Silver Linings Grandma

Posted by on April 17, 2013 in women | 10 comments

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Recently we celebrated the RS birthday. The theme was “Inheritance” and we asked the sisters to reflect on something they have inherited from a grandma and write about it.  It was such a pleasure to read about the things we carry from our beloved foremothers: temple handkerchiefs, fiery tempers, jewelry, love of chocolate. Thankfully it gave me an excuse to reflect on my own grandma and reminds me that family history is as much about stories as it is about charts. Here is my entry:

When I was in 7th grade my Grandpa married Johanna Schneider Krikopulo and gave me the best gift I’ve ever received: a grandma.  His wife Jessie, my mother’s mother, passed away when I was two and all that remained for me were faded photographs and a longing to be mentored by a wise, kind woman who would make me feel special. While I adored my paternal Grandma, she was born in 1885 and hence her traveling days were mostly over. So she always felt out of reach.

Oma (she hailed from Munich) and I bonded immediately.  We both loved our cats, jewelry, literature, and baking. When I went to BYU my grandparents’ house was my haven. I’d spent entire Saturdays baking and talking with Oma. She had me bring friends over for dinner and a movie night. When I went through the temple Oma was my escort.  When Dave dumped me while we were dating it was her shoulder I cried on. When Dave and I got married and were dirt poor, she hired us to come clean her spotless house and sent us home with a check and bags of groceries.

My favorite times were polishing the silver. We’d start with the platters and work out way through the pieces. She’d make lists during the week of little things she wanted to share with me, and I’d unburden my heart as well. We’d rub and wipe and rub and wipe and talk and laugh, and before you knew it, our work would reveal the sparkling silver beneath the previously dark and tarnished piece. And that’s how my heart felt too. Oma has taught me to keep working, keep polishing, and beneath the sorrow and pain you will find a glimmer of silver, waiting to be revealed. And it’s a process. You never FIND happiness; you keep rediscovering it through time and effort. When we were done we’d always admire the end product, watching our waving reflections on the silvery surface. She’s living in a home in Provo, mostly speaking German now, having forgotten her English, her husbands, her cats, and yes, even me. But I keep her with me and I take down the silver platter I inherited and rub it til it shines, knowing that I too can shine, if I keep at it. I am so grateful to have inherited a Grandma who taught me to find the silver lining. Danke, Oma.

What have you inherited from your grandmothers? Have you written it down?

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10 Comments

  1. From my paternal grandma I inherited my round cheeks. I always hated them, but two years ago I was staying at my aunt’s house for a week and she put me up in her basement. To make it more homey she had put pictures of family members all over the wall and I realized that my round cheeks are a legacy of many women in my family. I never realized because as a very old lady her face was no longer quite as rounded as it once was. It was nice to feel like I’m not alone and my face is a gift and something I share with lots of women that I like and admire.

    I like to think I inherited my maternal grandma’s sense of humor. She was sharp as a whip right up until the day she died, making literary references and snarking her way through life. I read one of her mother’s letters from 1918 and it was every bit as witty. She also had great legs. So a great brain, wit, and fab gams. I also have her lapel pin from when she was in the WAVES in WWII.

    I miss them both.

    • Beautiful, Heather.

      From my maternal grandmother, I inherited my narrow jawline. She was a lover of literature, which she passed down to my mom, and which I inherited in turn.

      I wish I had more to write about her, and about my paternal grandmother, whom I visited once or twice a week growing up. They died when I was in my 20s, so I feel like I should have more to say. I’m going to have to sit down and put more thought into this.

    • EM, What a gift to see your connection to a whole legacy of women via your cheeks! Grandmas are the best. And Caroline, it bums me out when we lose our grandmas too soon. Our moms love us–but it’s often more complicated because it’s their job to raise us where as a Grandma can safely indulge us when we need it. Do you have any of your mom’s moms books? I think you can tell a lot about someone by the lit they read.

  2. I wrote a bit about my grandmothers (and my mother) here: http://www.the-exponent.com/turning-the-hearts-of-the-children-to-their-mothers-part-i/

    From my mother’s mother, I inherited my blue eyes and the gospel. She converted to the church when my mom was 2. I hope to also inherit her longevity, as she is 94 and going strong.

    From my father’s mother, I inherited the dress she wore the day she married my much loved grandpa. It became the dress I wore the day I married my husband. That day in that dress also marked the last time I saw her alive, so it is very sacred to me. I also inherited some pottery and jewelry she made, a beautiful owl kitchen thing (that I don’t really know how to describe), and a few rocks she painted, very intricately, with lots of gold.

    I love grandparents. And family history, when it is family stories.

  3. I can’t think of any intangible qualities which I inherited from my grandmother, but I credit her with saving me in a lot of ways. I was an awkward child and wasn’t close to my mom or my dad. My mom was busy my whole life with my younger siblings, and she isn’t that much of a nurturer, so I did without that. I thought it was that way for everybody. There were also sibling issues that persist to this day. We just had some garden variety dysfunction going on.

    My maternal grandma noticed all this, however, and though she never did anything to undermine my mom or make me more conscious of my lack, she accepted me fully in all my messy awkwardness. I know what it is to have someone find me delightful because of her. We’d usually spend a week or two at her house each summer, just one of us at a time, and when it came my turn, I remember whole days and weeks of blissful peace, in which I didn’t get in dutch for a single wrong move. It may not sound like much, but it means the world to me now. I think all of us probably felt like we were her favorite. She was present when I went to the temple for my endowments. She was my main template in trying to figure out how to be a mom and grandmother. Now that I’m as old as she was when I was a kid, I know that grandmas like her don’t happen every day.

    She was rather humble about her material possessions, she had a few decent things that she kept in good order so they lasted. She wasn’t especially crafty, but kept a tidy home and was a top notch cook. I have some of her recipes. She worked a part-time job, and was RS president or counselor for a long time in her ward. She had a fabulous garden. As she got older, she suffered from progressive senility, and over time her things were managed by her children, and us grandchildren weren’t very involved. I would love to have some of her homey things, but it just didn’t work out that way.

    Not long before she began to decline in aging, I was visiting with my little kids, and I asked her if I could have her resin grapes that she made with her RS cronies, and she gave them to me. They’re really well done! I have a tag on them now that identifies them as heirloom grade household kitsch, not for the DI box under any circumstances. They are my treasure.

    • I’m all verklempt thinking about your grandma making you feel so special. And I love that you’ve tagged the grapes, the ultimate symbol of mormon woman handicraft!

    • Recipes would be a treasure.

      Last year for Christmas I made a recipe book of my family’s favorite recipes (partly because I got tired of having to call my mom all of the time at holidays to ask her how to make things, and partly because I want them for a long, long time).

  4. I miss my grandmother so much. She’s been gone 8 years. I inherited a desire to be better …. to see the goodness in people and in the world …. as she did.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this post. They really touched my heart.

    Suzette

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