family is story

My Blind Great-Grandmother and a Lesson in Integrity

PeachesAs I’m writing this, allowing myself to dwell on the fact that I can’t have cookies, my mind has drifted to my great-grandmother’s house and Breyer’s peach ice cream.

I love the fact that I knew and remember my great-grandmother. She was a wonderful lady whose obedience to the calling of the Holy Spirit on her life changed the trajectory of her family. When her husband passed away, she became a business owner. Together with her children, they supplied milk and ice to those living around her on Peachtree Battle in Atlanta.

Momoo as I called her, lived with my grandparents next door to our family. The 70s were definitely a different time, as I remember walking around our 40-acre property unrestricted and unsupervised even as young as four or five. This meant, I came and went from my grandparents’ house as freely as I liked.

So, I’d run up to my grandparents’ house, open the door without knocking, say “Hello,” look through their pantry and refrigerator for semi-sweet chocolate chips or Famous Chocolate Wafers or ice cream. Then, not finding any, walk through the passageway to Momoo’s “apartment” at the back of the house.

Momoo, as I believed, was blind. I think I was too young to understand how someone’s eyes couldn’t function, so I strangely envisioned the letter X over each of Momoo’s eyes. Figuring she couldn’t see me, I’d take the opportunity to jump on her bed—something not allowed at my house. She’d tell me to stop and I assumed that she’d heard the bouncing and I’d stop. Then, I’d look for the ice cream. There was no reason to bother with her pantry. The only sweet food she kept was in her freezer.

Peach ice cream.
Blech. But . . . ice cream.

I didn’t like peaches—I don’t think I’d ever even had one at that point in my life. But apparently, I didn’t need experience to prove I didn’t like them. I just didn’t.

But I liked ice cream. I liked ice cream a lot. I liked it so much that I asked Momoo for a bowl of ice cream even though it was laden with peach pieces. Once set before me, I proceeded to painstakingly remove every speck of peach from the vanilla ice cream. Once completed, I savored the vanilla ice cream.

Still thinking Momoo was totally blind, I scraped the peach pieces from my bowl into the garbage. And then I was gone—satisfied and hyped up on sugar.

One day, when I went to Momoo’s for ice cream, she didn’t have any—and she scolded me for always wasting the peaches. How did she know? Who was telling on me?

A few years later, after she passed away, I learned that Momoo wasn’t completely blind. She just couldn’t see very well. But she could see well enough to know I was extracting the peach from the ice cream. Oh, the wave of embarrassment that washed over me when I remembered all the times I thought I was getting away with something while visiting her.

I didn’t know the big word integrity when I was a child. But since I realized that Momoo saw the things I thought I was getting away with, I’ve had a sense that even when I think no one is watching my actions, someone probably is. Not in the paranoid way or the NSA way. But in the way that’s kind of kept me as a goody-goody all these years.

What did you try to get away with as a child? How did your parents or elders react?

©2013 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.
Photo courtesy of La Grande Farmers’ Market on Flickr.