Today would have been my grandmother Ethel’s 99th birthday. It is a day my heart beats a little differently, wanting to honor her memory in some special way.As a child I remember when someone asked, “Who is your hero?” I would say , “my grandmother”. Why? At the time I don’t think I knew except that she had overcome great obstacles. As a young adult I know that her path played an integral part in my faith in God. Sometimes with great questioning, but always looking at her example knowing that her courage had foundation in her own faith which in turn cultivated mine. I cannot watch a Bing Crosby movie without thinking about my grandfather, Jack, in his youth, his lean build only known to me in pictures and stories. And I cannot walk into a church without thinking about her because of that foundation of faith- her gift to me.She was always someone I could rely on. For advice to do the right thing, new school shoes each year, clothes from Lord and Taylor, books at Christmas from Barnes and Noble, book money in college, the secret to making gravy from scratch, a letter in my P.O Box, a stern wake up call, or a gentle reminder of love and affection. She adored her granddaughters and our friends and all our endeavors.
My summers in Ocean City, New Jersey with both she and her sister Eleanor are as much memories of home and growing up as my school years in Baltimore. Oh how I would love to sit with her at the kitchen table for dinner right now, despite years ago of my youthful inconvenience of missing out on time in the sun.
She was a beautiful and thoughtful writer with distinct penmanship. I cherish the letters and cards that I have saved. The beautiful afghan she made. Her secretary and piano and costume jewelry Christmas pin. The hat she knit for herself. My charm bracelet that she started for me a long time ago. Little reminders and pieces of her that whisper “I am here. Practice joy. I am still proud.”
I have some Ethel stories which I plan to share here. And in the mean time I will nibble on her favorite nonpareils, do some mental math, cherish the irises which were her favorite bloom, and say my prayers.
“So if you’re worried and you can’t sleep,
Count your blessings instead of sheep
And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.”
(From White Christmas/ Irving Berlin)