Late last year my grandmother passed away at the age of 77. (This is actually pretty young for the ladies in my family – as we typically live 90 – 100+ years. I, personally, am shooting for 120!) Since she was in Ohio, where winters are cold and snowy, we had to wait until spring to bury the violet-colored urn containing her ashes. So, a couple of weeks ago, I made the journey up north in order to say this final goodbye to Grama.
After a teary grave-side service, where my mother (Grama’s youngest child) said some beautiful words, looking through old photos, and chatting and reminiscing, I gathered up my inheritance (Grama’s China Set) and headed back home. Since December, I’ve been contemplating all of the things that stand out to me about my grandmother – and a 12-hour car ride by yourself really gives you a chance to reflect. Here are some of the things I came up with.
- Grama liked weird and random stuff: Cherubs, humming birds, matadors (she had one particular bull and fighter statue since before I was born), beer steins (huge collection), The Pointer Sisters (I remember dancing around the house and singing “I’m so excited” together), coffee (with milk only, please), purple (she had a deep violet velvety bedspread for much of my life), and nick knacks (of all kinds).
- Grama was rarely idle: Whether planting or maintaining her garden, doing crafts, putting together puzzles, crocheting, making latch-hook rugs or looped potholders, sewing, fishing, planting, re-planting, fixing, painting, or any other “something to do,” she kept busy most of the time. (This is pretty true of most everyone in my family . . . guess that’s where we got it.)
- Grama was a garage-sale maven: She loved to go to garage sales and I joined her many a summer weekend when growing up. Starting on Thursday to plot out the route and finishing up on Sunday with marked-down bargains. Additionally, every year she would have a huge garage sale of her own. When I was little, I had chicken only once a year . . . a big bucket of KFC during garage sale week. (Funny note: My grandmother had no awareness of this tradition until I was chatting with her by phone during one of her last sales and said “Are you eating KFC?” She was shocked and said “Yeah. How did you know that?” “Um, because you ALWAYS get KFC when you have a garage sale!!!”)
- Grama is the reason I believe in God: When I was about six years old, she taught me the prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep…” This was just a little conversation and I can’t remember ever discussing anything even remotely spiritual with her until I was in my mid-twenties, but it stuck. She taught me the prayer to say to God. I said it every night for my entire life following it up with “God bless Mommy, and Grama, and Uncle Ron . . .” And, I just believed. My Grama said there was a God, there must be. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I first went to church, picked up a bible, learned other ways to pray, and had any real knowledge. But, even before knowledge, I had faith.
- Grama loved Christmas: She always made a big deal about the holidays (picture big plastic Santas and Frostys on the lawn) and loved to buy tons of presents. I benefited from this A LOT when I was little. Being an only child, I had a tree filled with gifts at home (not to mention the stocking) and then, we’d go over to Grama’s and – being the only grandchild who was around all the time – I got another tree (and stocking) filled with gifts there. (I would open nearly all of the gifts when I first got there, then hide the stash in the car, and open the remaining few with the other cousins when they arrived. Uh-oh, I’m busting Grama out, but I don’t think the cousins read my blog anyhow.) 🙂 You can imagine that, as a child, I was totally convinced that my Grama ROCKED!!
- Grama was my biggest fan: Seriously, she thought I was the greatest. Not that she always agreed with me (“How can you just throw stuff away, Kristen?”), but she supported and encouraged and bragged like I was a superstar! As my mom and I chatted about my Grama’s personality (which my one uncle described at the burial as “hard on the outside, but soft on the inside”), my mom said “No one could ever please her . . . except you, that is.” And that pretty much sums it up. She was opinionated and strong willed, but she loved her family a lot and really poured a lot of that love my way.
Speaking of pouring . . . when I got back to Atlanta, I Christened my Grama’s china set with a little tea party on a Wednesday afternoon. A handful of friends (along with Mom who was here for a visit) and I all had tea and tasty bites on my patio. The China set was a lovely bamboo pattern that my uncle shipped back to her when he was serving in the Vietnam war. (I think she may have used it two or three times since then . . . 1970-ish. It was proudly on display the rest of the time.) It has a cute little teapot with a bamboo handle, which I think is very cool.
I served my signature crab cakes (no, you can’t have the recipe) along with strawberries, mango, tea biscuits, cream puffs, some cucumber club sammies my mom made, and my signature cheesecake (which is really Grama’s cheesecake recipe).
I’m really thankful for the 37+ years I got to spend with my Grama and all of the quirky things I’ve seen and learned from her that helped shape who I am.
Love you Grama! xoxo.