Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Wish" You Were Here

Ask me who my hero is. Go on. Ask me.

I guarantee you it isn't who you're thinking. It's not John Calipari or John Wall or even a certain "6'6" senior from Modesto, California." It's not Dorothy Fields or Kristin Chenoweth or Amy Grant, though, for the record, I REALLY like her. A lot. No, no. Though I have great affection for each of the people listed above, not one of them is my hero. My hero is actually my grandmother, Mayme. There are exactly 6,007 reasons why Mayme is my hero. Not the least of these is the fact that she always kept Reese's Cups hidden in a kitchen drawer that my parents didn't know about but that my sister, cousins, and I did.

Though I think of her every day, Mayme's been on my mind even more than usual today. It's the 14th anniversary of the day that she died. Oddly, in a lot of ways, I don't even feel like she's gone. For instance, I have yet to turn onto Riverside Drive without fully expecting to see her there. With an ashtray on the ground beside her, she's standing on the blue astro-turf of her side porch, waving gleefully as my family drives up, and I still have an impulse to call her whenever something good happens in my life. In fact, I lost count of the times I thought, "Wonder what Mary Alice would think of this?" during UK's most recent basketball season (DeMarcus Cousins' buzzer-beating save at the 2010 SEC Tournament would've had her screaming "Slamma damma!" loud enough for all of Greenup County to hear!). Yep. My Mayme has proven a hard habit to break - and one that I hope I never do. I hope I never forget to remember her. How can I?

I remember her freezer, stocked with Pudding Pops and boxes of lima beans, which she made me eat, though I begged her not to. I remember the way she hooted like an owl when she laughed really hard. I remember that she made the best grilled cheese sandwiches on the planet and how, this one time, she dealt me a king-high straight when we were playing seven card stud. I remember riding my brand new Barbie bicycle (with the ginormous basket!) on the cracked concrete of her driveway and laying on her sofa watching "The Carol Burnett Show" while she "drew" on my back with her fingertip. I remember telling her "Don't forget to powder me!" after every bathtime. And that she loved McDonalds as much as I did. And that she always wrote me letters. And that she invented a method of sleeping "sideways," so that she could accommodate both my sister and me beside her in her tiny, full-sized bed.

I remember so many things about my Mayme, each one another reason why she remains my hero, 14 years after her death. If I had to sum her impact up in a single word, it would be "magic." Mayme made everything magical. To me, she was a cross between Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse and snow cones and bubblegum balls (which, by the way, she couldn't chew because of that trick tooth she had; she also didn't eat chicken for reasons I still don't know. That said, however, the woman loved her some Krispy Kreme donuts).

One of the most magical things about Mayme was the way she celebrated Christmas. I'm not sure what she'd say about this, but for her five grandchildren, holiday preparations officially began on the day the annual Wishbooks arrived from Sears & J.C. Penney's. Sissy, our cousins, and I would plow through the toy sections of each. Without hesitation - or consideration of budgetary constraints - we'd mark them up, each circling our hearts' desires until both books looked like Coach Hall's clipboard during the Louisville game. "Yes, Mayme," my overzealous wish-listing seemed to say. "If it's all the same to you, I'd like a Cricket doll, that My Little Pony bed tent, some skis (in case we ever go back to the mountains), a life-size Rolls Royce battery-powered ride-on toy, some Get in Shape, Girl leg warmers, the Barbie Dreamhouse, some Camp Beverly Hills clothes (so I can FINALLY look as cool as Lori), Cabbage Patch Kid Twins, a Rainbow Brite vanity, some walkie talkies (since Sissy won't let me share hers), a real-life cash register, a pinball machine, the hot pink electric guitar that looks like the one on "Jem," another Fold-Away Play Tunnel, a swingset (since Daddy never finished putting together the one you got us last year), a carriage-style baby stroller, and, oh yes, the Castle Greyskull."

In retrospect, I am amazed at how unashamedly we asked for way more than any kid should ever get on Christmas. I am also amazed that our parents let us get away with it. And I am even more amazed at the fact that, without exception, all five of us fully expected to get every single gift we'd asked for. After all, if she could take us to Camden Park several times each summer, our magical Mayme could make anything happen.

I was reminded of this feeling of reckless expectation while listening to the radio Monday morning. The Family Life Today program was highlighting a new book called "A Praying Life." The author, Paul Miller, was talking about cynicism in prayer, which immediately piqued my interest, as I am embarrassingly guilty of cynicism in prayer. I definitely know that prayer works. In fact, in some facets of my life, I am a resolute prayer warrior who takes more pride than I should in "acknowledging Him in all my ways." Praying about other things, however, comes a lot harder. Too many "hopes deferred" have made my "heart sick." As a result, cynicism grows where hope should spring eternal. Asked by the program's host how to combat this sort of cynicism in prayer, Miller responded:

"Pray like a child. Pray like a child. Pray like a child."

Instantly, I thought of Mayme and those crazy Christmas lists. I thought about how we'd give them to her without fear that she would reject our requests. After all, this was the woman who could convince Mom and Daddy to let Sissy and I spend another week with her instead of going home with them, and she always had a brown-leather billfold full of more twenties than I had the attention span to count. A couple thousand dollars' worth of stuff we had absolutely no use for was all in a day's work!

In that moment, Miller's point was made. I began to imagine what might happen if I asked God for things as boldly as I asked Mayme for them? What if I believed in His ability to hear my prayers as deeply as I trusted her ability to fulfill my wishlist? After all, that is how we are commanded to pray. Matthew 7:7-11 says this:

7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

I made a decision right then. Instead of listening to the shouts of my inner cynic ("Kristin," he says with a snarl, "you know you're being COMPLETELY ridiculous. There's no way God will do this for you. You know it, and I know it, so just spare yourself or you'll end up as disappointed as that birthday you didn't get the Baby Heather doll you wanted so much"), I am going to choose to ask "believing I'll receive." With His help (and in submission to His will), I am going to give my requests to God with the same anticipation that I'd make my wishes to Mayme.

And as soon as He grants this one request in particular, she'll inevitably be the first person I'll want to call and tell about it.


  1. I miss her every minute of every day too!

  2. Awesome story. You really captured her! I can't believe it has been 14 years either.
    By the way, Have you slimmed down???

  3. These pictures are priceless (well, minus the one of you and John Wall of course)!

    It's easy to pick up on your love toward your Mayme in this tribute. Where would we be without out Maymes (for you) and Grandmothers (for me)? They, in the simplest way, make life better.

    I wish I could've met your Mayme.

  4. I remember the ridiculously excessive New Year's Eve parties, as well as the way she always treated me as one of hers too. She was a very special Mayme indeed. Now that I have my own children, I'll never understand how she endured all of our noise! But she was one of those rare ones who really loved it all. :)