*This is part three of my Roots series*
(First pic: Grandma and I. Second pic: Grandma's mom and I.)
Travelling in my mind to Grandma N's home, a province away, I am transported back to a time when worries were few. Fresh childhood smells like her house; rose petals, bread, warm carpet, bound books, and burnt metal from an electrical Westinghouse furnace. I would sit in front of that silver box in her kitchen, with a chair pulled up right in front, on cold nights in my slippers and PJs breathing in the furnace's dusty heat. Sometimes older basements contain that musty "old" odour but grandma's house has a freshness I can't seem to replicate. Maybe it was her many plants? A tradition I am now carrying. After years of unsuccessful attempts at keeping greens alive, eighty-two plants now thrive in our home.
I was inspired by Grandma. She sent succulents in the mail. In front of my home sits a beautiful wild rose bush that she sent to me after my miscarriage. I can still remember opening the brown paper at the mail office and being slightly confused as wet dirt in a plastic bag came out with a thorny stem. Her note with her scrawled handwriting, quick remarks and looped signature warmed my heart. All I have to see is my Grandma's handwriting and I feel more grounded. When the wild rose blooms in the summer, I walk out my front door and breathe in memories. The fragrant rose begets my grandmother's bubbly laugh. Last summer when I was quite sick I would sit beside that rose bush and feel the comfort that happens to me each time I walk into grandma's house.
My Grandmother has never been old to me. Perhaps it's her spry energy that surpasses my own? I can only assume (after watering all her plants) that the two hours of lifting the watering pot and weeding out the nasties has kept her trim. Or maybe her youth comes from the fact that she sees movies like Star Wars or The Hunger Games before we do? Amidst the classics in her library are Lemony Snickets, Harry Potter, and all the new popular choices. I love talking with grandma because we can talk about all the current shows and books. We can nerd out on everything I am passionate about. She thinks I am quirky but secretly, I think that aspect of my persona I inherited from her.
Grandma is known for her blunt statements. She doesn't cushion her delivery but she also doesn't have any intention of hurting anyone. She simply tells it like she sees it, if she's asked. A trait I share. Upon seeing my husband's picture in the paper, my husband asked what she thought, and she unexpectedly remarked, "Wellllll, it's not your best picture." We cracked up. My husband came up to me later and whispered, "Now I know where you get it from and it's a brilliantly funny trait."
In her basement there is a red Radio Flyer wagon crammed and overflowing with Little Golden books in original mint condition. Her washer is a 1979 Inglis and the dryer's label is completely worn off. My Grandmother is modern but not encumbered by modernity. She may have a computer area upstairs but she also has a brown 1964 built in Moffet stove. I love that about her. How she seems to flow seamlessly between tradition and the current now. I can't place her in any time...she just IS. I obtain a great sense of BEING from Grandma.
My daughter noticed how Grandma often hoots at something I will say and chuckles, "Oh (insert my birth name here)." It's said in a endearing sort of way and I feel six again (but in a good way.) My children only get to see Grandma about once every year or two, but this statement has been memorable enough to stick in my twelve year old's heart.
On my children's birthday's Grandma often sends a classic book with a hand scrawled note or a bit of cash. At Christmas time the note was simply, "To P and K and children three. Grandma." The kids love spending time discussing the latest books with her or having her read a story. The last time she visited, she read them a book she often read to me as a child called, "Caps for Sale." In the same reading voice she used on me at night, when I lived with her as a child, she read to them. I was struck with nostalgia. I choked up and had to leave the room because I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the past and the present encompassed in Grandma's voice.
