I know I'm blessed. How many people get to have any of their grandparents with them for 40 years of their life? Not many, I'm sure. Even fewer are as close to someone who lives 200 miles away for so long.
In my family, living to an old age is not uncommon. I was in college when my last great-grandparent died. And on the other side of my family, I had 2 die when I was in high school. (The ages of these folks ranged between 95-101.)
You aren't supposed to have favorites in your family, are you? Well, I do. Grandma was always a favorite of mine. I actually remember telling that to my other grandmother when I was 6. Didn't go over too well. Oh well. Not much I can do about that now. (The other grandmother died when I was 8.)
I'm posting this tribute to Grandma Lucas for a couple of reasons. First of all, I need to have closure, myself, since her passing on Friday. But secondly, I hope it triggers some memories too of times you have had with your grandparents.
1. Grandma's House
Seriously, no one outside of my family has any idea how great my grandma's house is. Carpets are plusher, comforters are fluffier, crystal juice glasses are sparklier. I'm not kidding! Even the placemats are perfect. Grandma's house is a stone's throw out of Washington D.C., in Montgomery County, MD (ranking #6 of wealthiest counties in the country). So, yes, the house is fantastic, located on a cul de sac by a perfect trail leading through the woods, right to the city.
I know it isn't just the house. It's the anticipation of how our visit will go. When I was a child, I would spend at least a week at Grandma's house at Christmas, and more like 2 weeks there in the summer. I cried from excitement during the 3-hour car trip on the way down, and cried from depression on the way home. I even remember packing weeks in advance.
Are all grandma's houses this great?
2. The Smells of Grandma's House
The steps leading up to Grandma's house were brick, and there were wells leading all the way up where flowers and shrubs were given a home. Most of those shrubs were boxwoods. When I asked Grandma what they were, the first thing she explained to me was that most people think they smell like cat urine. I said, "No! They smell like Grandma's house!" I'm sure she was laughing inside, but seriously, that's still how I feel about boxwoods. I have one in my front garden. People have walked by it and asked why they smell cat urine. I just smile.
As I was walking around her house this week, I noticed, too, that each room has a different smell. I can't describe what they are, but if I smelled any of them anywhere else, I could tell you which room it was and how much time I spent in there.
3. Grandma's Taste
When I was young, I thought it was just the indulgence of being a spoiled grandchild. Oh, I was definitely spoiled, no doubt about it. But as I got older, I saw that the ice cream sundaes were just as much an excuse for Grandma to escape the liver and spinach of daily routines.
This didn't really hit me until a few years ago, when I took a turn going down to stay with her for a few days after a recent hospitalization. I asked Grandma what to get at the grocery store for her. Her list was my dream list of "stuff not to eat." Putting the Ben and Jerry's in the freezer, I had to push aside all the other ice cream she had in there.
We talked about this. She said, "Tracy, I'm 85 years old, and I have out lived my husband by 25 years. If I want some chocolate, I'm going to eat some chocolate!" I totally embraced her line of thinking. From then on, while everyone else in the family was struggling to find something an 85+ year old woman needs for her birthday or Christmas, I just placed my order from Godiva and knew I was giving her what she liked the best.
4. Shopping with Grandma
It didn't start out with shopping. It started with trips to the playground. And that was pretty cool, too, when I was 5. But as I got to that age where the mall was the place to be, Grandma had plenty to show me. Spending a week at Grandma's house? Perfect! We had a mall almost every day, with movies and snacks included.
When I got a new hobby, she'd be there to support it. We found a new craft store (a super high-end place in D.C.) when I had a new interest in sewing. She even finished that skirt I decided to sew all by myself without a pattern. (And couldn't.)
In later years, I didn't go down to spend a week or two with Grandma. But she still came up every year for Thanksgiving. Then, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we (Mom, my aunt, Grandma, and me) would go to this sweet outdoor shopping village called Peddler's Village. I LOVE Peddler's Village. There is probably not a single store I really need to visit. (The purpose is supposed to be to do our Christmas shopping, but by Thanksgiving, I've been done at least a month.) But they brew warm cider over a fire in the courtyard, and the Christmas decorations are so quaint. Grandma and I would sit outside of the stores sometimes while everyone else was finishing with their purchases. This was our grown up time together.
