A Memory Shared Over Southern Living

September 30, 2015 | By | Comments (17)

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She’s metallic tubes of red lipstick scattered on an antique dressing table. She’s a John Grisham novel, a mandarin orange cake, and an episode of West Wing. She’s a mink coat, a weekly trip to the beauty parlor, and garden of yellow day lilies. She’s a single mother – widowed by a tormented alcoholic – turned corner-office victor, local leader, and courtroom mainstay. She’s a second glass of champagne and a second chance at love.

Our hearts were as warm as the Manhattan pavement when she visited last summer, but the cobwebs of her mind were as tangled as a Subway map. She didn’t recognize the blue sectional or distressed white bureau that had migrated from her Lakeland, Georgia den to my Upper West Side Apartment. The pink Depression Glass she and grandpa lovingly collected from auctions and antique shops on the Florida state line – which now decorates on my mantle and coffee table – didn’t ignite a response. Twice she forgot my dad’s name. One morning, unable to distinguish ritual from pain, she slurped her hot coffee down so quickly her mouth blistered.

Our last night together, she sat on the edge of my bed and rustled through a handbag of tissue and cough drops and crumbled receipts. A smile on her face, she pulled a menagerie of mismatched clip-on earrings from the bowels of her purse and stacked them in the palm of my hand. I asked her where she’d worn them and which pairs were from grandpa – but her crippled words couldn’t find the memories.

She waited, expectant as a schoolgirl, when I said I also had a gift for her. Jewels clutched safely in my fist, I moved a magazine from my bedside table and placed it in her lap. Her socked feet swaying gently over my baseboard, she considered the glossy cover with absent indifference.

“Do you remember this magazine?” I asked her. “You and grandpa used to read it every month. It sat on your…”

Her attention, like my words began to trail off.

Desperate for a glimpse of the severe woman I simultaneously admired and feared in my youth, I opened the book and pointed to tiny typeface on an early page.

“You see that, Nana?” I pleaded. “My name’s on that page.”

Brow furrowed, she moved the masthead under her nose. Eyes, slowly scanning the page, lingered on the last name we’d once shared. Marking the spot with one hand, she closed the magazine with the other. With one finger, she traced the S of Southern and the L of Living on the cover. Recognition flickered like the headlights outside my window.

She returned to the masthead and, once again, found my name. A wrinkled smile opened a floodgate of tears. She grabbed my hand and squeezed it.

“That’s you.” She said. “That’s my Macy.”

To her, it didn’t matter if the word assistant fell before my name. She knows that the days she’ll still recognize my face are fleeting, but she doesn’t mind that I’ll spend these days a thousand miles away working and socializing and exploring. I’d like to think she understands why I wasn’t there for her last weekend, when she left her home and dressing table and garden and – with only a faded duffel bag and artificial potted plant in tow – moved into a shared room behind the locked doors of a nursing facility.

Nana never showered me with the kisses and cookies and forgiveness a grandparent traditionally shares with her son’s little girl. When my peers were asking for American Girl dolls, Nana gave me a series of books about an iconic boy wizard. While friends and cousins spent summer weekdays in swimming pools, Nana placed me behind a typewriter in her courthouse office, my imagination for company. Instead of a vacation to Disney World, Nana took me to Ireland. She encouraged me to move faster, think harder, and dream bigger.

I wish I could thank her for sharing the strength and tenacity I strive to mirror every day. I wish I could thank her for cultivating my ambition and determination, and for instilling in me a thirst that only the Concrete Jungle can quench. Unfortunately, now that I’m finally old enough to appreciate the tough love that propelled me into fulfillment and happiness, I can’t communicate my appreciation in a way Nana’s disease-ridden mind will understand.

I comfort myself with the memory of a tall, confident, silver-haired woman, holding my hand at the post office. She checked her mail, throwing envelopes and sale circulars into the garbage haphazardly. But once each month, when Southern Living was delivered, she’d pass it gingerly into my hands.

“Carry that one carefully,” she’d say. “It’s going on the coffee table.”

Today, a nurse will deliver her morning pills, a cup of ice cream, and the October issue of Southern Living. I’d like to think it’ll sit on her bedside table – where my copy sits, too. And I’d like to think that each time she looks at it, she knows just how much I appreciate and love her.

