My Grammy’s house always smells like Nivea cream and sugar cookies. No matter which house my grandparents have called home over the years, their home is calm and bright, like a Christmas carol all year long. Even now, the inviting aroma of her home takes me back to my childhood where she would teach me the arts of pie-crust curling and gift-wrapping and convincing me I needed to learn how to sew. “You’ll have a husband someday and what are you going to do if he needs a button sewn on to his shirt?” she would ask me. “I would buy him a new shirt,” I would reply. I was quite resistant to sewing lessons. Much to her dismay, I never did learn how to sew and she’s gasped a time or two realizing I’ve put my children’s Halloween costumes together with hot glue.
I spent a lot of time with my Grammy as a little girl. She would read and color with me. She let me try on my great-grandmother’s vintage jewelry that was kept in a wooden box with a silver latch and silk lining inside. There were colorful gems arranged in gorgeously gaudy necklaces, beaded bracelets and sparkling broaches that made me feel like royalty. On the best of days, she would take out her old book full of paperdolls from the 30’s and 40’s and let me play with them. She would instruct me how to handle the old paper and to turn each page of the book she kept them in with care and gentleness.
Making pies with her was my favorite. We worked the shortening into the flour, getting it to the right consistency so it would roll out just right. “Gold medal flour and ice-cold water are the keys to a perfect pie crust.” She explained this every time. I would watch mesmerized as she would crimp the edges ever so perfectly, so it curled all the way around. She showed me dozens of times how to do it, but my fingers never seemed to get whatever magic she possessed in her own fingertips. Store bought pie crusts were never acceptable, so I learned early on that if I were going to be like my Grammy, I would someday, have to master the art of her perfect pie crust. I am proud to say that in my 30’s, I have finally arrived in the pie department. Not only can I make a tasty and flaky homemade crust, but a beautifully curled one as well.
Recently, I sat across from a friend who asked me a question I had never been asked before.
“Jenn, where did you feel loved as a child? Who loved you? What did that feel like?”
I was taken aback. Her question was kind and invited me to reminisce and remember pieces of my childhood where it was lovely to be a little girl. Memories quickly bubbled to the surface of my dad and how he read me a Bible story every night and how I would dance on his feet in the kitchen. Of my mom braiding my hair and making my favorite cake for my birthday. My Uncle Goolie and I bouncing on old bean bag chairs together and giving me a ride on his shoulders while I would pull his hair directing him where to go. And Grammy…..she was my very first best friend.
There have been few moments where I’ve reflected on what was good and delightful about my childhood. Over the years it has felt like I was mostly invited to re-enter scenes of trauma and sort through pieces of my past in efforts to find some kind of healing. My friend’s question led me to ponder something new and different about my heart and about Jesus.
She explained to me that, if there is any goodness at all in our childhood – that if we experience any enjoyment or delight or love, that it was Jesus loving us through those people. Jesus uses our wounded and broken mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins alike to be little gifts of His grace, kindness, gentleness and love. My family was no exception. Embracing this has brought a kind of healing to my heart and story that I’ve long hoped for. My childhood, while still full of some trauma and wounds that forever pierced my heart, was suddenly rich with sparkling and beautiful moments where I was tenderly and dearly loved by those that God hand-picked to be a part of my family.
I could suddenly see my younger self dancing on the nail pierced feet of Jesus and standing over me as I attempted to crimp the edges of a pie. I saw how He let me ride on His shoulders and laughing with me as we jumped on bean bag chairs together. He was there in my Grammy and my Dad, my Uncle Goolie and my Auntie Laura. My mom and cousins and all of the precious faces that make up my family. Oh how He made His love known to me as a little girl.
If I asked you the same questions: Where did you feel loved as a child? Who loved you and what did that feel like? I’m almost certain you would share a story about a special someone, and it would sound an awful lot like Jesus.
I like to imagine that Jesus is much like my Grammy and her home. Calm and bright like a Christmas carol all year long. And smelling of Nivea cream and sugar cookies.