeling defeated, I logged onto Facebook and found my inspiration.
“Remembering special people sometimes is as simple as eating or smelling certain foods. Every time I eat chocolate ice cream or Rice Krispies and milk I think of my late Papa. On Saturday nights he would watch Lawrence Welk & Archie Bunker then have a bedtime snack.
On Sunday mornings, before Sunday school, my Mama would be up at the crack of dawn frying bacon and eggs followed by preparing the Sunday after “Big Church” meal. The grandkids would always try to sneak a hot biscuit on the way out the door for church. Desserts were a special Sunday treat…chocolate layer cake, lemon apricot cake, banana pudding, or chocolate pie (my fav). I remember watching her baking on Saturday evening while standing in an old ladder back chair at the counter in the kitchen. I always got the beaters. I still lick the beaters and offer my grown kids one if they are around.
‘Sweet Sweet’ memories…”
That was Momma’s status. Soon after reading her words I received a notification. My Mamaw had posted this on my wall:
“OK, IT’S 7:45 PM!!!!!!!!!! I’M SITTING HERE ALL READY TO READ THIS WEEK’S GREAT WORDS ON “MISS CLARISS.” WHERE ARE YOU??????? LOVE YOU MAMAW (I’M WAITING)………..”
It hit me. I had found my topic!
Most kids have four grandparents. Well, I am not “most kids.” I have 7+ grandparents. I have to add the “+” because depending on who my father is married to, the number could fluctuate dramatically. Also, much the opposite of “most kids,” all 7 of my grandparents live hours away. As you could imagine, holidays were a mess.
I spent most of my childhood in a car being shuffled across state lines, from one house to another, or switching sets of parents all together. The two households I grew up in could not have been more different but the excitement I felt when I found out we would be visiting any one set of grandparents was the same. So, I thought it would be nice for you to get to know a little bit about 7 of the most important people in my life…
Mamaw and Papaw (Jacksonville, FL)
We will start with Mamaw and Papaw, my father’s father and stepmother. Growing up, seeing my Mamaw and Papaw was a treat. They lived the furthest away, and because I only spent time at my father’s house during the summer and around the holidays, our times spent together were less frequent than I would have liked.
Making the trip to Northern Florida was an easy ride; mostly interstates and palm trees. I knew we were getting close when we reached the short bridges of Southern Georgia and finally the Dames Point Bridge. I can still remember turning down their street and seeing my Papaw’s Jeep parked in the driveway.
For the longest time, Mamaw and Papaw were the only people I knew with a pool in their backyard. We would spend hours running out of the pool and jumping off the diving board. So much so, I can still remember the feeling of the bottom of my feet being raw from the textured concrete. I remember my father trying to teach us girls how to save someone if they were drowning… I still don’t know how to swim above water.
My two favorite things about visiting Mamaw and Papaw are easy to list:
- Mamaw and Papaw love each other so… beautifully. I do not know how to explain it any better than that. My Mamaw has always taken such good care of my Papaw and my Papaw is so much in love with my Mamaw it’s hard not to notice. They are perfect for each other. Both of them love each other, their children (my father and my three wonderful aunts), and us grandkids (all 10 of us) unconditionally. Their love for us and life made our trips to Jacksonville well worth the ride.
- My Mamaw’s chocolate peanut-butter no bake cookies. Nobody makes ’em like my Mamaw : )
Mimmie and Pop (Charleston, SC)
Mimmie and Pop are Dad’s parents. They have been around since before I could walk and I couldn’t imagine my life without them.
You see, when it comes to Mimmie and Pop memories I kind of feel like the special grandchild. As I have mentioned before, my Pop passed away when I was 10. One week after we lost him, a tornado swept through Mimmie’s neighborhood and ripped their house apart. Now, I know what you must be thinking, “Soooo, what part of this makes you feel special?” Well, I’m getting to that…
I am the oldest grandchild on Momma and Dad’s side of the family. The closest person in age to me is Bubba who is four years younger. So, out of Mimmie’s six grandchildren, the two of us have the most memories of our Pop and the house they had together. Because I am the oldest, I am able to remember even more than Bubba does.
I can remember what Pop’s voice sounds like. I can remember the glitter in their popcorn ceiling. I can remember my Pop’s favorite cereal (ironically, it was Corn Pops [no relation]). I can remember every room of that house, the carpet, the furniture, and the decor. I can remember seeing Pop’s patrol car sitting in the front yard. I can picture my Mimmie sitting on a bar stool at the kitchen counter, watching Soaps on the little TV by the sink, and snapping peas. I can remember looking out the dining room window, past the dock Pop built, and seeing his pontoon floating in the creek.
