Today's assignment is a Childhood Memory...and it has been a struggle.
Just like yours, my memory works either in snapshots that recall stories, or in movie clips.
I just couldn't decide what to choose...
My dad's dad was named Henry Grady Jackson and my 7yo Henry is named for him. In some freaky ways, the Henry's are a lot alike: they are great drawers, they love sports, they are picky and quirky, they enjoy people (women) waiting on them, they have a distinct eye for style, they are particular about personal space, they have insane good luck, and they think too much.
I make all of these comparisons while I am clear that I never knew Papa J (Henry Grady) very well. While his health was good, we were allowed around him with strict boundaries. Later he had Parkinson's disease, and as it progressed, Papa J softened and told us more stories about his childhood and WWII and architecture school. Mama J filled in the gaps, but the facts came from Papa J.
I remained in awe of him, as I was dutifully taught to do as a child, and loved feeling that awe turn to respect as he grew older and let us know him better. I am so proud my first born bears some of his name.
Most of my memories of him are snapshots.
My first memory of all was right before I turned 3 years old and I got to ride in the moving truck with Papa J to the top of the hill on our new street so he could turn the big truck around at the top and have it facing the correct direction to unload our possessions to our new house.
At this point, I want to claim that this is my memory. I am not sure of its accuracy. According to my dad and family systems theory (I think), all memory is construct. Duh.
That phrase, "all memory is construct" is so annoying to me because what isn't construct? Experience of time? Interpretation of reality?
I don't want to argue the truth (or Truth) in an experience of reality. I just want to live it, learn from it, and experience grace.
So here are my graceful snapshots that I need you to visualize in lieu of actual photos:
Papa J always clapped his hands when he saw his grandkids. He clapped them into a closed-fingered clasp - as if he were catching lightning bugs.
Then he'd bend down and hug us.
Papa J always had a pocket full of change so he could give each of us grandkids a quarter on Sunday mornings. We'd take our quarter and ride the elevator downstairs to get a 6 ounce (that's small) Sprite from the old school vending machine. Then we'd ride the elevator back upstairs and check with Mama J that she had put money in the basket next to the doughnut boxes so we could get a doughnut.
I would get a cake doughnut and eat around the sides (like an apple) then peel the "skin" out of the middle, then put the whole white cake part in my mouth quickly because it was time for Big Church.
When we got to the sanctuary (a.k.a. Big Church) Papa J would already be in the balcony. He would sit on the end of the pew so he would have to stand up or turn funny so we could get past him. I remember thinking that if I were sitting on the end, I would have to move to the middle of the pew. But he gets to stay on the end. My mom said it was because he had longer legs; he needed to stretch them into the aisle. Whatever.
By that point I was focused on the fact that Mama J had mints in her purse - the white kind with the blue circle in the middle. If I doodled on my bulletin long enough, then she would pass the whole roll down the pew, and back.
Sometimes Papa J would hold my hand in church - not in a closed-finger clasp, but with threaded fingers. The way his fingers threaded mine hurt and made the tips of my fingers fall asleep, but I never pulled away or said anything because I realized this was his way of reaching out, connecting, and I didn't know how to process love languages at that age. But I recognized it was important.
Sometimes after the eternally long Big Church service, we would go to Mama J's for lunch. Here is where my memories of Papa J stop.
Many of my memories of Mama J begin here: her fretting over starting the rolls cooking on time, getting the casseroles out in the right order, who was sitting where, who would clean up, etc.
Papa J retired from these fretful deliberations to his chair and remote control. And I knew not to interrupt, somehow.
I cherish what I do know of him, especially when Henry and Svea ask questions.
I wish I had more pictures, but am satisfied tonight with my constructed memories of how he shaped my Sunday mornings.