Grandma N is trendy and a collector of beautiful things. She is a skilled garage sale enthusiast and has taught me to be thrifty. I can not pay over a certain amount for anything. She taught me how to make beautiful gifts out of re purposed items. Half of my house is furnished with vintage or thrift finds. She loved her crystal collections and tea cups. On many of my birthdays she would send me a very breakable crystal item bubble wrapped in the mail. It's always a delight to discover that these items were one of the many I took out to dust or admire in her Dinning Room cabinet. Washing dishes was a sacred event at Grandma's. Through her window one can gaze on lovely juniper, rose and fern arrangements and trees complete with fairy tale doors. Grandma is a gifted gardener and her yard is a stunning work of art in an unexpected place. I have memories of washing dishes while the sudsy bubbles crept up my arms and my fingers caressed delicate flower shaped bowls, crystal china, and mismatched tea sets. Her eclectic collection dried in the rack and brightened the room with bold, creamy colours, birded coffee cups, and deep blue hues. My eldest son says blue reminds him of Grandma. Yes, deep calming blue and fun whimsical light blue all beget my Grandmother. After dinner I anticipated the dishes with great excitement because of the sensory appeal...something that doesn't happen in my own home.
(Caption: Above my three children in a part of grandma's garden. Below; A corner of blue in grandma's house.)
Grandma's husband died when my father was 17. Grandma birthed five children while serving as a pastor's wife. In those days that role demanded way more than it does today ( and that is saying a lot) and often she would have to come up with meals for company when she could barely feed her own kids. Grandma's meals are often distinctly Romanian. I can picture her cinnamon rolls, pies, meats, sausages and peroggies and borscht. They had an interesting life and I never tire of my father and his sibling's legendary stories.
I lived in Grandma's basement in my formative years while my dad tree planted. I had a little room in the corner with a hammock of stuffies above my head and a stack of books beside my bed. Grandma would often tuck me in and read to me story after story. She started my love affair with books.
(Caption: My sister and I with my cousin, grandma and brother)
(Caption: my daughter, mother, sister, husband and I with my cousin on the end...basically my other sister. I have a cousin on each side that is an only child and both of them practically grew up with us and my children call them aunties.)
Grandma N is in her seventies. She regularly gardens and she is more up to date on current trends then I am. She loves her life. She is spry, she is grey, and she is classy. Her style is distinct. I wish I could pull off that look so beautifully. She often wears turtle necks or button up collared shirts with fantastic jewelry. I can often hear her bracelets clink as she walks. I can visualize her strong yet soft fingers run down the chain on her neck as she adjusts the latest charm she is wearing or her patting her silver hair down gently as it stylishly curves around her chin. I can hear the soft fabrics of her clothes as she moves and sometimes the cracking of her knees from her years of gardening. Her jewelery choices are often classy gold or silver pieces chosen specifically for each outfit. When I was a child she often sewed me outfits for Christmas. I felt so special in all of them and I loved her button collection. I would often ask to look at her sewing stuff to see all the sparkles and shiny thimbles. She made a Paddington shirt with metal Paddington buttons for my brother and she often would sew little Barbie outfits for me. I have one beautiful silk blue cloak for a barbie with silver edging that she created. I felt like my Barbie's were so unique and stylish because of her contributions. We could not afford a lot of Barbie clothes when I was little and Grandma supplied me with a huge bag of outfits I adored.
When I asked each of my children to say what they think of when I mention Grandma N my eldest son replied with; "Tea, blue, roses and her laugh." My youngest smiled and said, "Funny!" My daughter replied, "You and your quirkiness. Her laugh is my favourite... sewing, books, fluffy carpets and trees." Grandma is like Springtime to me. She is fresh, vibrant and brings feelings of hope and creativity with her. I recall moments when I was little of sitting in her bathtub and studying the brown and pink tile patterns surrounded by bubbles. Afterwards, my three year old self would be wrapped snuggly in a towel and would be plopped in front of the warm fire in the living room. It was fantastic.
"Remember is a place from long ago. Remember, filled with everything you know. Remember, when you're sad and feeling down. Remember life is just a memory. Remember close your eyes and you can see. Remember, think of all that life can be. Remember."*
I simply have to visualize Grandma's laugh or home or hear her voice in my mind when I am feeling low and once again the beauty of the simple life becomes mine. What memories of yours bring youth and comfort?
Songs that remind me of Grandma N: *Remember by Harry Nilsson, Young at Heart- Michael Buble, You Make Me Feel So Young- Frank Sinatra, Give me the Simple Life- Steve Tyrell.