I was fortunate to spend many waking hours – most weekends and many afternoons and evenings with my grandmothers. This picture of 4 generations — my grandmother, my daughter who turned 1 that day, me, and my mom — popped up in my Memories yesterday. I remember celebrating my daughter’s birthday with friends and family, and it didn’t seem unusual to me at the time that there were 4 generations together that day. It seemed simply normal. My mother requested the photo. I’m so grateful she thought of that.
The gift of the moon
Last night, I walked out on my deck to view an incredible moon rise. And the memories came flooding back. My grandmother, Grammy, gave me the moon when I was very young, probably 2 or 3 years old. She told me it was hers to give. Of course I believed her, and I was ecstatic to see “my” beautiful moon in the night sky for many years. At some point I understood that the moon wasn’t actually mine, but I have always been thankful that she crafted that story for me. I lost that grandmother a little over 20 years ago, and I still think of her when I look at the moon – pretty much every day.
The gift of stories
Grammy told the most wonderful stories. We drove to her home in little Washington, NC, on many Fridays for the weekend until I was around 15. She would smoke – with the windows rolled up – and I would complain. She was stubborn, though. She refused to believe that smoking was dangerous — for her or for me in the backseat cloud that stunk and burned my eyes and made it hard for me to breathe. She could always make me stop pouting by telling me stories as she drank her “Co-cola” out of a glass bottle and smoked cigarettes that she put out in a beanbag ashtray for the 2-hour drive.
The gift of the blue rock
Around the same time I received the gift of the moon, my Grammy also gave me what she called a blue rock. It was beautiful. I have kept it on my bedside table for years because it always reminds me of the fantastic stories she told of how she came to own the blue rock. She had such a vivid imagination, and she could pull off an entire story, unrehearsed and off the top of her head, with flourish. Tell me how you got the blue rock, Grammy, I would say every time we were in her car. She would smile and tell me all about her adventures finding the treasure on “my” moon or in a castle or under the ocean or in caves filled with jewels. In one story, it rained blue rocks and she was lucky enough to catch one. I love my blue rock. Once I realized it was really just a hunk of blue glass, I didn’t care because she never did tell me where it came from. I loved her sense of mystery.
Grammy was very proper. I loved going to her house and sitting at her dressing table, playing dress up with her makeup and fancy hairpieces and jewelry or swimming in her great swimming pool of a bathtub or stealing sugar cubes from her crystal sugar bowl with the fabulous sterling tongs. She gave me gifts fit for princesses, such as the moon and the blue rock, but she also taught me valuable life lessons – other equally important treasures. Here are some of my favorites:
- Never pay a cent in interest. She never had a credit card, always used cash, and thought it was plain silly to purchase something one didn’t have the money to buy. A very valuable life lesson, indeed.
- Balance your checkbook to the penny every month. I was so good about this… until everything became electronic. I’m sure she would still be balancing her checkbook if she were still around.
- When passing the salt and pepper, set them down on the table. She taught me that it’s rude to hand the shakers to someone. I don’t get that one, but I’ve tried to continue that practice because she said it’s “the proper etiquette.”
- Don’t chew gum because it’s not ladylike. I failed at this one. I’m the worst gum chewer. I chewed gum when she wasn’t around, and I still chew gum. But I know it’s not ladylike.
- Everyone needs beautiful calling cards. We don’t use calling cards anymore – not the way they were originally intended to be used. Grammy had a beautiful sterling silver stand with a bowl on top that contained calling cards by her front door. I was fascinated with the whole setup – especially the small cards with names in fancy script. She explained that leaving your calling card before leaving someone’s home was an expression of gratitude for the hospitality. It sounded dreamy and so elegant to me. She gave me my own calling cards with my name engraved in fancy lettering. I put them inside my handwritten notes and letters to my friends and family.
- Send handwritten thank you notes. I love writing and mailing thank you notes. I’m sure, like most kids who are made to write thank you notes, I thought it was an unnecessary chore when I was younger. I am so glad I followed her advice on this one. I love beautiful stationery, and I love the whole process of writing a note and putting it in the mail. Everyone loves to receive a handwritten note in the mailbox!
I fell in love with writing a long time ago. I’m certain that my grandmother’s great imagination and fabulous stories told in her dramatic, adventurous, and often mysterious way encouraged my attraction to words and stories. I miss her. I’m forever grateful to her for the time she spent with me and the gifts she left with me.
What are some of the gifts you received from your grandparents? I’d love to hear your stories! Perhaps I’ll compile them in a book about the very best gifts. Email me at hanna@writewellservices with your stories!