Happy Birthday, MAwmaw!
My grandmother will celebrate her 85th birthday on Monday. She will be the first to tell you that my love of reading did not come from her, but she does read her Bible daily and the paper on Thursdays. So, I am writing a public ode to the strongest, most practical, honest to a fault and beautiful woman I know. Nathalee Autry Hodge Brooks, you are my favorite!
I have been fortunate enough to know both sets of my grandparents, a both sets of maternal great-grandparents and one paternal great-grandmother. I have treasured photographs of these people, some of whom my children were blessed to meet. I don’t take the memories of any of these for granted, but on “MawMaw” Nathalee’s birthday, I’ll just talk about her.
From childhood, I was fascinated by her Royal typewriter, but I knew not to touch it. She left paper in it and sometimes I broke the rules. I am quite positive she never noticed it because pushing those keys did NOT leave a mark on the paper. Right. The temptation was simply too strong! She worked for years as the cafeteria manager for Coffeeville High School. The typewriter was for her monthly inventory or “book work” as she called it. She was meticulous about the “book work” and a good steward of every resource that ever came through her hands through work or in her personal life. That typewriter still fascinates me.
I hated penmanship in second grade. I cried over cursive, but I loved the flourishing, looping strokes with which MawMaw wrote. Her grocery list, ever present on a steno pad on her bar (to this very day) motivated me to practice and practice and practice.
The steno pad on the bar is evidence of her practicality. One side is for groceries. One side is for household items like toothpaste and trash bags. The notepad and pen are always found right at the end of the bar and she writes things down as she runs out of them. Her children and grandchildren learned quickly that there are other pens and notebooks in the house. The steno and its pen stays put!
In the days before cordless phones, MawMaw had one phone in her house, again practical. She could only talk on one at a time! That phone was centrally located at the end of the hall, right across from the bedroom where my sister and I slept when we stayed with her. Without fail every Saturday morning, Mrs. Merle Hicks would call. Lots of people have memories of Mrs. Merle, but no one remembers her being a quiet person! My sister would put her head underneath her pillow and mutter. I just listened to both sides of the conversation.
Ulcanush Baptist Church is where my grandmother has worshipped for decades. Her parents were involved there. She still goes as often as she can. Even if she can’t physically be there, she sits in her home and reads the Sunday School book during the time allotted for Sunday School. A couple of years ago, I noticed that she had gotten a new Bible. She told me that her other one was “wore out” because it got used every day for many, many years. That statement will never leave my brain.
My grandmother is not a huge fan of makeup. If I had looked like Vivien Leigh, I probably wouldn’t be either! However, lipstick is something she rarely goes without. Her lipstick collection is another thing that has always fascinated me. I can remember the long row of tubes in vibrant shades of red and bright pinks. She still has a nice collection.
Life has not always been kind to MawMaw, but she has always chosen to be kind, no matter the circumstances. She raised three children as a single mom on a limited income. Their needs were always met and they never doubted their mother’s love. She forgave their father and made memories with him and with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren before his death. That is a kindness and strength that is so rare!
With limited space, thank you, MawMaw for peanut butter cookies, hidden chocolate in the fridge, birthday cards, weekly phone calls and your prayers. Happy Birthday!
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Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.