Landing with a Graceful Thump

  •  By Maida Korte

“A name pronounced is the recognition of the individual to whom it belongs. He who can pronounce my name aright, he can call me, and is entitled to my love and service.” –  Henry David Thoreau.

I did not like my first name when I was a little girl.  As a child in the 1950’s and 60’s, popular names often ended with a gleeful and happy eeee sound. Therefore, Susie, Tammy, Shirley, Becky, Trudy and Peggy were musically attractive to my five-year-old ears.  My name was certainly not melodious and did not end on the necessary aria-like high note I thought lovely.   Maida just sort of plunked down with a mature and almost matronly thud. Named after my paternal grand-mother, I could only be thankful when I was small and unappreciative that I had not been branded with her full name of Maida Belle.  My middle name of Lin, shortened from Linnah, sounded like a farm girl, which it was in all honesty since Gramma Lin, my maternal grand-mother, came from a farming heritage.   The problem I wrestled with in my youthful angst was that the image of my grandmothers loomed so gorgeously large for me, their contributions to my inner self inexpressibly important, that I was forced to forgive them the names that I had inherited.  It took growing up to grow into them.

Such hope is placed on the tiny shoulders of a child when a parent selects and postures a title more than a name.  Hero,  since we long to be one, ‘Sugar’ because we search for sweetness in a child, Gabriel for courage, Alexander for greatness, Greta for movie star status and names that sound like law firms, Alexander Lordquest Soloman.  Names fit our kids like grown-up clothes on a child sized frame, baggy and roomy and knock-about big.  The tiny kid with bony knees hears his name called from the back door, ‘Montgomery Winston come here right now!’ He lopes towards the house unaware that his name is bigger than he is.  Eventually his pals will call him Monty until one day he fulfills the shadow his large title requires and casts aside his childhood moniker.  I like to think that I too brandished a hope that one day my name would turn me into something better than I was. 

Over the river and thru the woods were words aptly sung as we drove to my Grandma Maida’s house in Wonder Lake, Illinois.   Her house stood on a high hill (it was a gentle slope in the road), was large and expansive with a mysterious second floor (it was a tiny house with barely an attic space with bedroom dormers) and surrounded by large and sprawling trees where we collected acorns (this much is true).  The land of wonderment came from the accoutrements found in glass Coca Cola bottles opened and poured into tall glasses for four thirsty kids and a ‘whatever you want’ attitude from an elegant woman who was my father’s mother who never treated us like anything other than miniature adults.  My gramma could sew anything from slip covers to ruffled dresses and her hands held a tiny needle that appeared to fly with fingers clad in silver thimbles.   She made angel food cake with thick chocolate frosting cut into huge slices. Any food served was presented on china plates and I never once saw a plastic dish in her home.  Glass pitchers, crystal bowls, chocolate mints wrapped and for the taking if asked for politely where the answer was always yes and yes.  Perfectly manicured hands where I never once saw a touch of polish but rather buffed and shaped and perfect with long fingers that were determined and dedicated to any task at hand.  Purposeful and polite, coifed and perfumed, my Grandma Maida was a lady.    

We were a ramshackle bunch of kids and when we visited we were immediately deposited into her living room to don swim suits with large towels wrapped and knotted around our waists. This was in preparation for the trek to the lake where my gramma had her own pier, as did most of the residents of this small lake community.  Upon occasion our parents would join us in the water but mostly we were left to our own devices which included walking to the dam and putting our lives at risk.  Todd, my older brother, was directed to watch us which I do not remember him doing.  We played at the bottom of a waterfall, jumped from rock to under water rock, our young lives in danger moment by moment, only to return up the hill to gramma’s house where some fancy plated food awaited our return.  Upon leaving I would write my gramma important letters telling her about our dog dying, losing my front teeth, and to thank her for the five dollar bill she sent me for my birthday always including a running tally of how much I had in my piggy bank.   She promptly wrote back telling me about the birds that came to her window or what she was baking that day. This made me feel important even before I could describe love in words. 

My mother’s mother, Grandma Lin, always had a garden of fresh vegetables thanks to my Grandpa Allen’s diligence in this department.  Ever the tender of things growing in the dirt, I was sent out to help him weed or with a metal colander in hand to pick string beans which I would come in and wash, standing on a chair before a large farm sink.   When visiting, my mom floated between the kitchen and the living room, on-going kitchen conversations with her mom about food and baking and living room conversations about opera and books with her father.  My grampa would take my face in his hands upon arrival and kiss my forehead while my gramma lifted me off the floor in a full embrace.  Playing outdoors, digging in the dirt, large and roomy car trips to Woolworths Department Store to twirl on red Naugahyde stools at a counter while ordering tuna sandwiches were essential ingredients in the Indiana grandparent days of my childhood.  Every summer when I was very young, I would stay with my Grandma Lin for one week, my mom driving half way to the Dairy Queen meet-up spot. Once deposited into the capable hands of my grand-parents, we would continue the trip after first enjoying a cone dipped in chocolate.  Time seemed to slow down this particular week each year.  A gentler pace with afternoons spent with legs dangling over the arms of an old sofa and comic books in a pile, reading one after another.  Life was grand.

The color of my eyes are from my father and my freckled face from my mother, but deeper and farther back are strong fingers born from hands clutching earth long before I was born, books read when I was not yet an idea, and music enjoyed before I could hear a note.  These are the beloved vines twining around my heart forming me from a lump of confusion into a woman who has now become my Grandma Maida and my Grandma Lin.  Noble women with sturdy names and I do not cast my eyes up, but shadow them downward as I bow to their beautiful spirits that embrace me as I go. 

4 Responses to “Landing with a Graceful Thump

  • James Walker
    8 months ago

    That is BEAUTIFUL story telling. WOW!!!!!!!

  • Maida, how blessed you were to have grandparents. You’ve so beautifully expressed their love and impact on you.

  • Gary and Pat Hambleton
    8 months ago

    Morning,Maida: What an excellent sharing! Gary here. As a former school teacher, I felt it highly important to learn the names of my students withinthe first several days of school. Each student needed that special affirmation. Now peoples’s names hold an even higher place. The Lord knows all people from Adam & Eve. Just think of would-be parents pondering the names of their children. Now for Emerson, Hudson & Anderson. Powerfully strong names given to them by Ken & Keri. Names holding a deep character focus. And your daughter & my step-son building into these grandsons that character with the Lord’s help. Thanks again for sharing. Gary

    • Thank you so much Gary (and Pat) for these true and wise words. With eight grand-children all being raised by Godly daughters and “sons,” our hearts overflow with bowed gratitude and humble spirits. Thank you Lord!

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