Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Remembering Anna Estelle

Maw Maw and Paw Paw, on a rare visit to our home in 1966.

It was 43 years ago today that my sweet Maw Maw drew her last breath on this earth, surrendering herself into the arms of her Lord. I was just a child when she died, but the way she lived her life influences me still today.

To the casual observer, my paternal grandmother possessed very little. She never lived in a fancy house. Never drove a new car. The few furnishings she and Paw Paw owned were simple and modest. Yet some of my fondest childhood memories took place at the home of this unassuming woman.

I couldn't have been much older than five when Maw Maw and Paw Paw lived in a sparse house in rural Columbus, Mississippi. No indoor plumbing. An old wood stove for cooking. And only the warmth of a fireplace on winter nights.

Whenever we drove over to visit, one of my favorite activities was going with Maw Maw to the well for water. Together we would march through the grassy fields, the water bucket clanging between us like a church bell. Generally, Maw Maw whistled as we strolled—some easy tune she made up as she went—her voice soft and soothing.

When the well popped into view, I’d break into a run, the wind beating against my upturned face. Then I’d watch her slip the bucket over the side, hear the low gurgling sounds below, and stare wide eyed when the bucket surfaced, Maw Maw carefully reeling it up. Homeward we trudged, our gait slow and determined.

Over the years, Maw Maw and Paw Paw lived in a number of houses. I was entranced when they moved into a green cement-block house, with an old barn out back.

During our visits, my sisters and I spent many a glorious afternoon leaping over hay stacks and hiding from make believe enemies. We romped until the shadows gathered outside, sending us flying to the back door and into Maw Maw’s arms.

At bedtime, we gathered around for a time of prayer and hugs and kisses. Then, three sleepy heads would pile into one bed, snuggling between layers upon layers of thin flannel blankets. Even now, if I try real hard, I can summon the smell of those blankets around my face. I can remember the cold wind whistling against the windows, the dampness of the room, and how warm and snug I felt tucked beneath those fleecy covers.

In the morning, Maw Maw's humming floated through the house as she stood at the old Hoosier cabinet, rolling out plump homemade biscuits, a cloud of flour swirling about her head and lining the wrinkles in her neck.

In a little while, the call for breakfast went out. Somehow, we all managed to squeeze around a small table heavy with hot biscuits, fried eggs, white gravy, and scalding black coffee (for the grown-ups, of course).

As we settled in, Maw Maw would stroll around the table, patting each one on the back. She seemed perfectly content that everyone—except herself—had a place to sit.

On a bitter January morning in 1968, Maw Maw drew her final breath. A lifetime ago, yet she lives on: In the homemade biscuits I still create using her "recipe.” In the scrap quilt she and my mom pieced together many years ago. In her great-granddaughter who carries her name, Anna. And in my heart forever.

Maw Maw may not have possessed a lot of material things, but she taught me that it takes very little to be happy.

A version of this story first appeared in The Dallas Morning News. All rights reserved.



  1. My grandmother died in April and I just want to tell you that is a blessing to see you write about a woman who has been gone from this earth for 43 years. It gives me joy to know that she really will continue to live on in my heart forever.

  2. Great story; I love how our memories are often tied to our various senses--so much pleasure as we relive those memories--you have captured some of that right here!

  3. Ohhhhh, that was a nice story, Dayle. Great memories. Susan

  4. You are lucky to have such wonderful memories of your Grandma...I have wonderful memories of making cinamon rolls with my Grandma in Minnesota and she taught me my love of gardening. I have tried to live a simple quiet life as my Grandparents did passing on those important lessons to my children. Thanks for a lovely post!

  5. Dayle - January 19 was the 40th anniversary of my Mawmaw's death, or I should saw, her homecoming. I can still remember the simple one-bedroom apartment she and my grandfather shared, and like your memories of the blankets, I remember the fragrance of their apartment. And I too remember her homemade biscuits.

    They never had a lot of material possessions, but lived a "rich" life - a simple life.

    We are blessed to have such fond memories of our grandmothers.

  6. Dayle, I have been cleaning out my cluttered junk room to make a school/sewing room today. I ran across some cards and letters from my grandmother. I sat in the middle of all that stuff and pulled out one at a time and slowly drank them in. Then to come here tonight and read this. Yes, those memories are sweet balm to my sorrowing heart. My grandma will be gone five years this June. Miss her so much. Lovely story of your Maw Maw.

  7. Loved her very much. Wish her life could've been easier.

  8. I enjoyed reading this post so much. From personal memories I agree that it really takes very little to make one truly happy.

  9. What wonderful memories and it so great that you have written them down to have forever.

  10. What a fantastic post, Dayle. In fact, I've been loving reading through your blog posts. You write really well about so many thought-provoking things.


  11. Wonderful memories, Dayle.
    I have some of those thin flannel blankets. I treasure them. They still smelled the way they did in my childhood when I first got them.

  12. What a beautiful lady she was. Worldly possessions really mean very little to a child it is the love and beaty in a person that is remembered for a life time.

  13. i felt like i was wlking along side you in the field... just feeling the sun on my face. i have my own beautiful memories of my grandparents- 2 out of 4 still alive, but far away. i so cherish the thoughts that come flying to mind when i see a may basket or slip a clove candy into my mouth... or make do-boys for my kids. let the stories live on!


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