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Curious if anything had appeared on the internet about one of my beloved teachers, I did a quick search on the web and found this from the J-TAC (Stephenville, Tex.), Vol. 10, No. 33, Ed. 1. Friday, July 11, 1930:

Meme news clip

Maxine Olivia Price Ray celebrated her 105th birthday in June. I’m struggling with the news from her hospice nurse that this week will most likely be her last on this earth.

She was raised in a coastal town in Texas and graduated from the school of education at John Tarleton Agricultural College in 1930. Maxine taught school for only a couple of years before she met and married a young preacher. She told me how much she loved teaching and that it was hard to quit–“You couldn’t teach and be married in those days, so that was the end of my teaching career.”

Actually it wasn’t. Maxine continued to teach for many more years. I should know. I was one of her students. Not a student in the traditional sense, however.

I know Maxine as “Meme”. She married my grandfather in 1932 and gave birth to a daughter and two sons. My dad was her second child. For many years they lived in the Texas Panhandle and we drove hours from Fort Worth each holiday to visit them. When they reached retirement age, they moved to a modest house only minutes from my childhood home. We spent many afternoons once school was out, and lots of weekend meals with my grandparents. During those years, I came to love and appreciate my grandmother beyond anything I’d have imagined.

So many things I learned from my grandmother–

You can make an impressive paper doll by pasting a picture from a magazine onto a cardboard Velveeta box.

It’s possible to make clothes rather inexpensively and then accessorize with matching hats, gloves, belts, handbags and shoes. (When I was little, I used to stand in her closet and look at all the hatboxes and shoeboxes that she owned. I thought they were so rich. Little did I know.)

One fresh, crisp lettuce leaf topped with a pear half garnished with a dollop of mayo and grated cheese (on its own salad plate, of course) can replace a traditional green salad as a side dish for a family dinner.

A fistful of newspaper coupons in a kitchen drawer filled to the brim can provide a sizable savings at the local Piggly Wiggly.

It’s imperative to laugh at your foibles and your frailties because life is way too short to linger on the negative stuff.

Reading is about the best gift you can ever give yourself. (The good-sized stack of library books always visible on her end table beside the couch was a testimony to her love of reading.)

Give, give, give and then give some more. You can never be too generous.

I could write a considerable amount about the things Meme taught me. I adored her so much that just about anything she said would be the “gospel truth” for me.

Meme and me

Nothing impacted me more than her unbelievable ability to be “present.” Every time we were together, she acted as though time stood still for her. She hounded me with questions about myself. And then she listened; genuinely interested. Not once in my entire life, regardless of my choices, did I sense that Meme was judgmental, disapproving, or in any way disappointed in me.

A few years ago in a professional development session for teachers, we were asked to write a short piece about the person that had been most influential in our lives. No surprise here. I wrote about Meme.

I’ve thought a lot this week about what in the world I’ll do once she’s gone. It occurred to me today that I have an answer. Teaching. I’ll go on teaching just like her.

There are five “littles” gifted to our family in the past few years and they’re needing someone to teach them. They too will be students—only not in the traditional sense.

That’s the best way I know to keep Meme around. To be present. To pepper the grandkids (and the students and teachers with whom I work) with questions, to hang on their every word, to adore and to indulge them, and to never, ever, judge or disapprove. To laugh at my own silly mistakes and read books–lots and lots of books.

In that way and for many more years, Meme will pass on her legacy of love…

…and teaching.