One of the first lessons that I can recall learning in the course of instruction came as a result of being quite young, rather poor with math, and pretty greedy as far as all things peppermint were concerned. That combination had previously led to plenty of self-discovery, but this particular incident has stuck in my mind through a couple of decades as perhaps the first example of my Grandma Ivey’s strident belief in, and encouragement of, the furtherance of my education.
Grandma was taking care of me and my siblings while my parents were off on a trip. I remember the feeling of the cool tile of her bathroom on my feet as Courtney, Howard, and I tiptoed our way to the nice warm bathtub. I remember that Grandma made hot chocolate the “old-fashioned way” with warm milk on the stove…not out of a little packet and a cup in the microwave. And I remember that if we were very, very, very good then we would get a peppermint treat from time to time.
I don’t know what I did to deserve a treat on that particular day- looking back I suspect that it wasn’t much. Grandma just knew how much I loved peppermints. Whatever the reason, she said that I could reach in her big glass jar of treats and a grab “a couple” of peppermint candies after dinner. Being really quite young, I don’t think I knew the meaning of a couple. Also, I believe I mentioned previously that I was a rather greedy child in terms of peppermints, as well pretzels, mashed pears, and white bread.
So I reached in there and grabbed a big ole (well, for my tiny hands anyways) pile of peppermints and starting crunching away. Grandma Ivey came back in the room and was slightly aghast- or at least surprised. Grandma’s self-assuredness probably didn’t extend to being aghast, but in any case she wasn’t pleased. She sat me down and proceeded to explain very carefully, quietly, and yet in a tone that surely intimated that no rebuttal was necessary- that “a couple” meant “TWO” and that what I grabbed for was at least “a few.” I had no idea that a couple was so finite and it had a very large impression on me- I certainly never made THAT mistake again!
Silly story aside, that was the beginning- at least in my memory- of my Grandmother’s incredible educational encouragement. She double majored in Math and English at Duke University at a time when that was an exceedingly uncommon course for a woman to take. She encouraged me in every way that she could to take my undergraduate studies seriously. I finally DID get my act together in law school- and I was extremely proud to tell her about my academic achievements down in Charleston. I don’t think that chapter of my life could have been so happy and successful without her support.
Ivey Courtney Stone died earlier this week at the age of 96. She was a remarkable woman, and the most incredible example of class, grit, grace, and intelligence that I can imagine. As she got older and was less physically capable of doing many of the things that she enjoyed, she would often remark that “Getting old isn’t for sissies.” Neither is grieving.
A toast to Ivey, a beautiful tribute from my sister reflecting particularly on Grandma’s time as an officer in the Navy WAVES