Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Very Special Christmas Post

A week ago today, my family lost our Mama Bess, my grandmother and The Gurl's great-grandmother. She was one of the most important people in my life, she was the glue that held us all together. Most of my childhood memories revolve around her and the time at her house and in her backyard, especially Christmas memories. Christmas it's just not the same this year.

I wasn't able to speak at her funeral, because I get too blubbery when I'm upset and become incomprehensible. So I thought I would put my thoughts here.

My Mama Bess was one of the kindest, gentlest, and most generous people I have ever known. I never heard her say a bad word about anyone, even Richard Nixon. She constantly "adopted" grand-kids from among my sister and I's friends. Before I started typing, I had tons of things I wanted to say, now the idea of summing up her life seems a bit overwhelming (even just the parts I know).

To this day, I can picture the living room in my grandparent's house by simply closing my eyes. This was where we had every Christmas, where we celebrated birthdays, Easter, and graduations. My stocking and Easter basket always awaited me on the turquoise blue and green couch from the 70's. It really was terribly hideous, but I loved it.

My sister and I would decorate the Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving dinner. Then on Christmas Eve, we'd get to open one present each. It was always pajamas, always. In later years, Mama Bess would forget to label the Christmas Eve presents, and we'd have to wait for her to find the right boxes for us to open. It was quite fun watching her hunt for them under the tree. We'd then be tucked into bed, so Santa could come. Even at 16, I was the first one up, usually around 4 am. I'd wake my sister up, but we weren't allowed to get the parents up until 6 am. Once everyone was up, we'd took turns opening gifts. Opened presents would be piled on top of the glass table in front of the couch where my sister and I set up camp. She always insured that we had something under the tree from our grandfather, though she did most of the Christmas shopping. Then it was time for our Christmas dinner. Always turkey with stuffing, except for me. Mama Bess always made some hot dogs for me to eat when I was a kid because I didn't like turkey. She never pushed me to eat the turkey, just made sure I had enough to eat.

Mama Bess also taught me my first curse word while she drove me around in Houston traffic (I was about two). If you aren't familiar with Houston traffic, it would test the patient of the saints (higher rate of road rage than NYC). It was the horrendous curse of "Hell's Bells". I remember that her car always smelled of that new car plastic smell mixed with mint.

She always ensured we had clothes for school, especially shoes. She and my grandfather took my sister and I on many adventures to other states. They took us all over Texas to see antiques, historical sites, and fossils. One of the only pieces of jewelry I wear is an antique ring they got for me on one of these trips. They took us to Louisiana on a tour of plantation homes and the bayous. We got to see the stairwell they based the one in "Gone with the Wind" on.

We'd help in the their large garden outside, and then we'd snap the green beans that we helped pick. I was a terrible thief, I continually snacked on them as we worked.

She used to make my sister and I matching outfits for family pictures, she often did this by hand. She quilted blankets and crocheted baby blankets. Many of the quilts she made were originally her leisure suits from the 70s. She made my mom's prom dress, and I think she made my aunt's wedding dress. She made us clothes for our Barbies. She could make her own clothes patterns from newspaper pages without a guide.

Mama Bess and The Gurl
She ran the company they owned for many years and was a teacher of all grades in a one room school house in her youth. Despite these things, she always questioned her own intelligence and capabilities, this always made me a bit sad. She wanted to take care of others and help them, which she did very well, but often to her own determent.

When my sister and I were little, we always rolled the loose coins from our grandparents' room and change dish. We got to keep half of whatever we rolled. It was so fun and exciting to be earning money.

Mama Bess always gave me unconditional support and love. She supported me completely, never judging. She would offer advice if it was requested, but always unwavering support. She always told me she loved me, that I was smart, and that she was proud of me. One of the most impactful things she ever told me was that I am a strong woman. The first time she said that, it bowled me over and brought me to tears.

I am so glad that she got to see The Gurl reach high school. That Mama Bess got to know my daughter as a young lady, if not an adult. My daughter has been very lucky in her life to have known all of her great-grandparents on my side of the family and all of her grandparents on both sides. I just wish that we could have had Mama Bess around a little longer.

On the way from the service to the grave side Sunday, The Gurl told me that the thing she remembers most is Mama Bess always telling her, "I love you a bushel and a peck". I said that she always said that to my sister and I do. The Gurl promptly stated that this was Mama Bess' catchphrase. I really can't think of a better one for her.

I am glad that my Mama Bess isn't hurting anymore, but I also wish she was still here. I will always love her and miss her.