Anne is a freelancer with a passion for writing and helping others by writing about important topics and issues.
When I think back to Christmas, the season of giving, there are a few specific memories that cloud my brain, and it kind of gets all hazy when I try to think on it, so I’m basically going to give you bits and pieces of what I know. First, I want to start by talking about Christmas, but instead, it will end talking about the idea of the word: “humbleness”, and in due time, you will understand what it means:
As defined by Dictionary.com:
- not proud or arrogant; modest
4. courteously respectful
What It Means to Be Humble
I’m standing in front of an oak coffee table, staring at this carousel. It’s small and there are tiny horses moving around and around, up and down and Christmas music is playing in the background. The gold and red paint shimmers and just next to it, I see the rainbow lights of a ceramic Christmas tree on the other side of the table. Pa-Pa is sitting in a rocking chair on the other side of the room as my brother and sister sit on the couch.
“Go on, have some candy,” he says, smiling and pointing to a box of Whitman’s chocolates, which always happens to be sitting on the coffee table in front of the couch every time we come over to visit. We look at the box eagerly, my brother and sister actually looking at the labels to see which candies are where, while I just pick up a random one and bite into it.
EW. Coconut! I think to myself. I look over at Pa-Pa, wiping my tongue on a napkin and wincing, trying to get the grains of coconut out of my mouth. He smiles and laughs and says:
“Go ahead and put it back. Pick another one you like.”
I put the half-eaten coconut candy back in the box, covered in my own saliva, and pick out another one.
I walk into the dining room and look around. The room is full of so many beautiful things. To my left, I see another old coffee table with a rotary style telephone sitting on it. When grandma babysat me on weekdays and mom called to check on me, I would talk on that phone, and I always thought it was cool the way grandma would dial mom’s phone and she would place her pretty pink fingernails in the holes and then the whole plastic piece would spin around and make this weird, mechanical noise.
A large, oriental rug covered the hardwood floor, and to my right was the huge dining room table, surrounded by China cabinets. The chandelier glistened in the lights, little, tiny crystal pieces hanging from the ceiling. Just ahead of me there was a white mantle on the wall where tons of porcelain angels sat, each one representing a different birth month. A few years later, grandma gave me the beautiful “April” angel, and I set it on my dresser in my room, often looking at it and how pretty she was, painted light pink, green, and gold designs on her dress. Labeled on the bottom it said: APRIL: Daisy, Diamond, which denoted my birthstone and flower.
I walk past the mantle into a small hallway that leads to the kitchen. To my left, I see one of those old candy dispensers, you know, the kind you see in stores where you place a quarter in it, and a handful of candy comes pouring out into your hands? Grandma is in the kitchen, but I can see her and she says: “You want some M&Ms, darling?”, motioning to the candy dispenser filled with red and green M&Ms.
I nod my head, saying yes.
Mom says, “Momma! You are going to spoil their lunch!”
Grandma smiles in that sweet way that she always does and walked past mom.
“Come on, darling,” she said, “Hold out your hands”
I held out my hands, eagerly awaiting the release of lots of red and green M&Ms into my hands.
I could smell grandma’s perfume, a beautiful, soft smell that I always loved.
I watched the M&Ms as they moved down into the dispenser and into my hands.
Then, I stuff my face with them. My hands were stained red and green, almost like I had stuck my hands in tie-dye. I had quickly discovered in my youth that the whole saying, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands,” was simply a lie.
“Go wash your hands”
I walked over to the small bathroom on the left side of the dining room, just before grandma’s mysterious closet, and washed my hands with soap and water. The sink was this peachy-pink color, and I watched the water disappear into the drain as my hands, lathered up with this soap that smelled like lavender. I turn around to wipe my hands and see the claw foot tub and turn off the light just before I leave.
“Okay, are you ready to go?” Mom says.
Grandma grabs her beige purse, and we all walk out the front door to the porch.
