Wednesday, February 20, 2013

16 Things I Love about Gram

Gram on her wedding day.
I smile when Paul says
he sees her in me.
I'm compiling memories of Gram from my cousins, and I just get overwhelmed every time I read what they remember. Gram was the most amazing person I've ever known. We all knew it, but I'm only now seeing what she really meant to us.

But how can I convey that to you guys, who never met her?  All I can do is try and let you meet her through our memories:

  • She always gave personalized gifts. My cousin Lauren has always been into fashion, design, clothing, and knitting, so Gram bought her a vintage copy of the Reader's Digest sewing book (the best sewing book out there, and a required textbook at Lauren's school...one she hadn't bought yet!). A second example:  my sister and I were obsessed with paper dolls when we were little.  So Gram picked out a blonde-haired-blue-eyed doll for my sister (Cinderella) and a brown-haired-brown-eyed doll for me (Sleeping Beauty), so our dolls would look like us.  Other years, we got calendars made with family photos or a compilation of the family history research she'd done.  
  • She read.  Like a fiend.  She devoured books.  She gave me my first batch of steamy romance novels when I was a college freshman.  My sister and I stayed with her for a week every summer growing up, and one of the first things she did was take us to the Escalon library.  One week--that was way too much time not to have a book in hand.  When she was hospitalized, at the end, she made sure to tell someone that the Jack Reacher books were in a cubbyhole in the trailer.  You know, because it was unthinkable that they wouldn't get passed on so someone else could enjoy them. 
  • She was there when the chips were down.  When my cousin Coby was pregnant and on bed rest, Gram took care of her.  Gram brought her a yogurt and cinnamon toast with peanut butter for breakfast, explaining that it was her favorite breakfast because it would keep her full for so long.  Coby says Gram hated her couch with a passion, but would just sit there and not complain, reading a book while Coby rested.
  • She always wore navy and white.  No matter the season or the occasion.  She knew what she liked and she stuck with it.  
  • She didn't swear.  Instead, she just said "jish."  (She probably wouldn't like how often I swear...Gram, I can try and work on this.)
  • She never complained.  About anything.  Her parents lived to be 99 and 93, and she took care of them as they aged, through numerous broken bones and convalescences with infinite patience.  And this was when she was in her 60s and 70s.
  • She knew how to have a treat.  Hers was a scoop of vanilla ice cream in her coffee.  Or a biscotti.  As a kid, Gram's freezer had all sorts of treats. I remember Flaky Flix the most.  This was stuff we would never have at home, but it was always at Gram's because she was, well, Gram.
  • She gave us half and half to put on our cereal.  Who does this?  It's ridiculously rich and decadent, but that's what breakfast at Gram's included (if she wasn't serving cinnamon rolls, scrapple, or French toast). 
  • She gave the perfect advice.  Fashion? Turquoise jewelry never goes out of style. 
  • She only wanted us to be happy.  This one was particularly meaningful to me, since I eloped and married a guy she'd met once. Once. My best friend refused to speak to me after I did this, and hasn't spoken to me to this day (6.5 years later), but Gram accepted him immediately with a hug and said, "Welcome to the family."  When she found out my husband loved Chee-Tos, she made sure to have a fresh bag for him every time we came to visit.  Every time.  Just because she knew it would make him happy.  My husband said to me, "She was more of a grandmother to me than anyone in my family has ever been."  That was Gram.  Even strangers would feel like family until they actually became family.   
  • She was adventurous.  Hiking, fishing, camping, traveling all over the world.  You name a place, she'd been there.  You name a road in California, she'd gone down it.  She and Papa had a fishing boat and spent summers in Telegraph Cove, British Columbia.  Killer whales jostling the boat couldn't stop them from fishing, canning, and smoking salmon.    
  • She expanded our horizons.  My cousin Marcie remembers playing Life and doing puzzles with Gram. Gram always let her be the banker.  Gram also played "office" with Marcie and taught her how to pay bills and write checks.  Gram also had a ridiculously good collection of coffee table books and pointed us toward ones that matched our interest.  For me, it was the companion volume to Ken Burns' The Civil War.      
  • She had a better social life than pretty much anyone I know.  She had tons of friends and social events.  And she volunteered.  And donated blood.  And just gave her time and attention to anyone who needed it.  Everyone knew her.  Everyone loved her.  She was bright and happy and fresh and eager and everything you want to be at the end of the day.  I will never be her equal.   
  • She was generous.  She took all of us cousins shopping for our birthdays.  We got to go out and spend $35 on whatever we wanted, and then have lunch with her.  My cousin Marcie remembers how, in true Gram fashion, she never counted the tax as a part of our birthday money.  How awesome is that?  
  • She made fun things even funner.  By adding empty L'eggs pantyhose eggs to our horde of plastic easter eggs, she made a good time even better (thanks, Sar, for that memory).  At Christmas, pretty much already the funnest time ever for a kid, she'd hide oversized presents with clues written in our Christmas cards. We had to dig in closets or scrounge in the garage to find our gifts. The big ones were usually furniture or luggage or something useful that she knew we needed to have.  Gram was always going to make sure you had what you needed.  
  • She got it.  She just got it.  We had a drawer of dress-up scarves that we liked to play with.  Sometimes, we'd wear them like we were supposed to, around our shoulders or on our heads.  But most of the time, we took turns tying each other up and seeing who could get free.  Gram laughed in that amazing laugh of hers, the one that came from deep inside because she meant it.  Other parents or grandparents might wonder if the kids were all gonna turn out to be future miscreants, but Gram let us do it.  She knew we were just being kids. 
There are 8 million reasons why I love her.  I can't even get all of them down on paper here.  My brain isn't big enough or good enough to capture it all.  I miss her so much.