Coconut Macaroons and “Taking a Shock”: Memories of a Young Boy

It always amuses me the things that spark a memory. Sometimes it is the notes of a song, a sudden aroma, or the taste of something familiar.

Today, it was a coconut macaroon. The white flakes encased in golden brown sweet gooey-soft cookies shaped like a small hill sparked the synapses. The flavor transported me to a time when I was five or six years old on a visit to my maternal grandparents.

This was early 1960-61. A time when generations of families remained at home. My grandparents shared their home with two elderly women known as Aunt Margaret and Aunt Mame. My fuzzy memory tells me they were my grandfather’s aunts which makes them some sort of Great Aunt to me in the structure of family relationships.

Margaret was able to get around; Mame was confined to a bed. I have snippets of the explanation for her condition. I recall hearing she had “taken a shock.” Not having any foundation to understand this, I imagined she had unplugged some electrical appliance by yanking on the cord (as I was cautioned never to do) and this had somehow “shocked” her into her condition.

It made sense to me and provided a lifetime of good behavior related to electrical appliances and disconnecting them from plug sockets.

On our visits to the grandparents, part of the ritual was visiting with Aunt Margaret and Aunt Mame.

The specter of the elderly, bed-ridden woman could be terrifying to me, but there was an incentive to overcome it and approach her.

She would keep a package of coconut macaroons in a drawer near her bed. It was likely the one source of pleasure in her existence. Yet, she would willingly share them with a nervous, frightened, but hungry little boy. This new and wonderful flavor overcame any hesitation I might feel.

She would smile and point to the drawer for me to select one for myself. Now that I think about it, I don’t recall if she ever ate one. All this time and it just occurs to me she kept them there just to share them with us.

She passed away sometime during my younger years at a time I was not fully cognizant of the finality of death, yet her memory remains.

A woman, born of a generation I could not begin to appreciate, taught me a lesson that remains with me to this day.

It does not matter one’s station in life. It does not matter how wealthy, smart, handsome, or successful one is. What matters are the quality of the memories you create with friends and family.

Her simple act of sharing a coconut macaroon with that little five-year old boy taught me that the measure of a life well lived is to be someone worth remembering.

Everything else pales in comparison.

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