Family stories...such a gold mine!

A few years before she passed away, my grandmother came up to me and, in a very serious voice, asked, "Chris, are you telling your students stories about me?" I wasn't about to lie to my grandmother, so I admitted, "Yes, Memaw, I am."

Bouncing a little bit like an excited child, she replied, "Good! As long as someone's talking about me!"

My family, like everyone else's, is a treasure trove of amusing stories. Telling these stories not only brings laughter and smiles, but help keep the memories alive of those not with us anymore, and even those that still are. I always tell these stories out of respect, because my family has a sense of humor, especially about themselves. I'm going to share my favorite example with you:

Many years ago, my parents, grandparents, sister, and I went camping at a nearby state park. It was getting late into the afternoon when my grandmother (we called her Memaw) approached me and my sister. "Hey, kids, do you want to go into town and get supper with me?"

My sister and I knew exactly where she was going: Wendy's. She was obsessed with Wendy's. I like the place, but I mean that Memaw was truly obsessed. She wrote a "Thank You" letter to Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's, for creating the 99 cent value menu! Of course, our other option was to let my father cook supper. He wasn't bad, but when he tried to use the table-top grill to cook lunch that day, he nearly caught the woods on fire. In the interest of public safety, we agreed and hopped in the car to go to Wendy's with Memaw.

There was a routine to going out to eat with Memaw. When you went through the drive-thru, you were allowed to order anything you wanted as long as it was on the value menu. I ordered a junior bacon cheeseburger, biggie fries, and biggie drink (this was a long time ago when those were still on the value menu!). My sister ordered the same thing. My grandmother ordered the same thing plus an order of chili, chips, and cheese. We pulled around to the window to receive our order and thanked Memaw for the food.

I should have known that things were going to be weird when Memaw started checking her rearview mirror. When she confirmed that there was no one behind her, she shut off her engine and proceeded to get out her food...still sitting in front of the drive-thru window. My sister and I looked at each other in horror. Surely, she didn't intend to eat here at the window? It got worse, because the first thing that she pulled out of the bag to eat was the chili, chips, and cheese. Chili, chips, and cheese was exactly what it sounded like, but the drive-thru orders came in a plastic box. Because of this, there was always melted cheese stuck to the clear plastic container, and my grandmother wasn't about to let this go to waste. As we stared on in disbelief, Memaw began licking the cheese off of the plastic container. The man at the window, who looked like he was about to say something, had to turn away laughing.

My sister was never one to be scared of speaking up. "Memaw, let's go," she pleaded.

Memaw double-checked her rearview mirror. "There's nobody behind me." She punctuated this with slurp, slurp of more cheese off of the container.

I looked into the window and saw employees in the kitchen beginning to look out the window and laugh hysterically. "Seriously, Memaw, you need to pull up," my sister said more insistently.

"I'm not hurting anybody!" Slurp, slurp. I was starting to shrink down lower into the back seat.

At this point I looked into the window and was horrified by what I saw. The people in line to order food inside the restaurant could see the drive-thru window. The were literally falling down laughing and people were crowding the counter to see what was going on. Memaw, oblivious to the idea of embarrassment, continued to slurp the cheese off of the plastic container lid. I could almost hear the voiceover from some wildlife documentary describing the eating habits of Memaws in the wild. "Pull up or I am getting out!" my sister finally shouted.

"Fine!" Memaw replied, frustrated. She started the car, put it in gear, pulled up about ten yards, then stopped the car again and returned to eating. I looked out of the back of the car and saw the Wendy's worker lean out of the drive-thru window to see if we'd left. When he saw our car not ten yards away he started laughing again and closed the window.

I never went back to that Wendy's, just in case they would recognize me.

Smile, Memaw. I'm still talking about you, and I still admire your ability to not let things embarrass you. I think I inherited some of the trait when I walked through the Wendy's drive-thru in college with my girlfriend. Hey, I didn't want to lose my parking space!

family portrait

Featured image courtesy of Joe Slater