my grandmother...

i totally forgot to write about my GRANDMOTHER!!!!! and i would have met her long before mary jane and ellen came into my life. but who didn’t love that little photo retrospective yesterday (besides mary jane and ellen)?

and today i am totally going to cheat. first i mess up and then i cheat. nothing much changes in my life...

i am going to use a little (and by little i mean a REALLY LONG) ditty that i wrote in 2000 when i was living at the beach house before we moved to tallahassee. to catch some of you up to date with this...

we moved to tallahassee from atlanta in 1999 (november to be exact). we sold our house in georgia and were looking for a house here in tallahassee. because adam’s job in tallahassee paid him about half of the job he left in georgia and the houses here were no cheaper than the ones in atlanta, we had a bit of a problem finding what we wanted (or one that was standing upright). so we lived at my family’s beach house, the BEFORE version to what it is now.

no heat, no a.c., no washer/dryer/dishwasher, one bathroom, bedrooms all open to each other and the main living area, 3 children ages 5 and under, and adam came down about every other night since he was working so hard at his new job and he would stay in town at mom and dad’s a lot. i was going CRAZY. ask anyone who knew me then. my only sanity was writing long emails about my idyllic life at the beach (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha)... i was a blogger before there were bloggers....

anyway, this will eventually get to my grandmother, i promise.

one of the emails was about two very important lessons that my grandmother had taught me. ooh, i LOVED my grandmother. she was my only grandparent that i really knew (my dad’s parents died when i was young and my mom’s dad had died when she was in college). but for me, that one grandmother did the work of about 100. 

she was at EVERY school event, she drove me to north carolina for summer camp AND let me pick a new 8 track musical selection for our trip each year. she lived within walking distance so we were at her house all of the time, (it was where we “ran away” to when we needed a break from our family). she cooked at least one meal a week for our family. she let me read all of her perry mason mystery books while i was still in elementary school and i watched so many matlock and perry mason episodes at her house that to this day i can determine who done it in the first 5 minutes of any of those shows. we spent our summers with her at the beach house and her car trunk was always full of new toys for us to pick one or two on a rainy beach day. she also convinced my mother that NOWHERE in the Bible did it say that a girl couldn’t have pierced ears. yeah, she was a force to be reckoned with, and a force to have coca-cola and peanuts with for an afternoon snack. 

and i think i can sum up the thing that i loved most about my grandmother... she had time for us. she sat in her chair while i sat on the couch and we talked while i looked through all her magazines. i could read and chat with her at the same time... it was a perfect relationship. she always had about 30 magazines on that coffee table. ladies home journal, good housekeeping, woman’s day, etc... always a nice cover story about marie osmond, or kathie lee gifford.

my grandmother was the wisest woman that i ever met (all those magazine articles must have helped). she made the most wonderful friend chicken. every year she made a pound cake for my teacher (and even in middle and high school, she still made a pound cake and i took it to my favorite teacher). she mailed cakes to me in college . also she made me into the gift giver that i am today because she LOVED to give gifts. in fact after she died and we were going through her house, we found drawers and drawers full of things she had collected to give us as gifts.

so without further ado... a story about my grandmother.... and look, i used to use capital letters. i was so traditional back in the early 2000’s...

A new coat and singing in the choir 

The two most important lessons about marriage and motherhood were taught to me by my beloved grandmother. One piece of advice was given in direct response to a question that I asked her and one was just a random comment that struck me as funny and then as I thought more about it, I realized that it was the purest form of wisdom and sage advice that I had ever heard. 

And since you are my dear dear friends (or better yet since I happen to have your e-mail address), I will share them now with you...

First the effortless one to ease you in (since I know at this point you are dying to hear what my dear departed grandmother had to say on these life defining subjects). This is the marriage advice and I feel that my dear friend, Mike Sytsma, the fabulous marriage counselor, will have to pay me part of his extremely large salary because he is going to be using this in his practice every day from now on (he will probably write his entire PHD dissertation on this singular event). 

Long before I got married, I asked my grandmother this question (that all young girls must ponder in their head), “Grandmom, how will I know he is the one?” She didn't even have to think over this weighty matter, she just began telling me about a time that she and my mom shopped for a winter coat (at this point I thought that perhaps she had not heard the question and was going a bit senile), but she went on talking about they had looked in lots of stores and tried on lots of coats and then had found the perfect coat (I believe she said it was a wool blue coat with a large collar though that is an unnecessary detail but yet very interesting). 

They bought this coat and then they didn't look at any other winter coats, there was no need to look at any other coats after they had made their purchase. I must have looked extremely bewildered at this tale of found fashion in response to a deep marriage question, so she summed this up for me by saying...

“Whether you are looking for a winter coat or a husband, try a few on and once you've got one that is perfect there is no need to look for another one, you just wear the nice one you got.” That is it, simple and true. I should really write a marriage book on this principle entitled Coat or Old Coot: It's All the Same. I could sell millions of them and then I can buy a new winter coat (just kidding- I have no need for one in Florida).

I however did not go into the next question I had which was ,”What if the coat becomes unfashionable or gets the collar torn off or becomes too worn?” The analogy doesn't go that far I guess.

