|My Mammaw with my newest cousin, Tyler|
As I transition to life in Kentucky, I am also learning more about gardening, vintage items, older homes, and new neighbors. I have spent more time with my grandmother, who has a love of antiques, canning, and telling my Pappaw to get out of the kitchen and stop telling her how to cook.
In my conversations with her, I have discovered that she is resourceful, tough, funny, loves children, and cares very much about preserving the past. As a women who watched one daughter suffer and survive polio and lost another suddenly only a year and a half ago, I understand that this love of the past is also deeply personal. Because of this realization, her words carry more weight as someone who has endured much and has life lessons to teach.
Mammaw warns about the costs of vegetables rising and supplies her own by canning the veggies from Pappaw's thriving garden. Yet she shares readily with neighbors, relatives, and whoever might show up at her door. She attends church and volunteers regularly. She could the quintessential character in a Clyde Edgerton novel.
I have since noticed the cost of vegetables and have considered canning. I learned we have an interest in estate sales and antiquing in common because you can get wonderful items at a great deal, and I think if either of us could live in a museum, we would. She was influenced by the times in which she was raised--the Great Depression. My generation has been shaken by the Great Recession--no longer do we believe in a guarantee of jobs, retirement, monetary success or a stable housing market. My grandmother watches her Social Security checks fail to meet inflation and wonders if she'll always have enough. For all our political differences, both believe the government has failed in its promise to care for veterans like my grandfather. Instead of caring about living up to societal standards of success--whatever that means--we care more about the ideal of living in community instilled in us from church.
Now, on the eve of my grandparents 65th wedding anniversary, as we bond over gardens, antiques, church talk, looking at pictures of long-lost relatives and our concern for the present, I'm thankful that instead of thinking of all the years between us I can focus on our commonalities and learn more about my grandmother beyond her identity as "Mammaw."
How about you? Is there a relative of family friend you have had or wish you had the opportunity to get to know beyond their relational identity to you? What is your mother, father, brother, sister, grandma, or aunt like outside of their identity as family member?