My granny – Lena Maxine Sturgill Cook – was born in Clear Fork, West Virginia in 1923. Although her family had originally come from Allegheny County, North Carolina. Nobody called her Lena, she was always Maxine. She came from a family of miners, and during World War II, she worked in the company store. She met my grandfather during the war, while he was on leave from the navy, and after three dates agreed to marry him. They married in her parents’ living room, and they’re still married – 64 years now – although they tease each other about trading each other in for someone a little younger.
My grandma and I were always close. She took care of me during the day for the first few years of my life while both my parents worked. We had slumber parties, and she made the greatest popcorn in the world, on the stove in a big pot. Actually… everything she makes has always been the greatest thing in the world – potato salad, fried chicken, corn bread… oh the corn bread. We would sit together and I would say, “Tell me about the olden days,” and she would tell me about growing up in Wyoming County, West Virginia in the ’20s and ’30s.
I’ve always wanted to be just like her when I grow up. Open and thoughtful of others, patient and kind, and even adventurous and brave. She has lived a significant life – made a great difference for others. Helped the world in her own ways. She is unexpectedly funny and laughs often. She always tells my brother, mother, and I how proud of us she is, whether you’ve accomplished something big or small… or sometimes nothing at all.
This time home has been nice so far. I’ve spent my mornings drinking coffee with her and talking again about the “olden days,” although those olden days now include my childhood as well. I love New York, but sometimes I wish my grandma’s kitchen was a little closer. I wish I could pop in for some corn bread whenever I please. For a chat and a cup of coffee… and a hug.