Everyone has a fun name for their grandmother. I’m not sure which of us actually came up with the name, but it was probably my cousin who called her “Memom” first, and it stuck. Memom is my mother’s mother, and she is a woman who has lived a long, storied life.
She grew up in a large family, and has plenty of stories about her brothers and the trouble they would all get into. Whether it was a scheme as complicated as developing “purple medicine,” scaring one another half to death by jumping out from behind walls, or as simple as locking people into outhouses, her childhood was full of interesting stories. And, luckily for us, she loves telling them. She has worked in food service, and currently works in the optical business. And, truly, she has been working in the optical business in one form or another since before I was born. She knows the “Old Ways” and sometimes her knack for finding solutions borders on magic.
My early memories of her are of playing at her house, sometimes with my cousin, sometimes on my own. I did take a turn locking her out of the house, which, if I recall is something of a tradition in the family. We often got each other wet. I practiced “cooking” at her house, which usually involved dumping a mess of ingredients in a bowl and mixing it up, only afterwards realizing that the combination I had created tasted quite terrible. I managed to eat through a box of high-fiber cereal one weekend… which didn’t end well. There may or may not have been a moment where I ruined a perfectly good VCR with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but the exact details aren’t important.
As far as food goes, Memom introduced me to some of the simpler pleasures. (And, yes, every member of my family has food associated with them. That, too, is a tradition.) She always made great fried okra and mashed potatoes, which we would have at almost every family gathering. She has also always enjoyed the carrot souffle at Picadilly – which for some may sound like a place in England. Picadilly is a cafeteria-style restaurant where you walk down a line and pick your food a la carte style – but the carrot souffle was always a must. Memom also showed me the joy of an Egg McMuffin. To this day it’s one of the foods I associate with memories of her. (And also my dad, who managed to engineer a homemade one.)
Memom has always been a storyteller. She reveled in stories old and new, and has always been an avid listener and reader. As long as I can remember, she has always had at least one or two audiobooks in her car at all times. She wrote one of my favorite interpretations of the story of the ten lepers, giving that one who came back to thank Jesus a marvelous character arc of change and repentance. It was a stirring retelling of the story. Some of my earliest times of service were going to church with her every so often and getting to work the puppets for her church’s children’s ministry. Could be that set me on the path to becoming a children’s minister. Her love of stories certainly passed down the generational line. I love hearing stories from all kinds of places, people, and time periods. I consider myself a collector of stories.
She also encouraged my education. In middle and high school, she would reward me for every A, which meant I worked extra hard to make sure I had a full list of them. She also encouraged me at college by sending me snacks and food so that I could eat well while studying.
She put up with my special brand of strange while making sure that I knew that I was loved, by her and by God. It’s nice to know that I am part of a story that started long ago and is continually being written. And I hope that my part of the story can be as unique and as much of a blessing as hers.