By Tammie Allegro
My eyes welled up with tears the moment I saw it. It was smaller than I had remembered and the color was different, but it was definitely Grandma Joan’s candy dish. I remember it well, because growing up it got me into a lot of trouble. It was always there taunting me with all those sugary sweet candies showing through the glass. In an instant, the flood gates were open. I couldn’t control it; tears just flowed. I was definitely a little embarrassed. The only thing that saved me was my ability to make a joke about it. As I called myself a sap and moved on, I couldn’t help but wish I had been alone with my thoughts.
For a brief time, I was back in her living room trying to sneak just one more piece of candy without her noticing. Had I been alone, something tells me the journey into the past would have continued for a very long time. Fortunately, for me, this flashback took place in front of a lot of my family members. Everyone who knew Joan Spivey loved her. It was natural to feel a little emotional, but to lose it like this was surprising.
Most people think their grandmother was the best ever. The reality is they are wrong. In a contest for grandmother of the century, my grandmother would win hands down. Everything in her home was made from scratch. Not just baked goods, but noodles for soup and everything in between. She kept her cookie jars filled daily with fresh homemade cookies, and don’t forget the candy dish. Her unconditional love and grace disguised her immense strength, both physical and spiritual. She was funny, smart and beautiful. If you were lucky enough to spend as much time with her as I did, she would have taught you everything she knew. I was her garden assistant and occasional junior baker. She tried to teach me to cook, but I was a lost cause. She raised four wonderful and gentle sons who all cook and take care of their families.
Just because Grandma was nice, that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t let you know when you did something wrong. She would make sure you knew she was disappointed. She didn’t have to do much; just that look, and you felt really bad. In the same token, she always found a way to make everything better. I can remember so many times throughout my life just crying in her arms. She never made me feel bad for crying; instead, she would tell me why the other person was wrong for how they treated me.
When she got sick with cancer, the world stood still. Not just for me — for the entire family. She was our queen. In the beginning I think everyone thought she would be able to fight this and win. When we realized she wasn’t going to beat the cancer, we spent as much time with her as we could. Then on Valentine’s Day 1991, she passed away in the arms of one of her sons.
How can such deep emotions be attached to something as simple as an antique candy dish? For me, every childhood memory good and bad rushed through me in that instant. That object that had been locked in a shed for 20 years held my life story in it. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What will my children remember about me when I am gone? Will there be something that I had that made them instantly think of me?”
I want them to think of me as fondly as I think of my grandmother. I want to create sweet memories with my girls. Somehow through the years, I picked up on Grandma’s love for baking. Maybe that is the legacy that I can share with them that will give them that same rush of emotions one day.
What is your legacy?