I wish I could recount to you the lyrical quality of her head-thrown-back, guttural, deep-belly laughter.
The rhythm of her walk.
The sweet scent of her choice perfume mingled with her shampoo.
The expression in her eyes as she told a wild story.
Her favorite dish to cook for the family, her favorite flower in my garden, her favorite song on the radio.
I wish I could tell you I knew her. But I didn't.
My grandmother died before her time was up, in June of 1976. She left a family of 5 children, one of which was my mother, and a loving community, in the wake of her untimely end. I have often wondered how my mom ever got by without her own mother for some of the most formidable times in her life, since my mom was barely 19 year old when she lost the companionship of her mom. How in the world did she get married, have me and my sisters, buy a house, move states, and you know, do all the grown up stuff, without the ability to call home to her mom? I am so often grasping at the threads of advice and perspective from my mother, so often pulling on the wisdom I know she can offer, the encouragement, the challenge, the discipline, the unconditional love - how on earth did my mom make it so far without her own support system? How how how. I honestly don't understand it.
My mom is simply amazing. That's the only reasoning I can discern.
I wish I knew how much my mom was like her mom. And I wish I knew how much I am like she was, too. Do I have her eyes? Her smile? Her humor? Do I walk like her or talk like her or tell stories just like her? Do I have the same penchant for cooking or the same weakness of a sharp tongue? It's lost in a book of should-have-been-published. I should have known her. I really wish I had been given that chance.
This year I was given a great many gifts. The same week that I was given a houseful of free furniture for my new home I was given another gift; one of the most sentimental, legacy-laden and meaningful heirlooms of my life.
I was given my grandmother's set of china.
Thanks to the unforgettable kindness and generosity of my dear Aunt Janet, my mom's youngest sister, I was offered by her my grandmother's incomplete set of porcelain china, with its signature peach and gold tulip pattern. Why? I'll never really know. My kind aunt, who is without any daughters of her own, thought that I would love and appreciate the gift in the midst of her move and downsizing, simply because of my adoration for our family's history. And probably because I cook like a crazy person. I'll never really know why she was moved to offer me the gift that rocked my world, but she did. And I awkwardly accepted, unsure of what exactly to do with such a precious gift. I was given a gorgeous china cabinet in the same week. How about that.
The only explanation I can muster for all of this mystery is that God must love me, a lot, to bestow such a delicately powerful, surprising gift. What am I supposed to do with this 50-year old china? How do I even process how special this gift is? Well, I should protect it. Display it. Put it in my china cabinet, obviously.
I've been thinking a lot about this set of dishes. About the many Christmases when it was used, when my mom remembers monotonously hand-washing each and every dish. I've been thinking about how it was used for fancy family dinners, friend coffee dates, numerous holidays and endless parties. So much celebration, conversation, and connection occurred just above those coffee cups. So many favored, steamy delicacies were served on that platter. So many meals for so many mouths. I think my grandma would be happy to know that we walk by her china everyday, as we settle my son into his high chair and watch him throw food around the dining room. I think she would like to know that we honor her memory and her matriarchal presence in our family.
But you know what I think she would like more?
For us to use it.
So this Thanksgiving, the first Thanksgiving that I have ever hosted, we are pulling that china out of its cabinet and we are going to use it. We are going to celebrate my grandmother. A woman who I've been told, loved to throw her head back and laugh. A woman who loved babies. A woman who was a neat freak, a politeness-enforcer, a perfectly poised hostess. A woman who I have to thank for my wavy hair and possibly, my chipmunk cheeks. And above all else, a woman who I have to thank for my own mother - the one from whom I received the solidest ground, my life's blood, my sensitive heart and definitely my chipmunk cheeks. No questions about any of those.
Thank you, my dear Aunt Janet, for your selfless, treasured gift to my family. This Thanksgiving is dedicated to you, and of course, to my Grandma. xox.