Today is my father’s birthday.
And this is his mother, my grandmother:
For a while she was called “Mangra” only because my sister switched the two syllables around in her little toddler brain.
Other than that short-lived mispronunciation, she was known as Grandma Mary.
With Mother’s Day upon us, I am reminded I no longer have a living mother or grandmother. My lineage of direct female ascendants has dwindled to just my sister and myself.
I certainly have fond memories of time spent with my mother, Mama Sling. But, today, being the day of my father’s birth, I was thinking about Grandma Mary.
There’s Grandma Mary’s infamous baked beans recipe, her perfectly teased hair, her stacks of People magazine, and that finger nail polish! I remember the day she told me it was about time I should start sucking in my tummy, because every girl wants a flat tummy!
There’s also one specifically special memory I have from spending a summer afternoon with Grandma Mary.
I was probably around the age of eight and given the very responsible task of helping Grandma Mary organize the numerous drawers in her pea green colored kitchen.
As I was stacking pencils, checking to see if pens still had ink by drawing circle after circle on pads of paper, and making piles of papers, I pulled out a black and white photo of a beautiful young woman in a striking dress.
As I held the photo in my hand, it felt precious, like a photo from a glossy magazine spread.
With complete seriousness, I questioned Grandma Mary about the photo. “Who is this pretty woman?”
Grandma Mary howled with laughter and looked at me with surprise.
I didn’t think it was a funny question.
I just wanted to know who the pretty lady was with the really stylish dress.
Turns out, it was Grandma Mary.
Before she was a Grandma, or Mangra, or even a Mama.
I couldn’t believe my grandma once looked like that gorgeous lady. I guess it was the first time in my life that I really understood what it meant to “age” and grow older, not just taller with each passing year.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in Grandma Mary’s kitchen.
Just us two girls.
It was a rare moment, me having hoards of cousins, aunts and uncles.
It felt magical and mystical as she told me stories of her youth and explained all the photos in her keepsake drawer.
She even showed me the birth certificate of her babies, the ones that didn’t make it in this world. The twins, the still birth. I can still see those little baby feet in black ink that were pressed on the weathered page.
Looking back, I’m sure my grandmother was doing my mother and father a favor, helping watch over me on some summery afternoon while school was out.
In my little heart that day was precious.
Grandma Mary unveiled more than photos and papers, pretty dresses and funny stories. She handed me a thread to hold onto, a connection to a line of women who came before me.
If Grandma Mary were still with us, she would barely recognize the shape of my life, let alone make sense of the pace of it.
I kind of doubt she would get this whole “blog” thing, although she might follow People.com!
But, I do know:
She certainly would appreciate a day at the spa.
Happy Mother’s Day, Dear Grandma Mary.
Thank you for giving me my dad, the gift of gab, and the deep appreciation of a good dress.