I was blessed, beyond measure, to have two phenomenal women as my grandmothers. On Friday, October 7, 2011, it will be 33 years since my maternal grandmother (pictured on the left) was laid to rest, and on the very next day, it will be one year since my paternal grandmother (on the right above) went to sleep in the Lord. I was in 9th grade when my "Grandmommy" was taken from me, and at the ripe ole age of 45 when "Miss T" died.
THELMA BEATRICE BROWN MOUZON. My maternal grandmother was a powerhouse in a lot of ways and quite literally, was "larger than life". The quintessential "preacher's wife", she was known throughout the South Atlantic Conference of Seventh-day Adventists as "Mom Mouzon". Even three decades after her death, if someone finds out that I am a "Mouzon", I am regaled with stories of her warm smile, sunny disposition and wonderful cooking. As a child born to military parents, I spent a lot of my childhood away from my grandparents, but every time we would head "home" to visit them, I knew my grandmother would wrap me in her loving arms and bury me in a monster hug, face planted smack in her very ample bosom. My memories of my maternal grandmother are firmly entrenched in the sights, smells and sounds of her kitchen. I remember going to visit her in Atlanta (on Wisteria Lane) or in Savannah in the big ole house with the wraparound porch that would become my home for a few months during 1978 and walking into the house and knowing that love would be shown through some sweet potato pie, a bowl of potato salad, a big pot of grits, or a mess of greens. When my parents divorced, my maternal grandmother was the one who was instrumental in making sure that my brother and I remained in contact with my paternal grandparents. I will forever to be grateful for the counsel she gave my hurting and grieving mother because it allowed me to have the rich and full experience of knowing my "other" grandparents for myself -and not through stories told by others. When my mother remarried in 1978, my brother and I were displaced for six months as she moved to New York to prepare a place for us. My maternal grandparents took us into their home in Savannah, GA. I am sure my grandmother was not prepared for the rambunctious tomboy that I was at the time, but she took it all in stride - even when I came home from school with a black eye due to an accident with a steel pole on the school playground. I think she thought I was going to be a demure "girly-girl" like my mom - boy, was she wrong! Even though my grandparents were vegetarians, I remember her "allowing" Kevin and I to go to the KFC down the street for chicken when Rediburgers were no longer enough - and I remember her prayers for me as I struggled to adhere to the "rules" of being a young person growing up in the Adventist faith. I graduated from 8th grade while in Savannah and I don't know who was prouder of my academic accomplishments - my mom or my grandmother. I never saw my grandmother again after I left her house in Savannah. Shortly after we moved to NYC, my grandmother succumbed to cancer. My grandmother taught me love of family, compassion for others and an appreciation for Jesus Christ (although, I was too young at the time to know that is what she was teaching me.) I have been alive twice as long without her physical presence than I was with her presence. Recently, I was told, "you know, you look just like your grandmother." At first, I was taken aback, but it makes sense. My mom looks like her mom and we all know I look like mine, so I guess I do look like my grandmother. That is not a bad thing - she was a beautiful woman, inside and out. I look forward to meeting her again when Jesus returns. I hope she will be proud of the woman I have become.
THOMASINA CYNTHIA PURCELL SMITH (aka "Miss T"). It is unbelievable to me (in some ways) that it has been a year since my paternal grandmother died. And yet, in others, it is hard to believe that it has ONLY been a year. Where my "Grandmommy" was sugar and sweetness, Miss T was definitely a "Hard Rock Charlie" who didn't suffer fools lightly - especially if the fool in question was her first born and only grand-daughter. Anyone who knows me knows that from the time I left home at age 17 until just a few weeks before her death, every Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m., my grandmother and I had a weekly telephone call. EVERY SUNDAY! It didn't matter where I was in the world - even if I told her that I probably would not speak to her on Sunday - somehow, we always managed to connect on Sunday mornings. From the outside, my grandmother seemed tough as nails, but I learned from all our conversations, that her standoffishness was really smoke and mirrors, and in a lot of ways, more about protecting herself than about preventing others from getting too close. When I was a little girl and getting on my mother's nerves with my precociousness and smart-alecky attitude, her "insult" to me was the admonishment that I was "just like [my] grandmother." That would usually stop me dead in my tracks and I would straighten up and fly right - at least for an hour or so. Miss T also was an amazing cook and probably more than anyone else, taught me how to cook and spawned my love for good food and the preparation thereof. Many times, especially after my grandfather passed in 2001, I'd get a phone call on Thursday night with the question, "What are you cooking for Sabbath dinner?" After I would tell her what I had in mind, she'd say, "That sounds good, I think I'm going to cook that too." Another prayer warrior in my life, I grew up in the knowledge that my grandparents were praying for me, calling me by name, three times a day. I miss having that in my life now, but the knowledge of all her prayers in the past will help sustain me in the years ahead. I still wake up every Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m., and there have been a few occasions when I have reached for the phone before I remember that calling that old Florida number will not have the same result. Every time I walk into the DeKalb Farmers Market, I remember the absolute joy she had in exploring the market during her visits to my home in Atlanta. And I cannot eat SuperLinks (a vegetarian hot dog) without thinking of her.
This weekend is going to be rough - remembering both of them. So, I have packed it FULL of activities to keep my mind busy and occupied. But even as I journey through the weekend ahead, I will remember and focus on the fact that I was blessed with two amazing Christian grandmothers who showed their love for me in vastly different ways - but each in the best (and only) way she knew how. I am a better woman because of what they sowed into my life for 13 and 45 years respectively. I trust that they are both asleep, awaiting the promised resurrection of the saints at the return of Jesus Christ. I know that they would both be disappointed beyond measure if I was not "one of the number" that meets Jesus in the clouds at His return. I, therefore, must strive (every day) to live my life in such a way that I don't disappoint them.