Emma Mildred

My maternal grandmother was a fun, mischievous woman and I have great memories of her.  We lived in the same small town for a few years when I was young and I got to spend a lot of time with her. I was thinking about her today and wanted to share a little about who I remember her to be.

Her name was Emma Mildred (Mager) Schoch.  I thought the name Emma was beautiful, but she couldn’t stand it.  She went by Mildred instead, a name I thought sounded like a “grandma” name.  I always thought it might be nice to name a daughter Emma in her honor, but is it honoring to name a child a name that was hated?  Hmmm…  And now Emma is such a common name that I’m hesitant to do it for that reason.  Not that I have any children on the way…  (Sigh.)

We lived really far out in the country when I was a kid.  It was about as rural as a place can be, with the slight exception that the church was built behind our house.  We burned a lot of our trash, but anything that didn’t burn got put in the church dumpster.  It wasn’t a fun task for my parents to haul the trash back to the church, so we worked out a deal.  Dad taught me to drive the car (I was eleven, but 5’8″ tall) and I drove the trash back to the dumpster.  This was a total distance of maybe 1/4 mile each way, on private property, but made me feel like a million bucks.  I loved it even though I probably never went over 15 miles an hour.

One day Grandma and I drove to the neighboring town.  I told her how Dad had taught me to drive and that I did it all the time, conveniently leaving out the part about only driving back and forth to the dumpster.  I begged her to let me drive us back home.  To my utter shock, she let me!!!  I got up to 55 miles an hour.  It was one of the best days of my life.  When Mom and Dad found out, they were horrified.  Poor Grandma.  She never scolded me for it though.  She seemed to thoroughly enjoy the adventure.

Since Dad was a pastor, we were in church A L.O.T.  I mean, A WHOLE LOT.  And we were Charismatic, so the services were no 45-minute walk in the park like you Baptists sometimes get…  There were services where we stayed long into the night, sweating and singing and praying.  We were there for every single one of them.  Not only were there long services, but afterward people needed to talk to Dad.  So my mom and sister and I waited and waited and waited.

Grandma felt sorry for us for being little girls in very long services.  Much to our delight, she always brought us BIG bags full of candy.  I thought I had hit the jackpot when one of those bags came out of her purse.  But Mom didn’t like us having all that sugar (we’ll rot our teeth!), so she put a stop to it pretty quickly.  Here’s the great thing about Grandma though…  She found sugar-free candy and this chocolate substitute called carob and filled bags with that.  I have to admit, I really didn’t like the fake stuff, but I don’t think I ever told Grandma.  I just smiled and took the bag because I loved it that she thought of us and brought us treats.  (By the way, the no sugar thing worked.  Neither my sister nor I have ever had a cavity!)

Grandma told me “grown up” things too, then begged me not to tell my parents.  One time she told me all about strippers.  She’d always thought they were really bad girls.  But she’d seen a TV program that explained that many of them were single mothers and college girls.  They had to do it to support their children or pay for college.  We had a big talk about what makes people do the things they do and how we shouldn’t judge until we understand the whole story.  I promised to play dumb if my parents ever mentioned strippers around me.  I think I’m released from that promise by now though…

Grandma told me that she’d had beautiful legs as a young woman and my legs reminded her of hers.  All I could see when I looked at her legs were varicose veins, but I realize now that she was trying to give me some much-needed confidence and make me feel good about something I felt very bad about.  I always thought my long legs were a bad thing because of comments others made about the need to cover them up.  Grandma saw my pain and sought to ease it without embarrassing me. 

We moved from Ohio to South Carolina when I was thirteen, which I don’t think she ever really appreciated…  I became a bratty, fourteen year old who avoided my parents at all costs and didn’t hug them unless it was required of me.  I remember the night my mom woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me my precious Grandma had died.  Grandma was fairly young – just 69.  She died very unexpectedly.  Mom came into my room, sat down on the edge of my bed, and told me the news.  Without thinking much, my heart went out to her.  I knew this had to be the hardest day of her life.  Instinctively I said, “Oh Mom…” and wrapped my arms around her.  We cried for a minute before I realized that I was too cool to hug my mother or cry in front of her.  Then we got up and started getting ready to leave for Ohio. 

It’s been almost 20 years since that happened and I still cry thinking of it.  My mom was sad for a long time after that.  It was hard for her to go to church because people would say things to her about it (out of love and concern) and it would make her cry all over again.  I was so sad for her, and sad for myself, but I didn’t know how to comfort her.  I didn’t want to mention it and make her cry again.  I realize now that I’ve never acknowledged the anniversary of Grandma’s death or said much to Mom about her since then.  I’ve been trying to spare her feelings, but unintentionally have probably come across like I don’t care or don’t miss her.  Yet I have often wished for her to be here and to see the woman I’ve become.  I think she would’ve cheered me on all the way. 

