FAMILY and FUN: Maw Maw’s Message


Surrounded by love: Maw Maw on left, me in the middle, Paw Paw on the right.

Aside from the fact that I loved my grandmother’s nicknames for me (Sugar and Angel), she was one of the most insightful and fascinating people I’ve ever known. 

At an early age, I realized that this woman – Frances Virginia Marlowe Huffaker – was an excellent communicator. I have letters from her to prove it. Before I started typing, when handwriting was all we had, I told her the details of being a the oldest of three girls, a crazy in love teen, a college student realizing her dream to study journalism and then a young married woman with endless possibilities ahead. The mailman faithfully carried our correspondence back and forth between Virginia and Alabama, Georgia and Alabama and finally Florida and Alabama.

Maw Maw had an innate ability to listen without interrupting, a skill I consistently work on when my sons and husband talk to me.  And Maw Maw? She was just as comfortable talking to a 7-month-old, a 7 year old or a 70 year old.

That Frances Virginia Marlowe Huffaker.

Her simple life was flooded with one main ingredient: love. It could be evident in her cooking and her saving  snippets of ribbon to wear in my hair, remnants from the loom she worked at a ribbon mill in Alabama.

She hid $20 bills in her Bible, “just in case” and cared for an aging chihuahua named Pepi (who wasn’t very). I remember the click-clacking of Pepi’s uncut nails as he’d try to stop on the linoleum flooring in the vicinity of his food dish. Usually, though, he slid passed it, had to reposition himself and then step toward the bowl to be successful.

My grandmother never complained (that I remember) and she always looked toward the future, brightening up when listening to my life goals and talking out the pros and cons of pending decisions. She was a confidant, a cheerleader and someone who really didn’t say much. But when she did, it mattered.

That Frances Virginia Marlowe Huffaker.

She’s been on my mind a lot lately and in Heaven for a long time. She passed away before I got  to tell her I was pregnant with her first great, grandchild, the one who will be graduating from high school in a month. She would have nicknamed him, too. And my second son. They would have blushed like I did, but would secretly have loved her special names for them. She would have listened to them as well and communicated with them in meaningful ways though I’m sure she’d still prefer personal communication to texting.

The other day I stood before my class of beginning creative writers – most of whom are in 6th grade. In my introduction to poetry, I told them of a four-line verse I’ve carried with me my entire life. I wanted to know what kind of interpretation these 21st century children would have on this rhyme my grandmother had told me. I usually heard it on occasion after occasion when my attitude needed refining when I was their age.

“If you ever mean to do a thing,
And mean to do it – really,
Don’t ever let it be by halves,
But do it fully, freely.”

My students’ comment were thoughtful and I could tell that they’d found layers of meaning within the verse’s words. I was impressed.

My grandmother would have been, too. She probably would have smiled and nodded at each suggestion.

That Frances Virginia Marlowe Huffaker.

Just wondering: Is there a woman in your life – even someone not related to you – whose impact has lasted for years? Honor them by telling your story in the comments section.


3 thoughts on “FAMILY and FUN: Maw Maw’s Message

  1. Leslie Coleman

    I was blessed to spend a portion of every summer with my grandparents in Tallahassee and at their beach cottage at Alligator Point. My grandmother shared all of the qualities that made yours so special. She would even take me along to “play” canasta with her friends.
    Larry and I just returned from a week at Alligator Point, and I was struck by how my carefree summers with my grandparents made me who I am. And frightened a bit by who I might have become without them.
    Now I enjoy the role of Nana, and pray I make the most of the gift of time I’ve been given. We laugh alot. We talk about life and dreams and God. But mostly I let them relax and be themselves, all the while my heart is bursting with thanksgiving for THIS moment. God is so good to me =)


  2. Kay Huffaker

    Very nice Cheryl. I also have a lot of fond memories of her. She was a wonderful person. I couldn’t have found a better Mother-in-law if I had picked her out myself. She was just an added bonus to the wonderful husband I married.


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