COMMENTS

  1. Jane Wrye Sirmans

    I will never forget – such beauty – inside & out . . .

    December 28, 2015 at 7:33 pm
  2. Ginny Neugent Carver

    Macy,
    You have such a gift with your words and you have truly honored Aunt Martha. You described her perfectly. I remember spending a lot of time with her and Uncle Vick as I was growing up. She was always a powerful inspiration. As she did with you, she would always gift me books & they together would gift me photography magazines. They would always tell me to follow my dreams with photography. I wish they could see me now. lol. I am so glad that they were able to instill in you those great lessons to help you be come a well spoken lady & talented writer. I am sure that somewhere in those webs in her mind, she knows the lady you have become & is extremely proud of you.

    November 3, 2015 at 12:17 am
  3. Jackie Garvin

    Macy,

    I’ve never read a more touching, heart felt, and loving tribute to a loved one. Your Nana’s influence in your life is evident in every word in this article. I’ve bookmarked this post and will read it often. You and your Nana are blessings to each other.

    October 28, 2015 at 11:03 am
  4. Amy Talbott

    What a great story! I’m a third generation Southern Living reader and I’ll always remember the copies of the magazine sitting on my grandmother’s coffee table.

    October 6, 2015 at 8:55 pm
  5. Diane Amick

    What a lovely way to commemorate your love for your grandmother and for Southern Living. They will be locked together in all of our minds for a long time. Well done.

    October 3, 2015 at 10:30 am
  6. Jane Ferguson

    Beautifully written, Macy…..such a loving tribute!

    October 3, 2015 at 9:02 am
  7. Melinee Fernandez

    Touching tribute to an iconic women from Lanier County. I left after high school but always feel connected through my subscription to Southern Living.

    October 2, 2015 at 9:57 pm
  8. Margie Sirmans

    We love you, Macy!❤

    October 2, 2015 at 1:21 pm
  9. Debbie Frazier Mosier

    Macy,

    I’ve known your family all my life, and your words brought tears streaming down my face.

    The Martha that I remember so well is dignified, sometimes stoic when the occasion called for it, but also ready to share a quick smile when discussing something (or someone) dear to her heart. Her grandchildren were those that always brought a smile, along with her Vic, and his art. It saddens me so much to know that such a swift mind has been brought down by this awful disease. Just imagine her thoughts as being in a place where she was happiest….

    Your tribute was beautiful….thank you so much for sharing your Nana. She loves you, as well as her children and other grandchildren from the depths of her soul.

    October 1, 2015 at 2:41 pm
  10. Sheila Walker

    I lost my dad to this dreaded disease. I understand the pain and loss. You have a legacy from your nana that will carry you for life. So precious and illuminating are your words. The pain that I feel is difficult to express but you captured my thoughts. Thank you and God Bless you.

    October 1, 2015 at 11:59 am
  11. Toni LaChine

    Beautifully said. Peace be with you and your Dear Grandmother!

    October 1, 2015 at 10:45 am
  12. Sandy Colston

    Macy,
    This was a beautifully written tribute to your grandmother. Your writing is captivating and I know many, including your grandmother, are so very proud of you.

    October 1, 2015 at 7:28 am
  13. Susan

    I loved this blog. So touching.

    September 30, 2015 at 10:23 pm
  14. Pat Miller

    I loved Martha and after I came to Lakeland and Dr. John, my husband died, we went to Ray’s Mill Pond many times…She would come to my house or I would go to the country for her…We laughed lots riding country roads and eating fried fish…..A fun loving lady and you have posted a great tribute to her…
    ….Pat Miller

    September 30, 2015 at 7:59 pm
  15. Lexie Clutter

    A stunning tribute that is beautifully articulated, giving the reader entre into the writer’s soul. I want to read more of her writing

    September 30, 2015 at 7:50 pm
  16. Linda Hays

    Macy
    You captured Martha perfectly!!! What a wonderful lady., always a favorite of mine I learned a lot from her!!! I know she is so proud of you even though she isn’t able to communicate as well I have to believe she knows her Macy!!! Wonderful article about a grand lady I love and admire very much…

    September 30, 2015 at 6:08 pm
  17. Zellna Shaw

    Macy…you brought tears streaming down. One day, I pray, someone will find a cure for this devastating disease. I love her too.

    September 30, 2015 at 5:17 pm

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