One of the earliest memories I have of Memere is when my brother Matthew locked himself in the bathroom at her house. While I was outside the bathroom door, crying because I thought Matthew was going to starve to death, Matthew was stuck on the inside, laughing and dancing. I remember this story so well, because Memere loved to tell it. She thought it was the cutest thing ever and — whenever she talked about it — she’d laugh. And I loved it when Memere laughed. So we’d tell that story often, and relive the day that my brother was having a dance party in her bathroom.,.and I was being the typical, protective sister.
Nearly every other memory revolves around food, as my sister so accurately put it. Memere was an amazing cook, and everything she made was perfect. Even the Bugles she’d serve to us kids in a metal bowl somehow tasted so much better. But I mostly remember the crusty, homemade bread with cheese whiz, the strawberry milkshakes, the macaroni and cheese with little hotdogs, and the assortment of tantalizing desserts that could put Starbucks to shame. In fact, when I was engaged to be married, I was always tempted to starve myself on the days I visited Memere, because you couldn’t say ‘no’ to her cooking. Even if you tried, somehow, a donut would find its way onto a plate in front of you. And once you had one whiff of the nutmeg and fried dough, there was absolutely no going back. Suddenly, fitting into a dress wasn’t half as important as enjoying that homemade perfection.
I remember her turning on the country music station so that she, Matthew, my sister Sarah, and I could dance in the kitchen. I remember walking down the hill in her and Pepere’s backyard so that we could check out the garden… and maybe try some fresh pea pods. I remember trips to the hen farm for fresh eggs or going strawberry picking. I remember her helping me pick out my wedding dress and her finding the perfect tiara… the one I wore on my wedding day.
I wonder how Thanksgiving will ever be the same without her hovering over my dad’s shoulder and telling him that he’s carving the turkey wrong. It was their tradition. Every year, she’d ask my dad to carve the turkey, just to she could tell him that he was doing it wrong. Memere loved to tease! And my dad would take it like a man, because it was their thing and it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it. As she scolded him, she’d have a small grin on her face, because I think it was one of her favorite parts of Thanksgiving.
There are a lifetime of memories that are flooding through my mind, sometimes threatening to make me cry. And today I need to go back to the office to get some things done before being absent for the remainder of the week. So I can only pray that I won’t suddenly burst into tears until I leave at 5pm.
It all feels like a dream. And one of the hardest things is seeing Pepere all alone. Tomorrow would have been their 54th wedding anniversary. But we’re all here for him now, and we all know that Memere no longer has to go for radiation and no longer has to deal with cancer. So even though it makes us cry right now, we can find strength in the memories and just be grateful to God that we were able to know her.
Because we love her… always.