When I started my list I wrote down my maternal grandmother's name, Bess, with a series of words scrawled next to it, all followed with question marks. I was trying to decided what experience with her was the one that changed me the most, the one I remember above the others, when I realized that she was the experience. Complicated and kind, mysterious and giving, she mesmerized me.
She had a swash of white hair right at the front of her face that I envied and struggled to understand - what made it white? How could I get one? She made pancakes shaped life Fred Flinstone and cacti, allowed us to make mud pies in her best kitchen pans, served us Pepperidge Farm cookies during our tea parties (pirouette wafers were a delicacy in my young life), and convinced me, and egg hater in my youth, to eat them hard boiled in her special way (sprinkled with salt- I must have been so focused on those cookies that I lost all ability to protest).
In her own life before mud pies and tea parties she was even more than that - resourceful, creative, driven, spiritual, and most impressively to me, simultaneously no-nonsense and fully supportive. She had a relationship with my grandfather that I was enthralled by - his shop out back holding over-sized prints of the two of them - I remember being impressed, even as a girl, that it seemed liked he always wanted her around - even in what we might today call his "man cave".
We lost her when I was very young, but lucky enough to have had enough time to know her, to experience her, to remember her.
I know my mother's memories are different, and I ask her all the time to tell me more than what I know, to give more to my memory of a woman I think I would have really liked as much as I absolutely loved.