Mildred Schoch was a wonderful woman and an amazing grandmother.  She is missed.  I only wish I had had more time with her.


Filed under My Crazy Family

12 responses to “Emma Mildred

  1. Crystal

    Kimberly, I remember your grandma, Mildred. I loved reading your blog. It is so very precious. I KNOW what is was like to be at EVERY church service for hours and hours…first to get there, last to leave. Your grandmother was a wonderful woman. You, yourself, are a lovely tribute to her. I am proud of you!

  2. Shok

    mom was always open to more than the narrow way in many ways … she would have loved talking to Tammy about her psyche nurse experiences and understandings of what people do and why … i do miss her often

  3. tammy

    Mildred told Jim and me how getting her hair done and wearing nice clothes made her feel so good about herself. And Jim told her that she should feel good about herself because of who she was in Christ, or something like that … it was the early 80s and the faith message was going strong.

    now I understand exactly what she was getting at! I bet she was laughing inside when her 22 year old son told her how it was. 😀

    • kimberlywenger

      That’s funny! One time she let me play with her hair and I added a bunch of little-girl barretts to the back of it. She forgot they were there and went to a women’s even at church with them in! One of the ladies at church told her and she got them out. We laughed and laughed over that one. In hindsight, I’m really surprised she let me do anything to her hair after getting it fixed at the salon each week.

  4. Tanya

    Kimberly, thanks for sharing this beautiful memory. Emma Mildred sounds like a terrific lady. You made me cry before 8:00 am, thanks a lot! 🙂

  5. Carole Bierwiler

    Even after 20 years, you made me cry all over again. As the oldest of the Schoch children I did not realize, until Mom’s passing that I was so much a part of her, and she of me. Often I took her for granted as many children do of their parents; however, I knew she was a very special person in the deepest part of my soul. This was made ever so clear to me as I read the things she had written in a book entitled, “A Grandmother Remembers,” which Dad gave me after she died. In it she wrote about her dreams, her goals, meeting Dad (Grandpa) and falling in love with him… What I recall most was that she said that she wanted to be like her Dad who was a very generous and kind man. She was all of that and more. I’d love to share other memories via e-mail if you are interested.

  6. Thanks for sharing some of your memories, Kimberly.

    I was so young when she died that I really don’t have many memories of grandma.

    Well, other than the time that she bought me some ice cream and then wouldn’t let me have a single lick of it until we got back home. (I think she was nervous that I’d make a mess of it in her car. 🙂 )

  7. Kimberly, what a wonderful memory, I also have so many good memories about “Aunt Mildred”. I never knew Emma was her first name. Thanks for sharing your great writing abilities.

  8. Amanda

    I can’t believe it’s been almost 20 years. It still seems like it was just last week, and I cried all over again remembering what an amazing woman she was. The best part of my week (while she still lived in VA) was Thursday. She’d pick me up from my babysitter’s before lunch and we’d go to story time at the library, then lunch somewhere downtown. My mom used butter tubs for leftovers, and one time when she was visiting, she went to the fridge for butter for her toast. She grabbed a butter tub and opened it up, expecting butter, but saw mashed potatoes. I was too young to figure out what was in the tub, and grandma didn’t realize what it was either, so she just raised her eyebrows, commented in a surprised voice about mom using lard, and spread those mashed potatoes all over her toast! I remember how much she loved to dress up. She made me dresses and when I refused to wear shorts, she sewed lace around the bottoms–she knew what a girl needed to feel special! And she had this amazing way of making you feel like you were the most special person in the room. I still miss her so much.

    • kimberlywenger

      That is SO funny! I can’t imagine wanting to spread lard on my toast, but mashed potatoes? that sounds like it might be interesting…

      Reading your memories made me realize that she stayed with me when both Katie and Adam were born. I was only three when Katie was born, but I remember how badly I wanted a brother. When Mom and Dad called to say it was a girl, I cried my eyes out. Grandma comforted me. When Adam was born, we already knew he was a boy and had everything picked out and ready for him. She took us to the hospital to see Adam and out for ice cream afterwards. She did know how to make you feel special. 🙂

  9. Lori

    Kimberly, You made me cry too. I will always love my mother and remember how she made me feel special. When Dad was away on business, she would call me and tell me she had to get her 1000 words in and for me to just say , “uh-huh” every once in a while. I always wanted to be like her so when Evan was born, I knew right away that I wanted to be called “Grandma” and be a Grandma as she had been to my girls.

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