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Jewish World Review March 11, 2003 / 7 Adar II 5763

Dayle A. Shockley

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It takes very little to be happy -- I was 12 when MawMaw died. MawMaw was my paternal grandmother, a tall, plain woman with a gentle face and a mass of long white hair.

To the casual observer, she possessed very little. She never lived in a fancy house. Never drove a fine car. The few furnishings she owned were simple and modest. Yet some of my fondest memories took place at the home of this unassuming woman.

I couldn't have been much older than seven when MawMaw lived in a scanty house in rural Mississippi. No indoor plumbing. An old wood stove for cooking. And only the warmth of a fireplace on frigid winter nights.

MawMaw walked to a well for water every day. Whenever we were visiting, she took me along with her. Together we would march through the nippy air, the water bucket clanging between us like a church bell. Generally, she whistled as we strolled-some easy tune she made up as she went-her voice soft and soothing. When the well popped into view, I broke into a run, the wind beating against my upturned face. Then I would watch her slip the bucket over the side, hear the low gurgling sounds below, and stare wide-eyed when the bucket surfaced, MawMaw carefully reeling it up. Homeward we would trudge, our gait slow and determined.

Over the years, MawMaw lived in a number of houses-each one a little nicer than the last. I was entranced when she and PawPaw rented a drafty green cement block house, with an old barn out back.

During our visits, my sisters and I spent many a glorious afternoon leaping over hay stacks and hiding from make-believe enemies. We romped until the shadows gathered outside, sending us flying, lickety-split, to the back door and into MawMaw's arms.

At bedtime, we gathered around for a time of prayer and hugs and kisses. Then, three sleepy heads would pile into one bed, snuggling between layers upon layers of thin flannel blankets. Even now, if I try real hard, I can summon the smell of those blankets around my face. I can remember the cold wind whistling against the windows, the dampness of the room, and how warm and snug I felt tucked beneath those fleecy covers.

In the morning, MawMaw's humming floated through the house as she stood at the kitchen counter rolling out plump homemade biscuits, a cloud of flour swirling about her head and lining the wrinkles in her neck.

In a little while, the call for breakfast went out. Somehow, we managed to squeeze around a small table heavy with hot biscuits, fried eggs, white gravy, and scalding black coffee (for the grown-ups, of course).

As we settled in, MawMaw would stroll around the table, patting each one on the back. She seemed perfectly content that everyone-except herself-had a place to sit.

It was on a bitter winter morning that MawMaw drew her final breath. A lifetime ago, yet she lives on: In the homemade biscuits I love to create using her "recipe." In the scrap quilt she and my mom pieced together some 50 years ago. In the great-granddaughter who carries her name, Anna. And in my heart forever.

It is at this time of year when my thoughts often turn to this gentle woman. And whenever I think of her, and of the special times we shared, I am reminded once again that wealth is not measured by the size of one's estate at the end of life's journey, but rather by the splendid memories and moments collected along the way.

JWR contributing columnist Dayle Allen Shockley is a Texas-based author. To comment on this column, please click here.

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© 2002, Dayle Allen Shockley