Honor System Snacks

When I was about five or six, maybe seven, I had a toy coffee maker. I am working from memory, as I haven’t seen the thing in two decades, but I remember it being very authentic in its appearance and brewing capabilities. It was an off-white color, with a real glass pot. It was smaller than a real coffee maker, so it fit nicely alongside my other toy appliances and kitchen items—a refrigerator, a stove, and a sink with a little countertop and cabinets underneath. I don’t think this first kitchen of mine came equipped with a microwave…I don’t suppose microwaves were so common at that time as to be made into toy models. I actually remember going with my parents to a now defunct electronics store to buy our first microwave. The smell of pepperoni wafted over me as the automatic doors opened to welcome us into the store. As a clever sales tactic, they were zapping up tiny “pizzas” on Triscuit crackers. A delicious memory, but I digress—

This toy coffee maker did actually produce a warm, coffee like substance. Imagine if you will a bitter, brown–tinted water. I should add that I have no recollection of what ingredient rendered the brown tint. I remember involuntarily making a “this tastes like dirty, burnt water” face with every sip, but I loved it. I loved it because Nanny drank coffee, and if Nanny did it, I thought it must be the thing to do.

Nanny was my mom’s mother, and I adored and admired her always. She was beautiful, giving, and as likely to spoil me and cater to my every whim as she was to put me in my place when necessary. As her sister, her husband, her children, and all us grandchildren can attest, she would let you know if you needed to be “brought down a notch”.

I am told that she carried me around on a pillow as an infant. Surely this is far better treatment than a crying, messy, bald-headed baby, who was a miniature version of her son-in-law, deserved.

She made Barbie clothes out of tin foil and paper towels. They were great---really edgy, couture type designs actually...

Nanny swung me in indoor hammocks by tying sheets from bed posts to door knobs. She watched scary movies with me when I spent the night at her house. Then she would have to stay with me until I fell asleep. I always enjoyed the movies while I was watching them, but would become immediately and thoroughly petrified upon going to bed and turning out the lights.

She helped me with my homework. Once. Turned out Nanny did not retain much of the math she learned in third grade.

She owned a Merle Norman Cosmetics Studio for almost 20 years. I realized as I got older what an amazingly creative and innovative business woman she was. But before her shop became my place of employment as a teenager and twenty-something, I remember it as a playground… Tons of wonderfully tacky Delta Burke style costume jewelry, blue eye shadow, and frosted lip gloss galore. And, if playing in the make-up and jewelry wasn’t enough, she had one of those snack vending boxes in the back room. An honor system type set-up---into which I never deposited a dime, from which I enjoyed many a bag of Bugles and Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies. I am pretty sure PawPaw and I were the main partakers of these snacks. I also think he footed the bill, but PawPaw is a different story line altogether. And the many bills he has footed are yet another.

We went shopping all the time. Nanny kept me outfitted in the finest clothes the 1980s had to offer. She even continued to indulge me in the 1990s, as I got older and made many unfortunate fashion decisions, most of which were inspired by MTV and Beverly Hills 90210. Now I pretty much only shop by myself. Sadly, not many people can see the need to stay in TJ Maxx for four hours, then have lunch, THEN go to the mall as Nanny and I did so often over the years.

Speaking of having lunch, this woman loved carbs. I remember her talking about sitting down to a loaf of white bread for dinner. While I never actually witnessed this epic feast, she did once whip up a bowl full of egg noodles with Stove Top stuffing mixed in. It was admittedly pretty delicious. Hello, my name is Nanny, and I will be your server. Our featured entrée this evening is bread mixed with bread…

I lived with Nanny for a little while a few years back. Though the circumstances in my life that brought this arrangement about were trying, I would not trade that time for anything in the world. By then, she was sleeping on the couch every night, because that is where she felt most comfortable. We would hang out for a little while, maybe watch an episode of Lost or one of those impossibly unrealistic Lifetime movies, then she or I would go to sleep. She was always cold and wore a little terry cloth turban type hat to bed. It was aborably endearing…

Nanny died last year. She had been in the hospital for weeks, and I had been in and out of town to visit her, as I now live three hours south of home. I know my Nanny waited on me to get there that day, and then she went. Am I placing myself too high in the priorities of a dying woman? Maybe, but this was my Nanny. I believe she waited. And selfishly, I think it would have been harder for me to cope with her death had I not been there at that moment.

It seems that around every turn, I am reminded of her, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I cherish the random memories, and find joy in all the ways that the memories come to me---thinking of my toy coffee maker, seeing an honor system snack vending display, my husband getting antsy when we stay in a store too long, walking down the bread aisle. Each reminder just makes me love her more.

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