It’s one of those rare vegetable kinds of nights where I don’t have anything specific and pressing to do and the night until now has been fairly young. It’s not that I don’t have anything to do – I’ve got lists but it’s just one of those nights that rather than start a task from the list that’ll whittle my night to nil, I’m doing the smart thing and procrastinating. My mom is out of town and she usually calls my grandmother nightly to check on her; my grandmother is 93 – and actually closer to 94 now she says. With a wide open evening I love to the familiar sound of my grandmother’s voice when she answers the phone.
No matter how old I get I can’t imagine a day when I wouldn’t find listening to my grandmother tell stories my most treasured past time. I could listen to her for hours- with repeated stories or new ones it doesn’t even matter. She has this soothing kind of voice, and after almost 94 years, she’s got more wisdom than any book. Her rich life experiences, thoughts about how things should be, and the strength that not much rattles mystifies me every time I talk to her. She’s probably the toughest person I’ve ever met and ever will hope to meet. My grandfather passed away over 25 years ago and she’s been independent since. There’s nothing that shakes her and her philosophy on life is just about as right as anybody’s ever could be.
Last month when I agonized over a decision, she told me what an old friend of hers used to say,”I told God I’ll do the work if you’ll do the worrying.” If only she would always make my decisions so simple. Tonight she told me to ‘take time to stop and smell the roses’ and then she asked, “Have you ever seen that guy who speeds past everybody else on the road? I know you don’t drive that way.” Immediately guilty, I ashamed and I’m glad that my grandmother wasn’t in the passenger seat next to me last night in between pedal to the metal to leave the PTO meeting, pick up from basketball practice, before picking up Chinese for dinner that wouldn’t be served until forty five minutes after the official bedtime hour. She continued,”Did you ever realize he arrives at about the same time as everybody else?” She’s right, of course, again. In our exchange of what’s going on back in the busy routine since we last saw each other at the lull of Christmas she says,”God puts you where he wants you then relax – nobody outside of you probably gives a hoot.”
Her insight is priceless- what she knows after almost a century. She said that after my grandfather passed away she hoped to live to 75, then once she reached 75 she raised her wish to 80. She said had she not lived this long she’d have missed out on an entire generation – all of her great grand children. My thought is they would have missed out on on her. I hope she lives until she’s 200 and then has the chance to come back and do it all again because she’s so good at it. When I grow up to 93, if my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren revere me half as much as we love her, then maybe I’ll finally have learned a thing or two.
We woke up yesterday to a rainy, cold Easter morning. While on the phone with my sister, I asked her if she remembered the Easter Sunday so many years ago when after church our parents went to the hunt races for tailgating and fancy fare, leaving us at home with our grandparents. She knew exactly which Easter I was talking about – I love those shared memories when someone remembers it like you do. We thought it was fantastic – left alone with our familiar Easter baskets full of light – green cellophane grass that smelled like the musty basement after being stored another year, rifling through the bottom to find jelly beans tangled in the mass. A while later, our grandfather took us to see our parents to partake in watching the races from atop the hill, while our brothers stayed at home with nana. It was another rainy Sunday afternoon that day and I remember trudging up the hill with my sister and grandpa in our pastel Easter dresses and white hats.
I missed my sister this year – she’s the person I like to be with the most in the world. We sit long into the night around the kitchen table drinking cups of tea together, looking at magazines, and talking nonsense after everyone else has gone to bed til our eyelids droop with sleep. She left a few days before Easter – a quick spring break visit. The morning after she left I was cleaning up and looked down in the sink to our heavy white bowl – like tea mugs sitting side by side with their tea bags still floating at the bottom and thought “This stinks.” Her visit was too quick and I wonder how much longer until I can eagerly anticipate the days counting down until we are back around my kitchen table with our mugs of tea.
This Easter Sunday was much like the one when she and I were kids, and the gray day took me back. I went to visit my parents – the highlight, of course, being that my 92-year-old grandmother was there to share the day. She is the ever feisty one- much the same lady who could corral my two brothers when they were younger. We told stories – all funny, and laughed about the oddly humorous and honest observations of my niece and cracked up until we almost cried.
My grandmother shared a new story – her stories are always the best around and one of my life’s favorite events is and always will be as long as I live – to hear her talk about her childhood on the farm and living through the Depression. I think it is something that I will never grow tired of hearing, even the retold stories, because how I love the sound of her voice recounting the same tales she told when I was younger, and remembering new details now to include with a retelling, while mixing in some new ones. This time she told about a stack of quilts that had been meticulously labeled for her grandmother’s children and grandchildren (my nana’s generation) that were stored in a thick cardboard wardrobe. My dad said afterward that we should have recorded the stories and he’s absolutely right. Family folklore is timeless and hearing the stories told by the original story teller is an artform. My grandmother tells a story so vividly that nobody else can recapture how she is able to illustrate it so well that you can picture it. When her grandparents became ill and the house was empty, her grandmother’s brother and his wife took the stack of handmade quilts and they were never seen again. How disappointing – all of those years of handiwork to be passed among a family, gone just like that. My mom pulled out three quilts that have been in our family; my great great grandmother – I think, or maybe just one great, made one entirely by hand. Another quilt, machine stitched, was made by my great-grandmother. There was one more quilt that I encouraged my mom to keep for my sister to take – it had calico butterflies embroidered all over it with lavender accents, while I brought home the first two.
My mom also sent her stack of vintage Pyrex mixing bowls to add to my growing collection that were given to her 40 years ago as a wedding gift. I’ve been adding to my collection slowly over a couple of years’ time and the colors are predominantly turquoise blue and green. How coincidental that my Pyrex collection mirrors my new decor in the kitchen and family room? It’s almost like it was perfectly planned and always meant to be together – much like a family picture with coordinating outfits.