The house my cousins and baby sister know now, to me, will never be my Mimmie and Pop’s house. I am so very thankful to have the memories I have of Mimmie and Pop. I am so very thankful to have my Mimmie.
Mimmie is a crowd favorite. She’s the grandmother you forget is a grandmother. She is going to kick my ass for telling the world this, but for two straight years I got her rum for Christmas : ). Mimmie is fun, funny, and loud. Gosh is that woman loud! She is a movie buff, a shopaholic (you will start to notice a trend here), a foodie, and a pet lover. Everyone loves some Mims!
Nana and Papa (Charleston, SC)
Nana is Momma’s Momma and Papa is her Daddy.
Where do I even start?
Momma and I lived with Nana and Papa until I was two. So, naturally, I have a deep-rooted connection to these two. The running joke in my family is that I am my Nana’s child, Bubba is Mimmie’s kid, and Mace is Momma’s. We all laugh about it but it’s the truth. There is no place I would rather be than at my Nana’s.
When Momma and Dad got married, Momma and I moved to be with him in Burlington, North Carolina. So growing up, Nana and Papa got the not-so-lucky duty of being the “safehouse” between Momma’s house and my father’s.
I can remember crying, and crying, and crying when it came time for Nana to drop me off at my father’s. I can remember crying, and crying, and crying when it came time for Nana and Papa to leave after a weekend visit to North Carolina. I can remember crying, and crying, and crying when we had to leave their house to make the 3.5 hour trip back home to Burlington (and later, to Hickory). What can I say, my Nana has my heart… and most of my childhood memories.
For the first 16 years of my life, I spent every summer and every holiday in Charleston. And when I did not have to be at my father’s, I was with my Nana and Papa. They crowned me the Princess of North Mano Street.
For my birthday, they would take me to Myrtle Beach. On weekends, we were on the boat at the lake. Nana would take me shopping, to lunch, yard saling, and to my Mama’s (her Momma and my great-grandmother) house on Sundays for quality time with my five great-aunts and many, many cousins. Papa was the first person to put me behind the wheel of something with a motor (shocker there). And all in the same day was a passenger in my first accident… okay, granted I was only driving a golf cart but still, it took years for Nana’s red-tip bush to grow back.
I really could blame Nana for the amount of wardrobe changes I make in a day, or how I cannot seem to leave the house without having someone take my picture, or for my love of french fries and candy. They spoiled me rotten and to them, I could never do wrong (… and maybe that’s why I always think I’m right). I grew up addicted to The Young & the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, The Price is Right, Celine Dion, the Bee Gees (hints this entry’s song… my Nana’s favorite) and the Beach Boys. Every night, Pooh and I would crawl into bed with Nana and every morning Pooh and I would eat soupy Red-Eye Gravy flavored Instant Grits (it had to be soupy) at her kitchen bar.
Today, I try my hardest to go see them at least once a month. I’m 24-years-old and I still sleep with my Nana when I stay with her and I still cry when I leave. One day, I am going to do what I have always told them I wanted to do… show up with every one of my shoes, every bit of my clothes, my pillow, my Pooh, and my hound dog and stay forever.
Grandma Leoni (Charleston, SC/Austria)
My father’s mother passed away when I was too young to remember her. Over the years I have tried to piece as much of her together as I could through stories my father told us growing up, pictures, and memories Momma has of her.
Momma always said that I have my Grandma Leoni’s expensive taste. She remembers her pinning all of her long dark hair on top of her head and wearing wigs whenever she could. Momma says she was a sassy petite lady who was always dressed to the nines. She tells me that before my Grandma Leoni passed away she loved visiting with me. One of my favorite baby dolls when I was little was Gretel, a doll my Grandma Leoni brought home from Austria for me.
The hardest part about loving her is not ever knowing her. I feel like the two of us would have had so much in common but it is like she is a memory I cannot seem to place or an image that does not come in clear. Ever since I can remember, anytime someone would ask, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be,” I have replied, “Austria. So I can see where my grandma was laid to rest.” It is bizarre, I have never been one who understood the significance of visiting a loved one’s grave, but maybe sub-consciously I think it will make me feel closer to her… maybe it will make her seem real.
For now though, I pass along what German Momma can remember her saying all the time, see her pretty face in my father and Momma’s wedding pictures, and talk about her like I have known her all of my life.
I hope you all enjoyed taking a trip down Memory Lane with me. I have always been deathly afraid of loosing my memory because I could not bear forgetting where I have been, and essentially, who I am. Sometimes, I will mentally walk through each one of their houses just so I do not forget any part of them or the time we have spent together.
The people listed above have all helped mold the woman I am today and I could not be more proud or grateful to call them my family.
Love, love, love each one of you!