My mother's mother was barely out of her teens when she became pregnant with my mother. There has been some family debate whether or not she was married to my mother's father at the time - though, at some point, they were married. My mother was born on a stormy night at home in Rockland, Maine; premature and with my great-grandmother playing the role of doctor. When the actual doctor finally made it through the storm to their house, he pronounced my mother too weak and too early to survive saying "Don't waste any milk on her." My great-grandmother promptly kicked him out of the house, stoked up her wood stove and kept my mother warm in a wooden box and plied her frequently with small smounts of milk. They named my mother after the doctor - I am completely certain out of spite; it would be so like my great-grandmother to want him to have a living and long lasting memory of being so very mistaken! My grandmother struggled as a very young mother and as a consequence, my mother was raised by her grandparents. Even once she divorced my mother's father, remarried and began raising more children, my mother chose to remain with her grandparents and was raised as an only child.
Of Meme though, I have so many wonderful memories. She had a large strawberry patch in her backyard. I was often dispatched with a container to fill and she would make all sorts of wonderful treats- sliced strawberries with milk or strawberry shortcake with fresh whipped cream, my favorites. Maine was a wonderful place to visit as a child - we enjoyed the beaches; my brother and I fascinated with the small tide pools. Shortly after boxing up all my belongings and leaving home for college, I opened up a small box of shells I had collected years ago. Being contained in a small space concentrated the smell of the sea that still clung to the shells and rocks I had collected. I drank in the scent and for a brief moment, I was back at the beach on a grey, windy day - wearing my windbreaker and poking at a small pool filled with all sorts of sea treasures. From my very young years I have just snatches, bits and pieces of memories - most of which are prompted back by smells, sounds, tastes or feelings. When my dh and I were looking at homes, we toured a very old farmhouse and I had such a flashback of memories I was overcome. The home had the same smells and textures (dh called it "eau de old people") I remembered from my Meme's house. The kitchen was in the back of the house and I wanted to see if there were the same white metal kitchen cabinets I remembered from my Great-grandmother's house - and there were! We didn't purchase the house - but walking through was such a treat of forgotten memories. Standing in that kitchen, thousands of miles and years after, I remembered sitting at a small table with formica top, eating a bowl of strawberries in milk. My tears when I sat on the same table after cutting my toe at the beach - her gentle and capable hands cleaning and dressing my wound. Asking her, "will it stop hurting?" and her voice saying "Ay-yah, it will." in her husky and thick New England accent. Standing on a stool with an apron tied up under my armpits next to the stove and being handed a wooden spoon and told "When those lobsters try to climb out of the pot - you smack them back down with that spoon now!" We had walked down to the docks and picked the lobsters ourselves, straight off the boat. Later they were the most amazing lobster rolls. She had told me I had the most important job. She also remembered birthdays with cards and letters. All through my childhood and while I was at college. She was extremely crafty - she and her daughter (my mother's aunt) made all sorts of crafts, even through her waning years. They often sold these crafts. I inherited this from her. For Christmas I often received yarn, pompoms, beads, chenille wire - all sorts of craft supplies and would be delighted. She was the type who would see something and say "I can make that!" and she would. I am the same way. I have the ability to see how something goes together in my head. There have been times I have been trying to figure out how to make something and will sleep on it. During the night, I will dream and "see" how to put it all together. I never got the chance to ask her if she figured out how to make things the same way - I have a feeling she likely did.
The summer my husband and I moved to Missouri, my mother called and said she was headed to Maine to visit Meme - her health was deteriorating. I wanted to believe she would live forever - she had already survived so much - breast cancer, diabetes, constant medical issues, the loss of her daughter, a grandson, her husband. We had just moved, still had a home we were trying to sell, I had just several months earlier given birth to a baby who was premature and spent time in the NICU and then again in the PICU with RSV. We had medical bills, moving bills - so many things that made a trip seem impossible. I made the practical and realistic decision not to go. I wanted to take my daughter back there - to get a picture of all of us, five generations. Just a few days after making this decision, I was standing in my kitchen cleaning and cutting up strawberries to make into jam. I was overcome with a sense of sadness, knowing that if I did not take the opportunity to go, there would not be another one. My mother went, I did not. Shortly afterward, my Meme passed away on August 26th, 1997.
For more of this weekend's Circle Time Show & Tell with Mel - see here.