You may have a “Grandmother”, “Granny”, “MeeMaw”, or “Nanny”. I had a “Mamaw” (pronounced “mahmaw”). My Mamaw was a lady in every sense of the word. Always answering the unexpected knock at the door in her finest dress and heels with every hair in place, it was assumed that comfort was not in her vocabulary. I guess that is why assumptions leave us at times with the reminder to not judge a book by its cover. Because as soon as that unexpected visitor, whether it be a neighbor or family member, walked through the threshold of that opened door, comfort became the only way a body could respond to her hospitality. The thought of homemade biscuits, damson pies, family gatherings, and sitting beside of her on the couch with her hand on my knee cause me to relax just a little as I pen these words.
There are only two times that I can recall pushing away from that nostalgic rest in her presence: once, while playing a game of Sorry! and the other time was the Christmas that she drew my name. Now if you have had the honor of going head to head with my Mamaw at a game of Sorry!, you are already chuckling at just the thought. However, for those of you who don’t have a clue what Sorry! is and especially if you don’t understand the competitive thread that runs through my family’s genealogy, then I’ll take just a couple of sentences to explain. Playing card games was a direct way to have your name erased from the “Lamb’s Book of Life” according to generations gone by; however, Sorry! was that one exception in my Mamaw’s way of thinking. She dominated the board and would even draw your cards and move your token for you if she felt you were dawdling. Always thinking ahead to preparations for the “unexpected knock at the door”, Sorry! was just her way to pass a few spare minutes with her precious grandchildren and to painstakingly remind us that she would ALWAYS win!
Then there was the year that she drew my name for Christmas. Christmas at Mamaw’s is virtually indescribable but I will try my very best to draw you into a place where the phrase “comfort in the chaos” only touches the tip of the iceburg.
My father’s parents had 5 children, each with a spouse and 2 children of their own. Plus at the time of this memory, there were a couple of the older grandchildren who were married as well. So mix all of those bodies together in a little 5 room house for 4 or 5 hours and your own imagination begins to paint a creative picture. Mamaw never failed to provide a more than adequate meal for all of us that included nothing but the most flavorfully seasoned green beans, homemade biscuits, fresh corn, “no lump” mashed potatoes, and so much more. Men were served first and seated at the table. Children filed in neatly behind their fathers and were seated with card tables scattered throughout the home. Women got the remainders and sat, or stood, wherever there may be a vacant space. I don’t believe that Mamaw ever ate. She just stood at the kitchen sink washing the dishes and praying over us all as she scrubbed away the stuck on cheese from the empty macaroni dish. Presents are not something that stick out in my mind during these family gatherings because in Mamaw’s home, it was all about being together and sharing life. However, I do remember very vividly the year that the tag on my gift read, “To: April Dawn, From: Mamaw”. I must have been nine years old so everything “Christmas” was still childlike and fascinating to me. Watching my other cousins open their gifts while awaiting my turn was almost unbearable. Barbies and blocks, toys cars and super heroes were unwrapped all around me. My insides were churning with excitement and my eyes were as big as saucers as I looked on in amazement. My turn finally arrived and all eyes were on me. I squeezed my gift and shook my gift and could only imagine what it could be… maybe it would be one of those new scented dolls with the really great hair that all of my friends had. I ripped the paper off and tried my best to maintain the gratified look on my face when I realized that I had just opened… a quilt. A quilt? A quilt?! A warm, practical, “only used when you’re asleep” quilt! Now because my parents had raised me with principles and consideration of others, I smiled at my Mamaw and hugged her with the most warm embrace that I could muster while thinking “A QUILT???” I tried to enjoy the remainder of the evening with my cousins. I tried to enjoy that slice of damson pie and that portion of banana pudding. Yet all I could think was “A QUILT?” During the ride home, as my brother settled into a slumber and my mom and dad reflected over the evening’s events, I was lost in confusion over not being understood by my Mamaw. Didn’t she know that I would be disappointed over a quilt? Maybe it was payback for the one time I beat her at the game of Sorry! What else could explain her purchase of a quilt? As my mom placed that quilt on my bed underneath the bright yellow comforter, I looked at my Barbie house and thought about all of the fun I would have had with that brand new scented doll. I would have skipped to my friend’s house just two doors down the next day and gladly bragged on what a great Mamaw I had. “Look how thoughtful and cool my Mamaw is,” I would say. “Smell my doll’s hair… apricot… just like I wanted” I would boast. Instead, I settled down to sleep that night in my flannel pjs with a quilt keeping me warm.
As I passed my daughter’s empty room this morning, I noticed something hanging out from underneath her green and white comforter. Without thinking, I neatly tucked that misplaced corner back under the mattress so that it wouldn’t escape from keeping in the warmth as my precious child sleeps peacefully tonight. As my fingers grazed over the satin trim, I was immediately swept back to packing that quilt in a box as my family embarked on a move that would make a significant mark on my identity. I was reminded of nights crying into that quilt as I made my way ever so clumsily through adolescence. I remember eating chicken soup in bed with that quilt wrapped tightly around me as I recovered from chicken pox, the common cold, and any other thing that such comforts can eliminate. I remember the mixed emotions of loss and new frontiers as my mom tucked in the satin edges of that quilt in my college dorm room and then kissed me goodbye for a season of unchartered waters. And yes, even as my husband and I began to create a home of our own, that quilt was there to cover us on chilly nights.
So this evening, when I say prayers and take a few minutes to share simple secrets with my daughter, I will tuck her into the embrace of a quilt that has lasted far beyond the fad of a doll that smelled like apricot. Maybe I’ll be able to offer a little of what I believe my Mamaw was offering me on that Christmas when she drew my name… Comfort.
[author] [author_info]April Garner | Freelance Writer[/author_info] [/author]