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The power of grandma's hands — a mother and daughter remember

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Time for StoryCorps. Madzimoyo Owusu grew up in Chicago. She lived in the same apartment building as her grandmother. She talked to her 12-year-old daughter Johannah about growing up with grandma.

MADZIMOYO OWUSU: My grandmother was my savior. She was the reason why I'm still alive. My grandfather was a hard-working man, but hellfire and brimstone. And when things was just crazy, I could run and hide up under her skirt tail and knew that for a moment I had some safety.

It almost felt like no matter how cold it was outside, it got warmer when I was in the room with her. My grandmother was about 6-feet-tall, brown-skinned. And I don't know that there's anything that she could not do. She could rock a baby, but she could chop a tree down. She could sling a gun, but she could sing you to sleep at night.

I was sick a lot with asthma growing up. I would have to come home from school early. A lot of times, I could sit on the couch next to my grandma, and we didn't talk. We just held hands. She had very long hands, and they were real veiny. You could see the veins standing up on top of her hand.

JOHANNAH OWUSU: Every day when I'm either walking in or out of the house, I see the picture of your hands touching Great-Grandma's hands. And through the picture and just knowing these simple things, I kind of got to know her. I just learned that your grandma died a year before I was born. How do you feel about that?

M OWUSU: Well, my happiest moment of my life was having you. But it was a sad time for me 'cause I wanted my grandmother, if nothing else, to be able to lay her hands on you 'cause I feel like she would have really blessed your life. But you got your own journey.

JOHANNAH: What are your dreams for me?

M OWUSU: My hope is that you be good to people, be kind to people. It's OK if you're not the most powerful and you're not the prettiest. That's OK. We're just ordinary people. But I'm proud of who you are. And I'm proud that I can be your mom.

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KING: That was Madzimoyo Owusu with her daughter Johannah. They were remembering Elsie Giddens (ph), who died in 1997. If you want to share a conversation with someone you care about, StoryCorps is inviting you to be part of the Great Thanksgiving Listen. Find out more by going to thegreatlisten.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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