My mother's mother's 89th birthday is today. She is one of the loveliest people I have ever known, and up until the past few years she has been my biggest cheerleader and has listened intently to every word I have spoken in her presence. If you know me well, you know what a feat that is, and I so adore being the center of her world if only for five minutes or a half hour at a time. Actually I am happy to share the bright beams of her attention with any of my family.
My earliest memories of Grandma are of me sitting in her lap while she told me interesting stories, shared how she and her brothers and sisters worked and played in her childhood, revealed her dreams, and always gave unwavering proof of her love of me by holding my hand in hers as she talked. I can remember her trying to explain to me that while my sister Anne was older than me, I could one day be bigger than her. I really didn't get it until years later remembering her words. I must have been only four or so. Other memories include the strong scents of her kitchen. Pumpkin pie spices and mincemeat always remind me of watching her baking when I was about five. The smell of mint takes me back to visits to her herb garden. The sound of her laughter takes me back to sitting in the kitchen watching her reading letters that her family or pen pals had sent her. I remember thinking how much I wanted to write letters to people. It seemed to bring such joy to her. Sadly, although I do write a lot, I do not write many letters. And funny that most of the letters I have written have been to her.
As I hit that confusing age of 13 our family moved closer to my grandparents. We would spend time in her garden as I shadowed her, weeded, harvested, and talked about all of her favorite flowers and herbs. Afterward we would sit around drinking the sweetest sweet tea as she talked with me about things she had read or seen, and she would also give me some of the best advice I got in my life. Like how to make chocolate cake taste good even on the third day (serve it with pudding), how to decide if a man is husband material (see how he treats his mother and sisters), and how to get smarter (read, write, do puzzle and play challenging games like Boggle or Scrabble as often as you can).
I remember snuggling up in the softest quilts as I was growing up, too. I don't remember what happened to the quilt that she made for me, or the one she made for my doll when I was about seven or eight, but I can still picture their patterns and blend of colors. My mother also makes quilts, but I obviously had some gene defect because I have no skill with a needle, let alone the artistry required to be a quilter. I am very fond of the small lovey-sized quilts that my grandmother made for my four oldest boys. Each quilt she created had its own story, its own personality and matched the temperament of each boy who delighted in dragging it around as a cape or wrap, throwing it over a table or chair to create a tent or fort and later to have it draped over them as they napped.
It has been very difficult for the past several years for me to see Grandma fade from her role as a vibrant, creative and witty spirit as she continues to slip in and out of the here and now. She is no longer at home, and when I go to visit her now, I am ever hopeful that she will find some comfort and recognize me as one of her "folks". I am delighted, ecstatic, if she recognizes me for me. If I can get a giggle, or even a chuckle out of her, I feel my mission is successful. Even if she thinks of me as one of the neighbors she is so fond of, we have a good visit. January 11, 1921 was a very great day. Dorothy Ellen came to be a part of the world and later became the mother, grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandmother to a bunch of lovely people I call my family. Mwwaah Grandma, I love you so.