Sitting at my desk at the Journal last Tuesday, I glanced down at my desk calendar and noticed the date.
It was the birthday of my paternal grandmother. Julia McRae Criss. She’d have been 109.
In her early 70s, her knees were shot. A knee replacement was suggested.
“I won’t be here much longer,” she said.
But she lived to be 93 and when she died, it was with her original knees.
She always told us she wanted to live to be 100 just so Willard Scott would mention her name as her photo, superimposed on a jar of Smucker’s jelly, was broadcast by NBC’s Today show.
I’d like to have made that happen for her, but it was not to be.
There are so many things that stir up memories of Mammaw.
At Christmastime when we make “nuts and bolts” – trash or party mix to some – I think of her and how her making of the salty snack signified the season’s start.
There will never be any better fried chicken or homemade biscuits than my grandmother’s, though my father – the oldest of her four sons – can hold his own when frying a bird.
She’d have made a great Cook of the Week, except she’d not have been able to share any recipes – “you take a little bit of this and a little bit of that and you mix it up until it looks like it’s supposed to ...”
Of course, all my memories of Mammaw are not of the culinary kind.
Even more than our bellies, she nourished our spirits and we are all the better for it.
Whenever I pass a gumball machine, I smile, recalling all the pennies my grandmother patiently passed my way until a red gumball finally emerged, making me a happy child.
Whenever someone mentions the late Billy Graham – who was adored by my grandmother – I’m reminded of her faith. Her power of positive thinking would have made Norman Vincent Peale proud.
If I were with her while she watched her “stories,” she’d always ask, “Do you watch this one?” And even though I’d say no, she’d catch me up on all the daytime drama.
I’m reminded of my grandmother when I think of some of her Mammaw-isms: “Always tell the truth: One lie begats another.” “I’m not asleep: I’m just resting my eyes.” “Mice can’t climb.”
I learned not long after childhood mice most certainly can climb and my grandmother had told me an untruth.
I miss her every day and wish we could have a nice, long visit. But my memories of Mammaw make me happy.
Just like those bright red gumballs.