Lessons from my Grandma [A Mother’s Day Series]

I count myself lucky, among friends and other twenty-somethings, to have two amazing and loving grandmothers in my life. I adore them both, and do not see them as often as I would like. With Mother’s Day approaching, I began a post entitled “Lessons from my Mother”. I’ll share this post on Sunday. While writing, however, I realized I’ve had the privilege of learning from, and spending time with, my two darling grandmothers- and decided to celebrate “Mother’s Weekend”, and share a similar post dedicated to the influence both women have on my life.

Today’s post will focus on my father’s mother- my Grandma.

Grandma is a force of nature. My Grandma, along with her loving husband, my Pappap, raised six children- four boys and two girls- on a farm in central PA. She worked as a nurse, and in retirement dedicated her time to volunteering at her church. She can bake cookies and sweets like nobody’s business, and is the proud grandmother to thirteen grandchildren and one great-grandson.

My wonderful Grandma taught me so many things throughout our time together, and today I will share two important lessons I connect with my Grandma.

Lesson #1- size matters not.

While this lesson could easily apply to my mother and her mother- both mighty yet short of stature- I think the sheer size of my Grandma’s family renders her ratio of inner strength to actual physical size particularly awe inspiring. As I said, six kids… thirteen grandchildren. Add husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends to our ever growing family- and you’d find a farmhouse literally packed to the gills every holiday… with Grandma in full command. My father, and his brothers and sisters, grew into fantastically interesting adults, living full lives and raising wonderful children of their own (myself included, of course). My father’s patience, calming presence and strong sense of responsibility to family and friends is surely a reflection of expert parenting on the part of Grandma and Pappap. In fact, my father towers over his mother in height- yet Grandma firmly holds the position of family matriarch. And although I stand a full head taller than my Grandma (thanks for those genes, Dad)- she possesses a steady strength I could only hope to attain.

Over the years, I have witnessed my Grandma’s incredible strength in the face of tragedy. She lost her daughter, my aunt, to cancer. Such a loss flies in the face of the natural order of things. Mothers are not meant to bury their daughters.

When my Pappap passed away, in my heart I found my own pain compounded by the understanding of my Grandma’s loss. It is a painful certainty that eventually, we all must say goodbye to the people we love. When these crushing realities become too difficult to process, I think of my Grandma- of her strength and grace throughout all of life’s obstacles. And I count my lucky stars that I have such a wonderful woman in my life.

Grandma with her great-grandson, my nephew (posing as Padington Bear!)

Lesson #2- a box of cookies means I love you.

My Grandma bakes cookies every Christmas. I’m not talking a dozen or so chocolate chip and a couple of batches of sugar cookies… I’m talking hundreds and hundreds of Christmas cookies in scores of varieties. I’m pretty sure she starts baking in July, storing the delicious goodies in the freezer, just to meet her yearly quota. Each of her children and grandchildren have their favorites, and nobody lets Grandma off the hook if there are not enough of the peanut butter, coconut or cornflake variety to go around.

Every Christmas, Grandma hands out buckets and tins full of cookies to each family. When my brothers and I all lived at home, we would fight over the cornflake cookies (our favorite). When we went off to college, we would receive a box of Grandma’s cookies in the mail every December. I loved sharing my Grandma’s cookies with my friends and roommates each year. Due to the large amounts of Crisco and sugar used in the baking of said cookies, my health-conscious BFF Eric would occasionally hide the box of goodies from his female roommates… supposedly “saving” us from our own lack of will power. It is surely safe to say, however, that my Grandma’s cookies brought many a smile to the face of homesick college students each year.

Grandma’s Christmas cookies are more than a wrench in a diet plan or late night snack… my Grandma’s cookies are her special way of spreading her love across the miles and state lines between her and her family. A box of cookies from Grandma- whether hand delivered or dropped on the front porch- means, quite simply, I love you.

Grandma- I love your cookies, and I love you, too. Happy Mother’s Day.

My Mommom (left) and Grandma (right) along with baby S.

Photography by Amy Migliore of Focal Point Studios