I dream pretty vividly and pretty often. The other morning I woke up with tears running down my face. I had a beautiful dream about my grandmother, and it was so real I could have touched her, like she was right there in the room with me. My Maw-maw Rountree went home to heaven in December 2002, and I miss her dearly. Though a good bit of time has passed, I find myself thinking about her more and more, especially lately.
I was the first of many granddaughters, and we shared a special bond, although she had the gift of making each of us feel super special and loved. We lived right next door when I was really young, and I remember pushing the chair over to the corded phone that hung in our kitchen and calling Maw-maw to see if she had watermelon. Maw-maw ALWAYS had watermelon!
In fact, the majority of my memories of her evoke memories of food: pancakes made from scratch, hot biscuits and cream gravy, fresh okra and tomatoes, and of course, my favorite, her spaghetti. My grandpa was a gifted gardener and their table overflowed with organic fruits and vegetables. I think we all have baby pictures riding the tractor with Paw-paw and picking with Maw-maw. I remember her little strawberry garden on the right side of the house. We would pick, wash, and sprinkle them with a little sugar. Life was simple and savory at Mam-maw's house.
It makes sense that food is in the forefront of my memories because more than anything, she loved to feed people. With a true servant's heart, she would take our orders one-by-one. If one wanted and sandwich and the other wanted rice and gravy, it was not and issue. Like a short order cook, she would make sure we each got what our little hearts desired, and she found joy in satisfying us. You didn't go to Maw-maw's and not eat! I don't care if it was your first time there or you visited often, she would present you with option after option until you obliged. It was a great offense to leave her house without a full belly.
She had a gentle nature and was full of kindness and patience. She kept my little brother before he started school, and he was a brat. Sorry Jeff, but you know it's true. He told me he remembered getting so mad about something one time that he punched a hole right through their porch screen door (see, bratty). He says she didn't fly off the handle or yell or beat him. She sat him down and in her gentle way got to the source of the problem that caused the outburst. She had such a way with us kids, and we all wanted to please her. She made you want to be good, even if it was hard for some of us (ahem, Jeffrey).
She was not the one to go to if you wanted to vent though, especially if it was about a person that had wronged you. She never spoke negatively about anyone. Even if you had been completely victimized by evil incarnate, she would propose possible reasons why he/she behaved that way. It was completely annoying, but completely admirable. She saw the best in people when no one could or would.
Dad talks about her a lot. He recalls how forgiving she was and how turning the other cheek was almost innate for her. She had a job working in a cafeteria, and there were some ladies that were less than kind to her. He remembers that she handled them with such benevolence and grace. Though mild in nature, he tells me how powerful she was in the Lord. I think of the word "meek" to describe her. If you look that word up in the dictionary, you get something that kind of sounds like "push over", but that is not a very accurate definition, biblically speaking. Translated from the original Greek, a more accurate definition is "strength under control". If you've ever encountered a catty coworker, you know that the easy thing to do is to retaliate, to let the righteous indignation flow, and to proclaim it from the rooftops. That's easy. That wasn't what Mam-maw did. She had the guts to be kind, gentle, and forgiving. She kept control over herself in times when it was difficult to do. Meekness, not weakness.
The Bible says that the meek will inherit the earth. Maw-maw wasn't rich or famous, but then again, she kind of was. She was rich in love and spread it where ever she went. She was known by the many lives she touched with her rich compassion and charity. My cousin reminded me of her funeral the other day. The place was packed, standing room only. The director was amazed and told my uncle that the only time you will see so many people in attendance for a person as old as my grandmother is when they are very, very wealthy. She was. And she leaves my family with a great inheritance. A great legacy!
I now see how these things get passed down when I see glimmers of Mam-maw in my dad and his siblings, and on good days, even a little in myself. I think this is a very cool thing, but also scares me a little. Let me explain.
Having my own children has brought me closer to God for a few reasons. It has really helped me understand His love for me, his child, in a very tactile way. It has been a beautiful, unraveling revelation that amazes me everyday. And I pray a lot more, even if those prayers go something like, "Dear Jesus, help me not to eat my young today...". I'm kidding....kind of. Parenting is by far the most challenging, frustrating, incredible, horribly amazing, life-changing experience ever. I'm learning a few things though. I have learned that my kids will rarely do what I say, but almost always do what I do. This is where the scary comes in. There is nothing more eye-opening and frightening than seeing your 3 year-old parade about the worst aspects of your personality.
See, I can tell Jett to have patience while he is having a complete meltdown until I'm blue in the face. He's 3 though. Although he is very smart, he will not understand the meaning of the word "patience" until I show him what a patient person looks like. How confusing it must be to his little mind for me to be telling him to keep his patience over and over again, while simultaneously losing mine! While I want to leave a legacy like my grandma, if I am not careful, I will end of passing down my liabilities instead.
I recently watched a film that depicted the horrors of slavery during the Civil War. Racism literally makes me ill. I left the theater with my stomach in knots and a complete ball of emotions. I don't understand how people can dehumanize others to the point that they feel justified in acts of complete monstrosity! Where did it come from? I started looking into it. I read an article from a sociologist that basically said that racism did not breed slavery, but in fact it was the other way around. It wasn't because they hated a group of people that they enslaved them. Wealthy plantation owners needed slaves for to serve their own economic interests, so a lie was bred about an "inferior race" to make the idea of slavery more palatable. Poor, uneducated, southern, white men were conned into buying into this faulty logic and hate spread like disease.
I'd like to think we have evolved as humans, but when I look at all that is going on in the world today, I don't know. One of the most disheartening things I've seen teaching school is when a kid spews hatred for a race without even understanding what they are doing or why they are doing it. These are the cases where the liability of hatred was transferred instead of the legacy of love. And so today, we have races warring against each other still because of the wounds of a selfish lie that was instilled so long ago. So, the cycle continues. Hate breeds more hate.
So, how do we stop it? Love? Yes, that's a good start. But here is the thing. You can't give people what you don't have. That sounds simple, but I don't think we get this. Spreading love isn't just sharing a MLK quote on facebook or telling our kids halfheartedly to just love everyone. While dialogue is important, I believe my kids need to see me perform loving acts. I can't do that without really loving. I can't do that if my heart is flooded with apathy. Love is a choice, a command, not a feeling. If I don't feel love inside me for my fellow man, then I need to choose to start. I need to act in loving ways until it comes. If I have love, my actions will show it. I don't remember quotes or conversations with Maw-maw like I remember how she conducted herself and made the people around her feel. It was all in her actions.
The problem isn't white or black or blue. The problem potentially lies within each one of us, what we have inside and what we pass down. Will that be a liability or a legacy? I so wish Maw-maw could have met Jett and Cruze. I know that there would have been so much love shared there. My hope though is that they see aspects of her in me and 100 years from now that her legacy still holds strong!
Hey! My name is Andrea. I'm a teacher by day in a small Texas town, but in every other aspect of my life, I consider myself a learner. This blog is about life: learning through experiences, sharing through stories, and growing through faith.