Marilyn Goben (July 6, 1931 – March 4, 2014)
My paternal grandmother, Momoe, was a farmer’s daughter who went on to work at “the Bank” for many years. I’m not sure if it was always the same bank, but when I was little it was Bank One. The second wife of her widower husband, she had three children of her own plus raising his daughter. She became a divorced woman and single parent at a time when that was far less common. It is of her that I think when I hear about the glass ceiling of many professions. She trained many young men in the banking business who would then be promoted over her. The title of “Momoe” came before I was born, something an extended cousin said at a family party that my sister, then herself a toddler, squashed into a new name.
My earliest memories of her were at her condo, which had sliding glass doors and deep orange shag carpeting in the basement and a stationary bicycle. She lived in a complex that had it’s own pool and going there was a particularly favorite activity when we were visiting. She usually brought along “pool cookies”–which was the only name I had for sugar wafers for years. Strawberry and chocolate were the best flavors, vanilla was what you ate because you’d run out of the good ones. She also kept a jar of red hots in the pantry on a lower shelf, for the 4 year old me that would go in search of the cinnamon treats. On her fridge were tons of different magnets, and that was something I remember picking out for her as gifts. She attempted, more than once, to teach me to crochet. It never took, though I can at least get through a basic chain if I absolutely have to.
Staying over at her house meant exploring all of the perfume samples that she kept on her dresser–though she traditionally only ever wore one scent. I remember a Christmas a few years ago, standing at the perfume counter getting samples, closing my eyes and inhaling until we found the one that smelled “like Momoe.”
She did seemingly endless crossword puzzles and rounds of solitaire, she always wore house slippers, and she hated being photographed, so I have very few pictures of her. Her favorite color was purple. She only wore diamonds. Fairly late in life, she had her ears pierced a second time so she could wear a pair of diamond studs all the time.
Over the years and due to myriad reasons, we’ve grown further apart, though I would see her at Christmas and I made a special trip to my aunt’s cabin in northern Michigan a couple of summers ago to celebrate her 80th birthday.
Since then I’ve not seen her much. The last time I believe I saw her was, sadly, at my maternal grandmother’s wake. I marveled that she’d driven herself, kind of scary as she’d had most of the nerves in her feet killed. Most recently her health has been deteriorating and at the turn of the new year, when her health would start it’s final decline, I drafted this so I wasn’t writing from a place of immediate grief, just editing. Now she is at rest, no more in pain nor hampered by a body that at 82, has been frustratingly failing her of late.
Just a couple of weeks ago I spent the last Christmas gift she gave me, from 2012, a gift card that I used for some really beautiful yarn. And perhaps it’s fitting that I’m just about done with a project called Pool Cookies. For now, I will be remembering her.