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Special Ordinary

Recently I saw a “poll” on Facebook that asked, “What special thing did your mom cook that makes you think of her?” Though I did not respond, it did make me think.

I thought about all of the special dishes my grandmother would make, and how many of those were passed on to my mom: pecan pie, macaroni and cheese, chocolate cake, fried chicken, and biscuits. They were all great special dishes, but then I realized that the one dish that will always remind me of my grandmother was none of those (well, maybe the macaroni and cheese).

It was cornbread—regular, old, ordinary cornbread. She made it most meals—from scratch. She could whip up a batch in minutes and have it in the oven. Many times it was in place of bread. Cornbread went with anything.

Cornbread was for ordinary events; everyday, no special occasion meals. It was for special dinners as well: holidays, family gatherings, meals of separation, funeral meals of sadness and loss. It was part of my grandmother’s presence.

As an elder law attorney, I think that many parents would be surprised at what their children tell me about them. Oh sure, I get the occasional “Dad had a huge farm.” “My parents accumulated wonderful wealth.” “Mom had a doctorate degree,” and so on. But let me share with you what I hear that is so heart felt.

“Mom fixed a wonderful breakfast every day.” “Dad came to all of my sporting events.” “Mom was always there for us kids.” “Mom and Dad were there for me when I went through a divorce.” “Dad always took time to talk with me.” “Sundays were always a family day.”

These were a lot of very ordinary things that became special—special ordinary things.

I wonder if there are some special ordinary things I do? I know some items my children would point out about their mother: She is always, always there for them in times of crisis; she would go to battle for them like an aggravated badger; and she always made her bed, even at someone else’s house or in a hotel. And the boys all learned from these very special ordinary things.

The original title of this column from years ago, was originally “Grays Matter.” You matter. The lessons you teach from example matter. Some of the ordinary things you do will become special to your family when they recall you. Special ordinary things—like just loving them, fixing dinner, providing for them while growing up.

My grandmother has been gone about 10 years, and my mom about 20. There is so much I appreciate about them now that perhaps I didn’t when they were alive. I know that many life lessons I learned from them I did not realize until they were gone, and I have had time to contemplate what they would do in certain circumstances, guiding me by their examples.

If you have someone “gray” in your life, before they go think of those “special ordinaries” they have given you and thank them. If you are a “gray,” remember so many of those ordinary things will become special and you should be proud of that.


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