One day it will be too late to “mine” these goldmines. So get in there today and dig.
Not too long ago, my brother Jeffrey heard the soft sounds of tears from another room. He went to check it out and found his 16-year-old daughter weeping with her whole heart.
“Baby, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
“I miss my grandparents.”
What makes this moment fascinating is that for her entire life, my niece has lived on the west coast of America and her grandparents have lived on the east coast — a separation of over 2,700 miles. Distance and limited resources have ensured that she has only seen her grandparents a handful of times in her short life.
Yet, her soul is old enough and wise enough to yearn for the goldmine of connection that distance has stolen from her.
This got me thinking again about my own grandparents and what I’ve lost by circumstances, distance, and premature death. Because of circumstances, I never knew my mother’s father. Because of distance, my maternal grandmother and my paternal grandfather were also lost to me. And because of death, my father’s mother will forever be a treasure chest I can never open.
What I wouldn’t do to spend just 24 hours with my maternal grandmother and “mine” the goldmine of my mother’s herstory. My herstory.
Mary Mathilda Lavinia fell into her final sleep on April 25, 1990. I was at work. I can’t remember what I wore last Wednesday. But I do remember clearly what I was wearing that fateful day when my mum called with the news: a two-piece, purple floral peplum dress from Lord & Taylor and my favorite navy slingbacks.
I immediately got up from my desk and rushed to the bathroom for a bit of privacy. Once there, I cloistered myself behind the wooden door of an executive bathroom stall — and I wept. I wept as if my heart was breaking open.
Recently, I was taking my morning shower and a faded memory came back to me vividly.
I can see my grandma sitting at our kitchen table with her legs crossed so that her left ankle was resting just above her right knee, forming a figure-four shape. She had one arm on the table and the other crossed over it, holding a cup of tea. There was a certain peaceful look on her face, and she was humming something softly.
I know it’s early morning and it is just after her morning devotion with her Lord. This memory had been lost to me until that moment.
Sadly, my grandma lived far, far away in the Caribbean, so we saw too little of her. But now I fervently wish I had been a little older or wiser. Then, I would’ve taken full advantage of the times I did have the privilege to be in her company to really get to know the girl and the woman she was.
But if I could just have 24 more hours with my grandma, I would relish her company and ask so many questions. Questions like:
- What did you dream of and hope for as a girl?
- After the Lord, who is the great love of your life?
- Who or what broke your heart and what mended it?
- What are your disappointments?
- What are your darkest fears?
- Who taught you to cook and bake like nobody else?
- What was your favorite memory from your childhood?
- What was it like to struggle as a woman on your own in a time when life was more unkind and unforgiving to women?
- Who do you still miss with all your heart?
- How did you overcome the heartbreak of losing a baby?
- What is your favorite color?
- How did my mum come to be?
- What was my mum like as a child?
It makes me blue that I don’t know these fundamental details about a woman that is woven into the fabric of my existence.
I would also ask her to tell me about washing and bleaching the lettering from beige-colored flour sacks on a stone heap under the blazing Caribbean sun until they were white as untrodden snow to make shirts for her boys.
And how she felt as she cut a single apple in five wedges to share between herself and her four children.
I would beg her to teach me the secret to making her unforgettable, fragrant, cinnamon coconut tarts with the sweet, moist filling and the tenderest, flaky crust. The ones she used to send us through the mail to express her love.
Yes, in the kitchen, we would chat, laugh, and cry about the things that are so important to women.
Twenty-four hours would not be enough. But I would gladly take it and dig into that goldmine of personal herstory, knowledge, and wisdom that is mine.
Truth is, when my grandma died I lost a part of myself and a large, untold part of my human herstory.
Nevertheless, I want it written that Mary Mathilda Lavinia was more than just a date on her birth and death certificates or a date-dash-date on a headstone.
And I love you still, grandma.
Listen, our parents and grandparents are our goldmines — they are our links to our history, our past. By taking the time to get to know them intimately, we become enriched with the knowledge of not only where we come from but also why we are who we are.
So if your parents or grandparents are still here with you, do whatever it takes to sit with them in person and have a purposeful chat and make full use of your priceless opportunity to connect with them and your shared history.
In other words, “mine” your goldmine(s) and become all the richer for it.