On Saturday, June 30th, my wonderful Grandma passed away. I wanted to share some of my favorite memories.
When I was about 7, my cousin Alicia and I were at Grandma's house. I spent a great deal of time there--at least once a week for most of my life. Grandma told us that if you eat the white part of the orange rind, you get the hiccups, and we all decided to test it out. Looking back, I can think of no good reason for intentionally inducing hiccups, but we laughed and kept trying and made a couple pretend hiccups. I don't know that it ever worked but it was fun to spend time with her--she did so many worthwhile things, but one of her most important lessons was that mindless, silly, fun was essential to a well-lived life.
My dad once said that Grandma (and Grandpa) made everybody feel like they were the favorite. That was certainly my experience. One day, when we were young enough that I don't really remember it, Alicia and I were at Grandma's again. We planted a little baby pine tree. Every year, until we were about 18, she would pull us aside together in the summer and measure our growth compared to the tree and take a picture of us.
Grandma's Granddaughter Christmas parties were one of my favorite parts of celebrating Christmas. Beginning when we were very young, toward the end of November, we'd get a hand-written invitation to the party. When we arrived, we'd wear her homemade aprons (made from dish towels sewn together, or scrap-aprons she had sewn herself), and bake Christmas cookies. She made a special glaze in multiple colors that we would paint on the cookies. They were delicious. In later years, we'd hand-dip chocolates. Every year we would do a little Christmas craft--one year, she got a bunch of orb ornaments in all different colors. Each granddaughter got a box of one color. We decorated and signed each ornament in our box, and then exchanged them, so we all had one ornament from each of our cousins. I still have mine, and even though they're still in Salt Lake, I think about them every Christmas. The most important part of our Christmas party, though, was the annual dance to the Nutcracker Suite. Grandma had tons and tons of silky fabric pieces in all different pastel colors, and we would dress up in them like fairies and dance around, waving them. Even after I moved to Cleveland, I would get invitations for her parties, though I missed some of them. Two years ago was my most recent Granddaughter party. Most of us are in our twenties now, but we still rolled chocolates, wore Grandma's old aprons, and of course, danced like Sugar Plum Fairies.
Grandma was a notorious bargain-hunter, even when there was absolutely no need for what she was buying. She would shop at NPS at a warehouse in West Salt Lake. Sometimes she would take us. She had no qualms about buying expired cereal, vegetable packs, and, on occasion, meat. (You always had to be careful when she offered you her most recent "wonderful" acquisition from the fridge). She was especially pleased, though, when she could find 1,000 straws for $2 or plates for $.10 each. Sometimes she made some exciting find, but I remember months of visiting Grandma and being urged to eat from an enormous bag of "oops" jelly bellies in buttered popcorn flavor.
Since she grew up in the Great Depression, Grandma was also a big believer in cash. She always sent cash for birthdays, Christmas, and just for fun. She loved $2 bills, and has literally sent me dozens over the years. I remember once she got a bunch of dollar pads--they were 20 1-dollar bills hooked together with that rubbery plastic stuff that allows you to pull sheets of paper off of a pad. They were really cool, but every time she tried to pay with them, people thought she was some sort of brash counterfeiter. She also hid cash all around the house. Since she's died, my mom and aunts have found $500 under a set of drawers in her kitchen. She told us she's hid cash in curtains, in the couches, and all around the house.
My favorite memory of Grandma is on the day the Grandpa died, 16 years ago. There was family all around the house, crying, and talking about Grandpa's life. Grandma was in the living room surrounded by elderly relatives. I was crying and she gestured for me to come over and sit in front of her blue-covered easy chair. I sat in front and she wrapped her arms around me and told me that I didn't need to be sad because I would see my Grandpa again, that he was in heaven and no longer suffering, and that our family would be together forever. Even as she spoke, I felt the power of her words, and I was so impressed at her strength, that in what must have been the most horrible day of her life, she was still completely dedicated to her family and making them feel better.
Even as she died, Grandma always thought of others, and one by one, allowed people to come in and talk to her next to her hospice bed. She spoke to everyone individually, comforting them, and for every single person, she had something different to say to make them feel special. We had our final conversation with her the Thursday before her death over the phone. It was deeply moving, and even though her voice was halting and slow, I felt her love as if I had been standing right beside her.
Because of Grandma, I read my scriptures every day. I invite the missionaries over for dinner. I write in my journal. I invite people over to dinner. I grow roses in my garden. I practice my singing. I try new crafts. I bargain shop. Because of Grandma, I have a pattern of the huge positive influence that a woman can be in her family. And finally, because of Grandma, I have a stronger testimony of the gospel and the fact that I will see her again.