I have quite a few pictures of my grandparents, but this one is my favorite.
I don't know where it was taken; something tells me in their back yard but it could have been someone else's.
I like to think it was a Saturday afternoon. And not necessarily a special occasion, because my grandmother dressed like that all the time. For any reason, or no reason. Elegant, refined, coordinated. I didn't appreciate this during my scuffed sneakers and grass stained jean years, my flashlight tag and fort building years. Advice like: A dress only looks as nice as what you wear under it. (And what she wore under hers would garner a nod of approval from the Department of Homeland Security.) Or her desire to buy me white things. (A disaster waiting to happen.) She told me the world was a better place when ladies wore gloves and men wore hats. (I'd remind her about polio, and fallout shelters, and duck and cover drills.) I endured disapproving appraisals of my many haircuts. I resisted ironing things. I resisted 'rising and shining'. (She'd CLAP when she woke us up, too. AAARGH!)
Its funny how your grandparents, your parents, get more right as you get older. When I was considering quitting a job because someone there had it in for me, her advice was 'Be above reproach and outlast her.' My rival left three months later; I stayed for twelve years. When I had chosen the wrong college major, she knew it. When I struggled with my personal demons, she knew it. When I resisted all the colors I looked best in, she knew it. She knew what they should be. I was thirty years old before I realized she was right on that one. She and I didn't always agree but I knew two things; she wanted me to be true to myself, and she loved all of us fiercely.
At Christmas we decorated the place she would only briefly return to, hopefully, my dad and I laughing that the two least decorator-able family members were dispatched for the task. We did our best. I sat in her cozy apartment by myself for a long time trying to imprint the smell of it; soap and clean linens and eucalyptus in a china pitcher by the door. I was suddenly a seven year old sunk in deep comforters at the old house, drifting to sleep by the glow of the radio dial and some dreamily playing orchestra. Safe and warm, the soft Westminster chime of the mantel clock downstairs.
Mom-Mom, there are a thousand memories, and a thousand stories, but it all comes down to this; thank you for loving us and believing in us so much. We will miss you and ache for your loss, but you gave us the strong legs we stand on.