Sara and Steve are sitting on the porch swing, gliding back and forth. The smell of magnolias is fresh in the air, even though it’s winter. I can smell the chipped bark on the trunk of the tree. In the summertime, the big tree blooms hundreds of white Magnolias, and we sit on the porch and swing and look at all of the trees surrounding us.
We walk down the sidewalk, and my feet carefully step over the small crack where the tree has claimed a piece as its own, down to the picket fence gate, and we are out on the street of Floyd Avenue, walking down the block, ready for our adventure to Carytown, just a few blocks away from the green palace of Floyd Avenue, my grandparent’s house.
We were well on our way to our monthly ritual, lunch at Micky D’s. (McDonald’s, for those of you unfamiliar with this terminology). I would always get the Cheeseburger Happy Meal. Sometimes we ate in, sometimes we took it home, but every time, I remember that cheeseburgers never tasted so good. It wasn’t just the fact that it was the McDonald’s on Cary Street. It was more the fact that it was lunch with my grandmother, that somehow made the food taste better. The crisp, golden french fries melting in my mouth. The sweet taste of ketchup and cheese and pickles and onions.
If we were lucky enough to eat it in the small kitchen at my grandmother’s house, we were always in for more treats, even though my mom would tell her “They don’t need all of this food, mom!”. She would still let her spoil us, and spoiled we were. Sitting in that kitchen, eating burgers and fries, I would often look up at the kitchen cabinets, above to the ceramic figures that my Aunt Anne Marie made that one time she took a ceramics class, or over to the side table past the fridge where I could look at my grandmother’s collection of decorative tins, beautifully displayed across the counter, and especially beautiful on Christmas where I might see some Norman Rockwell replica paintings printed on some of the special edition tins she had or something like that. Then, while we finished eating, grandma would get up, open the freezer, and out came the Klondike bars. Those delicious ice cream bars; vanilla coated in chocolate. If we were lucky, she’d go over to the candy dispenser while we ate the chocolate off the top of the bar, and then she’d come back with spoonsful of M&Ms for us to smush and sprinkle in our ice cream, and then the game became a race as we scooped up the ice cream in our spoons, trying to finish it before all of the ice cream melted on our plates. Something about all of that has always been comforting to me.
But we weren’t talking about comfort here, we were talking about humbleness. Humbleness is a word that reminds me of my grandparents. Mostly because they taught me so much about this word, without even knowing they had. I’ll give you some examples:
Example of Humbleness
At least once a week, or once every couple of weeks, my brother, sister, and I would go to my grandparents’ house. There, we would be greeted by my grandmother’s smiling face, as we excitedly made our way into the living room, where we would work jigsaw puzzles and play bingo all afternoon. It seems like such a simple thing, but really, it was the most fun thing, and I always looked forward to it when we were there. Next to the small bathroom on the edge of the living room, there was a huge closet, just next to the hallway that led to the back of the house. My grandmother would walk over to the closet, turn on the light, and climb up on the small step ladder inside, reaching for the tons and tons of puzzles that she had for us. My favorite one was the Beauty and the Beast puzzle, but it was missing a couple of pieces, I think Beast’s face was one of the missing pieces, ironically or not, so we could never finish it. However, I still enjoyed putting it together.
Finding pieces, my sister would always go for assembling the border while I would look around at the pretty center pieces of the puzzle and try to put them together. After we played with the puzzles for a while, it would be time to play bingo, and this is where things got really exciting for us. You see, all of us would win at least once during Bingo, and when we won, my grandmother would casually walk down the hallway in the back of the house. She would be back there for several minutes, and we could hear her sorting through things, until, finally, she would come out with a toy or with school supplies for us. School supplies never looked so good and fun as when we won them at grandma’s house in a round of bingo. It was just the coolest thing to us, and I’m not even sure if it was about the gifts. What I’m sure of, though, is that my grandmother was always such a kind, caring, and humble person. She didn’t ask for much. She didn’t ask to be recognized for everything she did, and I kind of wish after all these years I could have made her something, like a plaque that said “World’s Best Grandmother” or something.