5. Grandma's Neighbors
For several years when I was young, a little girl lived right next door to my grandma. During those years, she became one of my best friends. Her high-profile family taught me some fantastic cultural traditions, and I was even able to get to know one of the embassies at the capital. The other neighbors on the street were equally interesting. Grandma enjoyed spending time with them. And even though she was not a teacher, she loved to pass on to me the interesting things she learned from them.
After Grandma's nasty black cat, Sheba, died, she didn't get a new one. Friends in her neighborhood thought she needed a new cat, but she didn't agree. Those neighbors really knew best though, and a few let their own cats out to wander around. Those kitties would wander to Grandma's house, because she always left food out for them.
Grandma and I had a super soft spot for kitties. No one minded when they came to visit.
6. Grandma's Books
My parents read to me. My mother lives and breathes through her books. She read me Dr. Doolittle and The Little House books.
Mom's lap was comfy, but Grandma read me books in bed. And she always had books about cats. Books I had never seen before at the library. (Where did she find those books?) Grandma read to me in the cozy bed I slept in at her house. What is better than being read a book about a cat while in a soft bed at Grandma's house?
7. Grandma's Breakfast
Sleeping at Grandma's house. After being tucked in, she would ask me, "Would do you want for breakfast?" Almost always, I would answer French toast, because it was loaded with butter and powdered sugar. But sometimes, I would ask for that new cereal. You know that one that I saw on TV? The next morning, that cereal would be there, believe it or not. And she would send the box home with me, because we never had cereal at home.
It never mattered what I asked for, though, because nothing bad was ever served at Grandma's house.
8. Grandma's Presents
Oh this doesn't sound right, does it? But keep in mind, I grew up before online shopping and Amazon wish lists. So all gifts had to be thought about and hand-bought.
Christmas at Grandma's had always been the best, even since I was about 2 years old. I don't know how or where she found some of the things she got for me, but they were always better than I could have imagined.
Come on. You know it wasn't REALLY about the presents. Take the Christmas when I was 12. Among so many other awesome presents, (I did mention I was spoiled, right?) Grandma got me my own hairdryer. A hairdryer? Yes, a hairdryer. Why do I remember it 28 years later? Because at age 12, you are stuck in that awful awkward pre-teen stage. You just want to be pretty, but you don't know how to do it. She gave me the first gift that moved me into the "learning how to get pretty" stage. Thanks, Grandma.
Could this be why my love language is Gifts?
9. Grandma's Voice
I loved the sound of Grandma's voice. It was very distinct, and I will (I hope) never let it leave the deepest part of my brain. There was a creakiness to it that added so much emotion. It was character that no one else in the world had. I wish I could record her for you to hear the sound that I heard when she picked up the phone and said, "Oh, hi Tracy!" She said it with equal amounts of surprise and delight, even if she had just heard from me last week. It sounded this way from the first time I remember speaking to her, even until the last phone conversation we had.
10. Grandma's Attention
My grandma only had 2 children, and 2 grandchildren - one a boy, and one a girl. The only granddaughter (read: child who spoke, and sometimes did so endlessly), whom she did not see more than a few times a year, was looked on with awe. Was she remembering when her daughters were my age? Was she thinking how much or how little had changed since she was young? I don't know, because I spent most of my time doing the talking.
Grandma sat there, looking at me and listening to me. Or, if it was a phone call, I imagined her sitting and listening. I never saw her multi-task. I know she was listening because she would remember things I told her even when I had forgotten them! She would often ask about that annoying person I had a problem with last month.
I'm told that she read and re-read the books I wrote many times. She always received one of my 5 author copies. Even before I was published, she held a reverence for authors that made me want to respect anyone with that title. It almost makes me cry to think I was likely held in that regard as well.
I will never have any doubt that my grandma loved me and who I had become.
Ahhh. That felt good. Thank you for sharing this time with me. I hope you found some good memories yourself. God bless.
Ruth Anna Foley Lucas
July 26, 1925 - March 27, 2015
Because I love even numbers and lists!