An Expat’s Memories from Home

(This post was originally published on this website in February, 2007)

Homemade chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven …

A squeaky rocking chair, slowing swaying in the wind …

Your favorite story, read lovingly at your bedside every night, until you are old enough to read it yourself …

Memories of a grandmother.

These are memories of a grandmother, I am sure, but they aren’t my memories and they aren’t of my grandmother.

Missing Home: A Biproduct of Expat Life
My grandparents at our wedding in November 2007

As the oldest granddaughter of a woman with 29 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, I was denied the luxury of grandparents whose lives revolved around me. My cousins, my sister, and I took turns staying at Maw Maw and Paw Paw’s house, because there just wasn’t room in that 2-bedroom house in the “forest” for all of us at once.

We didn’t have grandparents who paid a down-payment on a car for us, or helped put us through college, or even always remembered our birthday, but we have so much more.

Our Thanksgiving Dinner could never consist of a turkey, dressing, potatoes, and pie with everyone sitting around one table giving thanks. Oh, no. Our Thanksgiving Dinner has two turkeys, a ham, a brisket, two pans of cornbread dressing, etc… , etc… , etc… , with nearly 50 people sprawled throughout the house and lawn. My grandmother makes that happen.

The family Christmas party is the same. Sometimes you don’t even see all of your cousins until they come back through the house saying their “goodbyes,” but Maw Maw is always there, with a present for everyone, even the not-quite-yet-in-laws and their kids.

She even started a Halloween tradition, almost 30 years running, so her grandchildren could safely get candy for Halloween. You see, if we got it from her, it had to be safe, and no one could have put a razor blade in the Laffy Taffy.

Homemade buttermilk biscuits.

Family shopping trips to the mall-where we always ate at the Piccadilly Cafeteria so she could get her fried chicken.

Clarence Carter’s hit “Strokin'” blasting throughout her house.

These are the memories of my grandmother.

The one who keeps my family of 50+ people together.

The one who makes sure no one feels left out of a game night or a trip to the lake.

The one who makes sure everyone has a role to play.

The one who, until yesterday, I thought was immortal.

“Call me when you get this message” was on the instant messenger from my mom.

“It is hardening of the lungs, and it is in both of them,” she said.

“The doctor said there was nothing he could do.”

I wasn’t immediately saddened by this news. Whether it was denial, or ignorance, I don’t know, but I feel like the doctor was probably wrong. There is something he can do. There has to be.

The thought of my Maw Maw not being able to breath properly is … suffocating. The idea of my Paw Paw’s agony upon hearing the news … unbearable. The suggestion that my grandmother won’t be at my wedding, won’t see my children, won’t take the trip to Italy we were just planning … it’s too much.

So instead, I will think about the Sunday Evening dance she would do for us.

How nervous she was the first time she served wine during Mass.

The True Crime magazines piled beside her chair.

These thoughts are a little easier for me to live with … at least for now.

*Update: January, 2010. My grandmother is still living with her illness and we recently celebrated an absolutely beautiful Christmas at her home in Texas.*

10 Responses
  1. sognatrice

    Cherrye, I’m so sorry to hear this. I was very close with my grandmother, which you can probably tell from my blog archives, and I’m still missing her five years after she passed. Thoughts and prayers are headed your way đŸ™‚

  2. j

    My sympathy Cherrye. Grandmothers are powerful. When my grandmother died we seemed to change from an Italian family to an American family.

  3. So sorry to hear this about your wonderful grandmother, You will, as other friends has said, have such lovely memories. Sending prayers from the UK.

    As a child whose father was in the Forces, we did not even know our grandparents on his side, except for the occassional visit to Malta, in fact we hardly knew anyone on the his side, and now all passed except for a cousin.

    I can remember my grandmother on my mothers side, but not my grandfather who passed years and years ago, I also lost my father when I was 10, memories are not there now..but I can still remember his face. Take care x

    Thank you for your comment. I have wondered how much my nephew (who is 9) will remember of my dad.

  4. Monica

    Hi Cherrye, thanks for the precious memories you shared! I’m glad to hear your grandmother is still with you and I hope she is given some more time to spend with her wonderful family! My grandma died last year at 100, we miss her!

    Wow. 100. What a life!!

  5. Cherrye – A beautiful tribute to your grandmother. Unfortunately we all have to lose our loved ones eventually, so remember all the wonderful memories and enjoy the time that’s left with her whenever you can.

    Thank you! We area having a great time with her now in Texas!
    .-= Ciaochowlinda´s last blog ..Dinner at Le Bernardin =-.

  6. So sorry Cherrye, how very sad. My husband has one living grandmother, and she actually had 24 children, hundreds of grandchildren. They are organizing a party at the end of the month in her honor, thousands of relatives are expected. Pure insanity.

    May she enjoy her days with you and all of your family!

    I must have read you wrong … 24 children?? And I thought Peppe needed flash cards! Wow!

  7. Kelly

    Wow thank you for such a beautiful posting. Finding out someone is very sick is never easy. Choosing to celebrate them is a wonderful tribute.

    It comes at a life changing time for me so it was very helpful. My mother passed away December 22nd. I do miss her greatly. I have chosen for the last two weeks to do something similiar to what you have done here. On my Facebook I have been posting different video clips of music she loved. This upcoming week I will be posting video clips of comedians she loved. Music and laughter are two gifts she gave me and I want to share them with others.

    Thank you for always sharing yourself with us. Your blog is such a gem and treat!!

    Have a wonderful New Year Cherrye!

    Thank you for your message. I am so sorry for your loss.

  8. Judy Mancuso

    You brought tears to my eyes, but happy/sad tears. Such fond memories. My husband’s paternal grandparents both died before he was born, but, we are coming to Italy to see where they were born. Can’t wait to visit. Aloha from Hawaii!

    Thank you, Judy! Can’t wait to meet you guys.

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