Speaking of which, there is always a memory that stays within my heart and will stay for a long time to come. If I was to tell you the exact time, the exact date, the exact moment that I became a writer, I would have to say that moment was in February of 1995, when I was in kindergarten. You see, the first teacher that really instilled a love of writing in me was Mrs. McMillan. She, too, was such a humble person, a person who loved what she did and was always smiling and happy. One day in class, she told us that we would be writing stories, so, naturally, I had a few ideas mixed up in my head that I thought I could share with the world. I walked over to the small chair in the classroom next to the computers, and she eagerly listened as I told her the story about a farmer and his wife. This story, my first story, was called “The Farmer’s Soup”. There was nothing super spectacular about it, and reading it now, I often wonder how it won a writing contest, but it did. After I finished coloring in the pictures to accompany my masterpiece, she told me we should enter it into a writing contest, and I did.
One girl in my class got first place; her story was about Christmas or something and she was a better artist than I was. I remember looking at her beautifully drawn Christmas tree and feeling a little upset that I didn’t get first place, but that didn’t last. The excitement was too much for me. When they called my name, I walked up the stage on a cloud almost, ready to receive my award, a green and white ribbon that I still have to this day. It reads: “Second Place: Henrico County Public Schools”. Nothing was better than that moment, except for what my grandmother did for me.
It wasn’t over yet. One day, we went over to grandma’s house, and she said she had something special for me. She revealed a beautiful China plate. It had three bears on it that were depicted reading books (kind of like the three bears in Goldilocks, I guess). Written underneath in gold, in my grandmother’s fine cursive handwriting, it said: “Young Author, Anne Marie Carr 1995”. It was the best gift I think I had ever gotten from anyone, aside from Christmas a few years ago, when my mother gave me the plate, specially framed in a displayed box with two pictures of my grandmother and I on either side. I about burst into tears. That’s why, at my college graduation, I wrote on my cap “You once called me ‘Young Author’ and I’m still writing”. Because I just wanted to let her know, after all these years, I hadn’t let go of my dreams. If it wasn’t for her, her love and support, I wouldn’t have been brave enough to continue my journey as a writer.
To end this chapter, I’ll leave you with one more story about my grandparents. This is about my Pa-Pa. You see, every couple of weeks, my mom would go with my grandmother to the grocery store and help her with the groceries. It was summertime, and I was sitting on the porch swing outside with my Pa-Pa, smelling the magnolia trees, watching the beautiful shadows cast down on the dirt and grass in the front yard, as my mother and grandmother made their way out to go to Ukrop’s. I had already eaten lunch and been spoiled with a wonderful piece of chocolate cake. My grandmother, knowing how much my Pa-Pa loved sweets, looked at him and said,
“Now Buddy, don’t you give her another piece of cake!”
As soon as they drove off, my Pa-Pa looked at me, and smiled in that way that he always did that kind of made me laugh, and said,
“Would you like another piece of cake, darling?”
Of course, my conscience felt guilty because I heard what my grandmother had said, not to mention my mom was always telling the both of them to stop spoiling me with sweets, so I declined, but I never forgot that memory. I never forgot how my grandfather passed down an important idea to me, and believe me, it wasn’t supposed to be ‘don’t follow the rules’. I thought more about him, and how he was thinking about me, caring enough to ask me what I wanted.
You’re probably wondering how in the world that all fits in. Well, I’m not exactly sure. To me, all of these stories remind me of humbleness because my grandparents were always so gentle and kind. I don’t think I ever saw them fight, I don’t think I ever saw them unhappy, either. They were always, so giving, so caring, and so full of life. They took great pride in family and didn’t ask for much. They enjoyed every moment with us, and I guess that’s what makes them humble. They never asked for anything in return. They never asked to be thanked for everything they did for us, all of the wonderful memories we shared together. So, I took that with me as I grew, although I have struggled with the word “humbleness” as the year go on, I try to appreciate it. Appreciate everything I have, be courteous, respectful to others and believe that everything is as it should be, always, because I know I have my grandparents, smiling down on me, watching me every step of the way.
© 2022 Anne Marie Carr