I am not sure why she came to my mind so strongly tonight. But a whole heap of memories came flooding into my mind. So I felt the need to record what I am thinking and feeling about it.
I have strong emotional memories. I am an emotional person and feel strongly. I also have weirdly clear visual memories. And they are tied together.
There is also a saying that goes something like, "you may not remember something, but you remember how it makes you feel." Maybe I will google the exact phrase if feeling that ambitious tonight.
When I consider times with my grandmother, here is what I experience:
- WELCOME: I believe my grandmother had the gift of hospitality. I always felt welcome in her home and in her presence. I looked forward to visiting her, as an adult, as a child. Greeting you with warm hugs with literal arms wide open and big smiles. She would welcome us regularly over the summers, letting our mom drop us off so she could have alone time for what seemed like weeks, and we would all come for every single holiday. Not once did I ever feel as though I was putting her out or an inconvenience or in the way.
-FOOD: I think this was her love language. She loved to cook and was good at it. She was never satisfied until you had not only seconds, but thirds of dinner. The smell of cinnamon raisin toast in the mornings for breakfast was a staple and still conjures up reminiscent vibes.
-FUN: Time with gramma was so fun. She had a sense of adventure for sure and was hands on and creative. As small children she lived walking distance to the beach and would haul us and our stuff every day the 2 blocks or so to the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan. She did not just watch us, but built sand castles with us, swam with us, sang special songs "over the waves" while we floated together on rafts. Over the years she took us on special outings to the ballet, to Chicago including the Walnut room at the then Marshall Fields. She would have us help her on her garden do sand crafts, play dress up and more. And as adults, visiting her in Florida, she was up for adventures like wine tasting, eating out, museums, theatre, tours, whatever. I want to have her energy when I am in my 60s/70s /80s
FAMILY: Visiting gramma was not ever "just visiting gramma". In our childhood she lived within blocks of 2 of her children, my aunt and uncle and their families. She had friends that would come and visit. She would take us to church. She would be the "day care" for my much younger cousin. Even when she eventually moved to Florida, she was just across the street from her sister. I LOVED visiting her sister when we would go with her to FL. She was involved in the lives of second cousins who lived down there. And my uncle and his wife lived down there eventually too. She always wanted to be close to her family. And when she wasn't physically close, she would call and check in regularly. Besides my sisters, she was the first person I called to tell her about her first Great-Grandchild. Because I knew her schedule, I wanted to make sure she knew in time to share the news with her community coffee group. She was beyond elated.
STRUCTURE: I cannot imagine how hard it was for my mom to raise 3 kids. Alone. So as a mom, I think of just what a relief it would be to have a break and have my kids with family WHO I TRUST. When we visited, gramma had some rules, that while we did not appreciate at the time, I sure do understand and appreciate now. Gramma was a stickler for quiet time/nap time. Mom must not have been because I remember this being a big deal there. Read books. take a nap. Whatever. Just give gramma some peace for a bit!! So we did. we learned to rest. Read. Be quiet. Slow down. She also loved to read books with us before bedtime. She would have no trouble disciplining us if we did something wrong. Nothing physical, but in a way that we knew we disappointed her and would apologize. And learn a lesson. And the wrong would never be brought up again. Her forgiveness abilities were uncanny. I also remember her taking time to sit me down at the piano and teaching me. I had mixed feelings about this, I loved 1 on 1 gramma time and piano, but learning new things is hard and it was not a natural ability for me.
AFFECTION: So many hugs and snuggles. One of my favorite feeling picture memories, is Gramma letting all of us, my sisters and I, all in our matching red and white striped nightgowns, into her her bed when we would wake up super early and just snuggling with us. I am sure there was some reading of the morning paper and its comic strips. Hugs at greeting. hugs at goodbyes. Lots of kisses. Her looking at us with eyes filled with love. I can still feel that.
FAITH: Gramma loved to sing. And she was good. She would cantor for church and sing in choirs. Sometimes when we would visit over the summer she would take us to church and trust us to behave in our seats while she went up to do her song duties. She also gave us each a quarter to put in the collection plate, that we did eagerly. Her faith was strong and dutiful. It was routine. Part of her DNA. She lived a life that was full of LOVE.
When I think about her legacy. I think that if in any way, anyone can remember me half as fondly as I remember her, I will have done well. Her influence reverberates through my being, in how I want to be, how I want to love my kids, how I want to value family, how I want to make people feel in my presence. I have a long way to go, a lot to learn, big shoes to live up to.
Whats funny is I don't think I remember a single physical gift she gave me. Unless those striped pajamas were from her. And I am sure she gave me many. But I do remember her presence. Her spirit. The experiences. The interactions. The moments.
When I think of my own kids having kids, I hope that I can grandmother the way she did. I want to be in my grandchildrens lives. I want my grandhildren to see my eyes light up when I look at them. I want to see them every chance I can get. I hope to live near them. I hope to share all of the holidays with them. I want to harrass my family and know what they are up to. I want to take my people on adventures. I want to create big visceral positive emotive memories.
Sometimes I think her love saved me. I dont' think I am being overdramatic here. Where would I be without her influence in my life? We all need as many people to love us as possible. But she loved big. She filled in gaps. Big gaps.
Gladys Margaret. You were a gem of a human being. Know your legacy lives on. And I look forward to the day when I get to see your eyes light up again and you greet me with those big loving arms and are reunited on the other side.