Today, I’d like to share a memory of my “Mam-Mam,” Ruth (Wall) Graeff with my readers .I suppose a brief introduction would be helpful in understanding why this memory is so profound in my mind. “Mam-mam” was the name given to her by her second eldest grandchild and so that is what all of the rest of us younger grandchildren learned to call her. April was the eldest grandchild, however, she called Mam-Mam “B. Mom.” I think I know where that came from but I’m really not sure, but I digress…
Mam-mam was a very loving, kind, heart-warming little old woman. She loved to sing or tell nursery rhythms, little”ditties” and bedtime stories whenever her grandchildren would spend the night at her house. I absolutely loved to spend the night at Mammy’s house as a child! The memory I’m about to share with you is about the time my Mam-Mam took me to get my hair cut. Let’s title it, “Lesson learned; haircut disaster!”
My hair is and always has been very thin. I recall how my Mam-Mam would always tell me how she preferred my hair short anytime she noticed that it was getting a bit on the long side. I was five years old when I learned a very important lesson in life simply from my Mam-Mam taking me to get my hair cut. On this particular Saturday, Mam-Mam decided to take me “uptown” to a school called Empire Beauty School to have my hair cut. Since the students performed the haircuts, the cost was much cheaper than going to an actual hair salon and getting your hair cut by a licensed hairstylist. I wasn’t given a choice in the style of how my hair was to be cut, so I graciously sat in the big chair and allowed the female student to cut my hair. Unbeknownst to me and Mam-Mam, the student chose to cut my hair, but it certainly was not a style. Upon seeing myself in the mirror when the student announced she was finished, I broke out in tears and screamed, “it looks horrible!” With that, I jumped out of the chair and ran out of the school screaming and crying the entire way.
Even though I was only five years old, my memory of what to come is very vivid. When my grandmother finally caught up to me running down the sidewalk towards home, I was still screaming and crying at the top of my lungs with huge tears flowing down my small face. I stopped and looked her in the eyes and yelled at her saying “I am so ugly now! Thanks a lot, Mam-Mam! This is all your fault, look at me!” I proceeded my terror run towards her house with the faint sound of my Mam-Mam begging me to be quiet because everyone could hear me. At that point in my five-year-old life, I didn’t care who heard me at all. I only cared about stopping in front of each store to review my reflection in the store front’s window to see if by chance some miracle was performed where what looked back at me would change. However, each window reflected the same image sparking me to launch into another burst of rage. Eventually, we made it back to her house where I sulked the entire time I waited for my mother to pick me up. When my mother arrived, being the sweet and innocent granddaughter I was, I gave my Mam-Mam a kiss and a hug, told her that I loved and forgave her for what she did to me and proceeded to walk out the front door and into my mother’s car. Could I have added any more salt to her wound?Obviously, she did nothing wrong, but there was not anyone in the world that would convince me otherwise in that phase of my maturity that if it was not for her taking me to get my hair cut, I would not be so traumatized! It seemed accurate; at the time.
It is true that the haircut was absolutely terrible. I can assure you of that 34 years later. I sincerely hope that the girl who executed such a ghastly haircut received a great amount of additional training or perhaps even chose a different profession to pursue. But what I remember most of all, beyond the haircut itself, is the expression on the face of my poor grandmother who simply was trying to do something she felt was kind and in my best interest. Her face’s expression can only be defined as that of extreme helplessness, sorrow, and guilt. I did not understand it then, but her intentions were not that of hate. How was she to know that the student was going to literally butcher my hair? There is no doubt in my mind that my Mam-Mam was more distraught over the results of my haircut than I could even begin to imagine. The life lesson learned when reflecting on this memory is that before I pass judgment on someone’s actions, I must consider their intentions of their action and their ability to change the results.
My Mam-Mam was my best friend until the day she died on June 11, 2000. I could tell her anything and she never judged me. Strangely enough, the older I get the more I am like her. She was ditsy, lacked in common sense and memory, but I never judged these things as flaws. These were simply just traits of her character and I could not be happier to possess the same traits and intentions of my beautiful Mam-Mam. In the end, she chose to die. She had been on dialysis for years and decided she was not going to go to dialysis anymore and that it was time for her to fulfill her destiny by going home to Her Father’s House! She asked my father to stay at his house to finish her time on Earth and he freely allowed her to do so. The doctors gave her 2-3 weeks before she would leave us. I spent as much time as I could with her during her last days here on Earth, but it wasn’t nearly as much time as I would have liked to have spent with her. By this time, I was 23 years old, married with a two-year-old son, a 6-year-old stepdaughter and another baby boy on the way. I had also had moved two and half hours away from my hometown in order to support my husband’s career choice.
My Mam-Mam stayed with us more than 2-3 weeks as projected by her doctors. She was nearing 7 weeks when I opened up her bedroom door at my parent’s house and realized that she had passed. I am thankful to be the person to first learn that she had passed away, because it allowed for me to have the precious time I needed without interruption from other family members to tell my peaceful Mam-Mam one last time all the things that I needed to say before I opened her bedroom door to the rest of the family to say their goodbyes.
I miss her dearly. I’m so grateful that I was able to have the time I did have with her here on earth. The way she lived her life has inspired me to live the life I live and be the person I am today.
This is just one memory of my beloved Mam-Mam and I thank you for letting me tell you about an amazing woman!