I made vegetable beef soup today. Always reminds me of my MeMe Rhodes.
I walked down a sidewalk and smelled someone smoking cigarettes this afternoon. That always reminds me of my MeMe Rennison. As a kid, the smoke smell didn’t bother me.
Both of my MeMes were special to me. Each different as they could possibly be. Both were the best!
My mom’s mom (MeMe Rhodes) taught Sunday School to toddlers for years at a small Baptist church. She was hospitable, especially prepared for all of the family at holidays. My mom, who stayed at home with my sisters and me, would include her in our outings. Sky City. Wendys. Haircuts. And the outings would usually end with swinging on her front porch watching her kitty cat meander around. Kitty Blue kind of freaked me out. Someone told me somewhere along the way that cats would suck your breath out while you slept, so when Kitty Blue would perch herself at the end of the bed that my older sister and I slept in at MeMe’s house, well, let’s just say it was unnerving. It’s nothing against Kitty Blue; I have never been an animal person. But MeMe loved her Kitty Blue. She never remarried after Daddy Zeb died, so the cat kept her company. MeMe was kind, loving, and patient. She smiled often. One of my favorite memories of MeMe was riding around looking at Christmas lights with her and the rest of my family. She decided to yodel for us, which was entertaining! And I loved when she would let us eat Rice Krispies cereal and scoop spoonfuls of sugar into the bowl. For some reason she always let me sit in Daddy Zeb’s place at the table. From my adult perspective, I think it was because she felt sorry for me as the middle child—it was totally unfair to my sisters, yet she let me sit there every single time. I notice that I sound just like her when I tell my kids to put on socks in the house during winter. Surely they will catch a death of cold if they don’t, right?
We lived right next door to MeMe Rennison, my dad’s mom, until I was 13 years old. She was a spit-fire. She loved all of her grandkids equally. There were no favorites. Or rather, we were each her favorite. She smoked cigarettes and watched a lot of television—so much so that the fabric in the seat cushion where she sat was faded and worn. And she cursed whenever she felt the need. She would let all nine of the grandchildren spend the night with her. We would make pizzas and eat watermelon and tell ghost stories in her dark back hallway. Lest you think she was a saint for letting all of the kids stay over, she also was addicted to prescription drugs and would usually be a bit tipsy during our overnight visits. I recall one evening her sitting at the kitchen table, looking out in the backyard and seeing the Braves playing a baseball game. Yep, Dale Murphy was in her backyard hitting home runs, I suppose. I was scared to even take a Tylenol for years because I thought somehow I would end up addicted to medicine, too. MeMe would tell stories from when she was a kid. They usually ended with her getting in a fight with someone on the school bus. She was very artistic and even took time to teach any of the grandkids who were interested how to draw by copying some of her work. She made the most amazing Christmas cards. Each one original and creative and fun. I look the most like her and that side of my family than my mom’s side of the family. I probably act more like her, too. Gotta watch that.
I knew I was loved by each of them. They would listen to me if I was talking. And I would listen to them if they were talking. I do wish I had taken more time to sit with them when I was in high school and college and get to know them more. I would love to sit across from them today, as a 38 year old mother of three, and hear their stories with a new sense of appreciation.
Here’s a picture my mom sent me a while back. The note attached said that she thought I would like to have this picture. She was right. I love this picture. I’m pregnant with Ruby. There’s no telling what we were talking about, but I would like to go back and have that conversation again. I would probably be a better listener. Thankfully, we will have all of heaven to share stories.
Everyone should have at least one “MeMe” in their life. I was blessed to have two.