Imogene + Willie
From the Imogene + Willie website:
It’s probably exactly the same as yours… just different character names.
Matt’s parents and my parents gave us the most amazing gift ever when we were young… and that was easy access to our grandparents.
Willie and Imogene, my maternal grandparents, signify our relationship with all of our grandparents… Leo and Sally, Anthony and Hazel, and James H. and Gladys.
imogene + willie honors those eight, as well as our amazing parents and our siblings and their children and our aunts and uncles and cousins and their children that we love like our own.
And then… our friends and the team at the shop might not be directly related to those eight, but for sure there are oh so many “indirects” on how we all are together. And then we think what we want most for our children when we get them someday. We want them to experience that indescribable love from our parents, their grandparents… just like we were loved so much by ours.
Back to the eight that played such an integral role in our lives…
Imogene let me eat colored marshmallows and sticks of butter, played gin rummy with me… and we watched soap operas, all at the same time.
Matt sat in a throne in the kitchen and drank RC Cola for breakfast at Leo and Sally’s during the week. And then lived the weekend life that every boy dreams of… hanging with BOTH sets of his grandparents at the river camp. They were all best friends.
More important than those luxuries, though, were the lessons that those eight taught us.
Leo taught Matt to appreciate and curate vintage. He was an authentic American picker.
He taught Matt about the truth. He was trying to tell Matt to do something when Matt was little…
and Matt said, “No, I don’t want to do that.”
Leo said, “It won’t hurt you.”
Matt said, “Yes, it will.”
Leo said, “I will not lie to you or tell you something that will hurt you.”
That was the truth.
Leo also passed to Matt one of the most simple and beautiful, albeit most frustrating qualities about my husband…
Matt asked Leo once, “Why don’t you and grandma ever fight?”
Leo said, “Because it takes two to fight.”
Sally taught Matt how to knit, how to make things with his hands. And how to just laugh it all off. She was so funny. I would give anything to have known her.
Hazel taught Matt how to say his name… From who he thought he was, Matt Medicine… to Matt Eddmenson. And then she taught him how to really realllly take care of things. And she still teaches us both, by example, how to work really, really hard even when we are worn down and tired. And to not complain.
Anthony taught Matt how to roller-skate. He skated until he was 82! Anthony also taught Matt to keep a really clean shop.
When I was ten years old or so… I told my Grandaddy Sights (James H.), that I wanted to learn how to type really fast. So he built a computer (really)… and then built a typing tutor program to teach me. It’s the only class I excelled at in high school.
Better than teaching me to type really fast… He told me and taught me by example, that racism is an awful, horrible thing.
In the 1950s, he walked Mable Ruth Armstead, one of their family friends who happened to be black, down the aisle during the opening hymn at church and sat her down on the front row. He was a social liberal, particularly in the area of civil rights, and was an outspoken activist.
Gladys taught me to love deeply. To not hate. TO NOT HATE. To scratch backs. And to cook for and entertain your friends and family. And to just do a lot of stuff for others. And that it was ok to work hard and then rest and enjoy nice things.
Imogene taught me to fight. She laughed it off when I was six years old when she was given three months to live when diagnosed with cancer. Instead, she tried thirteen more years with no larynx and a tracheotomy and a feeding tube and enjoyed every minute of it ‘til the very end when she got a little worn out and grumpy. She at least enjoyed every minute of being a part of our growing up.
Willie is the only one out of all of them that we didn’t really know. He died when I was little. But my Mom and Dad tell me all of the things about him and loved him very much. And his ten siblings from Virginia have been an important part of our life… so it’s just like I knew him and love him well. I think what he taught me is that we can’t give up.
The other thing that those eight passed down through our parents and to us: how to work.
Leo was a steel mill worker, a logger, a picker, a fisherman and a hunter.
Sally was an assembly line worker at a plastic company for over thirty years.
Anthony was a sergeant in World War II, then a roofer, and worked at the power plant for many years. He piddled in his shop, separating nails and stuff, until he died last year.
Hazel was the head nurse in a family practice and is still a volunteer caregiver today.
Willie was a sergeant in World War II, as well… and then an ironworker.
Imogene worked in a plastic factory, just like Sally… And then on an automotive assembly line and then was a tollbooth operator and a gift shop attendant.
James Harold was a grain harvester with my grandmother, an electrician for an airplane manufacturer and a ship builder, started a grocery and hardware store, was a researcher for a polymer manufacturer, and then founded a textile rental firm. He also was an inventor.
Gladys was a nickel and dime store clerk, a clerical on an army base, and then the operator of all things entrepreneurial that she and grandaddy tried… A restaurant, a beauty shop, and the grocery and hardware store.
So, Matt and I and our team are working hard on this little business to tell imogene + willie and the rest of that crew that we watched them and listened to them and learned from them… And that we will try hard and have fun carrying it on.
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