Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Strawberry Ice Cream.

Dad drove into the parking lot, and my eyes grew wide with awareness of that special pastel sign.  That sign only meant one thing: a crunchy cone filled with hand-dipped ice cream, the kind with little bits of real strawberries.  I grinned in excitement for two reasons.  One of those ice cream cones would be all mine, and we were on our way to visit Great-Grandma.

Some of my earliest memories involve a sterile nursing facility that smelled strongly of antiseptic and the sound of elderly people wailing their distress down the halls.  I must've been just three or four years old when my brain recorded these early remembrances.  Grandma Liz would lean down as my mom pushed open the heavy doors and say just above a whisper and the beeping of the door alarm, "It's okay if she doesn't remember you.  Just smile and tell her you love her..." Then she handed me two ice cream cones.  One for me, one for my precious Great-Grandma.  I walked between my parents carefully, Grandma's pep talk ringing in my ears.  She always entered first to avoid any more confusion than necessary and expected.  Then my parents.  I walked in last, ice cream in hand.  Great-Grandma's thin lips broke instantly into a smile and she leaned her head back with joy.  Even now, so many years later, I see the connection.  She delighted to receive, and I delighted to give.  It was my job.  It was my small offering, my little ministry to a woman who shaped our family's future. What I didn't know was just how much she had given up to keep that same family together though hardship.

This was the woman who survived polio as a child but bore its scars every time she took a step.

The woman who with her husband had so opposed the work of the Nazi Regime that they continued to pay a Jewish friend to do some work for them even though it became against the law.

This was the lady raising a daughter alone while her husband fought for five years against his own wishes on the Russian front only to spend five more years in a POW camp.

The one standing at the fireplace with her daughter, bravely throwing in letter after letter from Hitler Youth inviting Grandma Liz to a summer indoctrination camp to create more children who would grow up to serve the Third Reich.

One of the cooks for the American soldiers stationed for the Nuremberg Trials. 

The lady who followed her daughter across the ocean and to a new life of hope and freedom in America.

The woman who helped Grandma Liz raise a daughter (my mom) and two sons when Liz's marriage crumbled into tiny pieces, offering her three grandchildren great stability and security.

The lady who was sometimes described as a little stubborn, a little ornery, and a cheater at cards.  The woman who wore the pants because her husband missed her so much those ten years of war and imprisonment, nothing seemed worth arguing about anymore.

The woman who laid down many a moment, much of her life for the promise of a Godly heritage.

Marguerite Zauss.  Great-Grandma.

Grandma Liz honored this strong woman in the twilight of her life, feeding her by spoon, bringing her treats, orchestrating her life around the needs of her ailing mother....after all, she had a great example.  A strong family legacy.  She also made sure Great-Grandma had a chance to influence my life directly in ways I would not understand until many years later.  Great-Grandma could no longer communicate her love for her God and for her family, but the courageous way she stepped out in faith so many times bore fruit in the eyes of the child holding out the cone to her.  A kind of Communion between generations.  

Bebo Norman wrote it best in his song...
I believe when they put me in the ground
There will remain a part of me
Because I've been searching and the joy that I have found
Is living in my family...it's all that I have sown

This afternoon, I took my girls to that very same ice cream shoppe with the pastel sign.  We stepped up to the counter and I asked them what they wanted.  A lump formed in my throat and tears brimmed when they both answered.

Of course. 


I should have known.  I had a bite.  It tasted just like I remembered.
I looked at my little girls and sighed.  They come from a good, strong family line.  They are part of a family who has a reputation for changing their little corner of things.  Like their Great-Great Grandma.

 "....You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your Name." Psalm 61

Happy Independence Day, friends.  Take your freedom and do brave, Godly things everyone else is afraid to do.


Guatmama said...

beautiful lauren, i love how things come full circle like that, and even more when God has us take a step back and realize it!