My grandma, Mary Lee, passed away one year ago today. She would have loved my blog (it would have tickled her to know I was writing again). And it hurts everyday that she never got to see it come to fruition. We shared the same style and sense of humor. She taught me to cook at the age of eight, gifting me with a cookbook just like the one she was given as a child. And, boy, could she cook!
There were always goodies to be had at Grandma’s. Always. She could make anything.
She lived up the road from us. And for those of you unfamiliar with my father’s house (and why would you not be), this was about a quarter of a mile away.
Both of my parents worked and so Grandma was the one who would watch us when we got home from school. My sister and I were the oldest grandchildren and we selfishly had her all to ourselves for many years.
Grandma found most things funny. And she had a laugh to prove it. Big open-mouthed and loud with delight. She never held back. Her laugh would tumble out to tackle you with its hearty, “Ha! Ha!” She was the only person I have ever met who actually made those words when she was laughing. Nobody was immune to it. Nor to the twinkle of mischief she would sprout in her eyes.
One thing Grandma was known for was taking horrible pictures. It’s true. Her mouth was always twitching. Waiting to erupt into laughter. This resulted in almost every picture she ever took ending in a crooked half smile. And then the giggles would burst forth and more pictures would have to be taken. I think this is the very reason she refused to ever get a “real” camera. Within her cluttered purse there was always one or two disposable yellow contraptions. I never can see one and not think of her.
There was not a play I did not see, a museum we did not wander, or a summer day not spent swimming. Afterwards we would indulge in grape juice and sliced cheese. And nothing ever did taste as good as that.
Growing up on a honey farm offered treats most kids never have. A snack would be a spoonful of fresh honey. She kept vials of pollen in jars nestled between a crazy supply of miniature salt and pepper shakers, and if we were good, we could have a teeny tiny bit on a spoon. Pollen. It tastes like dried-honey-powdered-sugar-mixed-with-sunshine-and-earth.
And because of her, I know this.
And because of her, I crave this.
She grew butterflies from cocoons, ordered long before the fancy kits my children would become accustomed to. She raised silk worms just so we could watch them grow and weave their threads all over her containers. The surfaces in her home were always littered with science projects. Jars filled with seashells, rocks or bugs. Even her piano was not immune to the biological mayhem.
And brainteasers. There was not a brainteaser that my grandma did not own. She always wanted our minds to be working. Learning. Puzzling something out. My son loved to go there and sit on her floor, playing with her collection of devices. It was no wonder she raised three valedictorians.
Grandma sewed most of our clothes growing up. Once there were many grandchildren and she could not sew it all, each of us was given one special pair of pajamas to be cherished instead.
In the summertime, she would take me with her to the fabric store to pick out a pattern and material. I would work on a new sewing project during every summer break. Although, I cannot remember finishing a single one (shocking). I did, however, learn some rudimentary sewing skills that I still use to this day.
Every night for her ended in a relaxing bath. She slept with piles of books in her bed. Not next to, but in. Because she never knew which land she might want to visit. Or which story she wished to attend.
The woman was not all sugar. She was spice, too. Feisty as there ever was. But in a good way. In a way that we all wish we could be.
If you went to out to dinner with Grandma, you knew you would always get dessert. Sometimes before dinner. But you would always get it, because it was her favorite.
Grandma loved long chains of jewelry (although you would just as often find her wearing a project crafted from her grandchildren). She wore maxis long before everyone else. Her style was cheerful, bright, and flowy. Grandma loved clothes and the more wild the pattern, the better. And hidden either in the pattern of her clothes or the jewelry adorning her limbs, was always a bee.
That woman was up for anything. She got her ears pierced for the first time when we did. During the time “Dirty Dancing” was all the rage, she took me to see the musical tour starring many of the dancers and dances from the movie…And she loved it.
She followed Kris Kristofferson with a passion. And she would dance anywhere. And I mean anywhere. Because she loved music. My own children would never have spent the last nine years playing piano if I had not grown up with her robustly pounding the keys and laughing with each note.
Grandma was free. She held no barriers as to thoughts about what was wrong with people. She simply took everyone as they were. There was no topic of conversation that she would not discuss and chuckle about. Because to her every question was, are you happy?
And if not, what are you going to do to fix it?
And you knew you could fix it. You could be happy. Because Grandma always believed it to be true.
She was the word, capable. At the very same time she was the word, fun.
And always was she a walking, breathing compilation of the definition, “interesting.” Her childhood was hard. Her life not easy. And yet, no one would ever know it. Because that did not define her. Her home was as modest as it gets, and yet, it was the home of a queen. My grandmother had suffered every loss a human being can suffer. But she was the epitome of survival. Strength. The matriarch. The family heart. She was never bogged down with society’s judgements or riddles or rules. She would laugh because today was the only day that mattered.
Grandma loved the beach. Every summer as a child, we would stay for a week with her on the shore. Those are still some of my best memories. Every vacation I take as an adult, I try to compare to those weeks. But how could they? With Grandma in the next bed, the window wide open so we could hear the waves crashing while we slept. Each morning woken to the joyful sound of laughter. Her toes being the first to rush into the sea.
“I’m just tickled,” was her catch-phrase. And I would be hard pressed to come up with a better line than that to describe her.
My grandma had my mother at the age of twenty one, and my mother had me at twenty one, and because I had my daughter at twenty two, I was blessed with many memories with my grandma. As were my lucky, lucky children.
Because my grandma, she was life. Never has there been a person who lived ever single day to the fullest. Who delighted in everything.
She would butter a biscuit and then shove the whole darn thing in her mouth. Because, you know, life was about indulging. And enjoying.
Every moment was special.
And as much as I am trying. Trying. Trying. To explain every piece of her. Every moment. To weave her soul back to me through my words.
She was butter.
She was laughter.
She was cinnamon.
She was rain.
She was and always will be pollen.
And I miss her.