After understanding the coat principle, this next one on motherhood was a little more difficult to ascertain. My grandmother (the crafty Southern woman) hid this little jewel in an innocent statement that she made to me one day in church. It took me weeks to actually understand it and three children to actually realize what it meant in my life. And some days I'm not sure if I actually am getting it right. 

Soon after my youngest brother went to college, I went home for a weekend and attended church with my family. I had just stopped teaching school that year and had only one baby at home. Grandmom attended church with us that Sunday and sat with us in the balcony. The biggest surprise of all was that my mother was not sitting with us as she had done every Sunday throughout all of my life (in fact to digress a minute, one Sunday I had asked my mother if we would be going to church that Sunday and shocked as she was at that question she queried in a relatively calm voice, “Will you be brushing your teeth today like you do every day”? When I answered in the affirmative she said in a matter of fact manner, “Then we will be going to church today like we do every Sunday”. And that was the end of that.)

But this Sunday she was nowhere to be found in our Baptist-balcony-this- is-our-pew-until-heaven-and-earth-pass-away seats. 

Today she was singing in the choir. 

Now I had never seen her singing in the choir (though she does have a lovely voice which must run in the family since I too can croon a tune with the beast of them- oops I meant the best of them) and so this choir-singing thing was news to me. I leaned over and asked Grandmom, “When did Momma start singing in the choir?” 

Grandmom looked at me and said, “She's always sung in the choir.” 

She had a tone in her voice as if to insinuate that I was the most out of touch daughter ever not to know this simple fact about my own mother. Then she added, “She just took a little break after Max was born.” She was referring to my older brother Max who at this point in the story was over 30 years old (sorry to publish that fact Max, but it was integral to the story). A little break, I thought, a 30 year break is not what you refer to as a little break, it is a complete lifetime. But it dawned on me later what this all meant (and since you may all be as clue less as I was I will spell it out for you since it is a published fact that too much Barney can frizzle your brain into mush). 

It was all about the sacrifices that a mother makes, the things we give up for the time being because we are involved in the daily dirty hands and peanut butter lunches and ABCs and “he hit me” and “she did it first” kinds of exciting stimulating events that seem to crowd out all other forms of human pleasure that we used to know in a former life. Other things (like singing in the choir, painting a masterpiece, reading books that aren't published by the Little Golden Book Company, traveling blissfully to Europe with only a backpack and a map, being a gourmet chef, eating at a restaurant that doesn't have a slide and ball pit somewhere on the premises, saving the world, wearing the latest fashion, wearing something clean for more than 10 minutes, or even correctly balancing your checkbook to the exact penny) take a back seat for a season. 

But if we wait long enough a season will come around where we have time to do those things again. And to my grandmother it was as if my mom had just taken a short break (age can give you that perspective, I guess) and was back to her normal routine. I think about that a lot in this season of tattle telling, just one more story, finding that lost shoe, and “make my cereal without milk” just after I have poured milk on it already days. 

Someday the books will get written, someday I can see all those plays, someday I can wear something that didn't get bleach spilled on it, someday I can appear on Broadway (well, I can dream can't I). Maybe my children will ask my mother, “When did Mom start directing award winning Shakespeare productions (traveling to exotic countries without carrying a pack and play, dressing so nicely in matching outfits that are nicely pressed, winning Oscar awards with dazzling acceptance speeches that wind up as soundbites on the Today show, or yet even speaking in full sentences)?” 

And my mother (God bless her choir singing heart) will say, “Your mother has always done that kind of stuff- she just took a little break after you were born.”

my mother is singing in the choir again. today she is singing up in heaven. now my grandmother NEVER ever sang in church because she swore that once when my brother, max, was a mere baby she sang to him and he put his hand over her mouth and so she never sang again. well,  i like to picture her singing next to my mom in the choir and i hope that they are saving a place for me. and i hope they are saving a solo for me and a snazzy little dance number too. because in heaven i am going to be one heck of a dancer and singer. and they will be there to applaud for me and perhaps deny knowing me (though that would be a lie and so they won’t be able to do that no matter how much they want to)....

sorry if you had to read that whole thing again after an 8 year hiatus... and sorry that i won’t blog again until we return home from the beach on monday BUT this was an early bonus to the SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER... and you really could break this LONG entry into about 3 segments and nurse it over the long weekend BUT now it is too late as you are at the end. and why didn’t i tell you that earlier? 

because i would like to get it into your brain once again that I AM NOT PERFECT... I LEFT OUT MY GRANDMOTHER REMEMBER... but now she is all settled into the blog and wouldn’t she be thrilled? i bet she would have gone gangbusters on these newfangled computer thingies.... and she wouldn’t have minded a bit that i forgot her, she would have been reading a perry mason book and drinking a coca-cola to pass the time until her blog entry came up....

and here is another photo from my extensive collection of scrapbook pages... the stars around it are really evocative, aren’t they? anyway this is a great photo of my grandmother and i love how my brother max is holding her hand... perhaps he is just making sure she doesn’t break into song...