When I reflect on how I became the woman I am today, I think of the women who were most influential in my life. These women were there from the beginning, from my infancy through high school, marriage, and beyond. They demonstrated class and style to my sisters and me as they loved, lived, and overcame obstacles.
Edith Pearl, my paternal grandmother, surrounded us with the kind of attention and love us girls relished. I remember fondly time spent at her home, when my sister, cousin, and I got to dress up in Grandma’s clothes and fancy shoes. She arranged our hair, bought us pretty dresses, and played Canasta with us. With her encouragement, we tried new and exotic foods. Imagine the giggles that ensued when she introduced us to the pu-pu tray at a Hawaiian restaurant. When she and Grandad traveled, they brought us gifts, among them pearls from Majorca (which I still have and wear). She gave us the gift of knowing we were treasured and special.
Caroline Alicia, my maternal grandmother, wasn’t afraid to try new things. A family member told her that she wasn’t smart enough to learn to sew. What did Caroline do? She took a class and became the best seamstress around. My sisters and I would spend part of summer vacation with Grandma and Grandpa. Though this city-fied girl wasn’t keen on weeding their gigantic garden, she did learn a few things about the value of hard work. How much did groceries cost in the summer of ’73? I don’t recall, but I do remember Grandma’s ability to stretch a dollar and still make good meals. Time with Grandma also included games – Scrabble, Canasta, and her all time favorite, Rack-o. Even my children now think of her when the Rack-o game comes out. Caroline’s caring and can-do attitude lives on. I often pause and wonder how she would handle a situation – sewing, gardening, family, or otherwise.
After I had my three children I told my mother, Linda Rae, that I owed her a million dollars. I now take that back. There isn’t enough money on the planet to pay her back for all she did for us. In addition to the sacrifices she made for my sisters and me, she was the best cheerleader a girl could ever have. As a slightly chubby preteen, she dried my tears in the dressing room at the clothing store, telling me “You just have broad shoulders like your father.” She’d make every effort to find something flattering and suitable for the occasion. While she couldn’t instantly remedy my figure,
Mom helped make me feel valued and pretty. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that it occurred to me that my shoulders might not be so broad. No matter, Mom’s sentiment still makes me smile. She cheered me on through marriage and motherhood lending savvy, not meddlesome advice.
These dear ladies each hold a special place in my heart. They taught me to nourish the inner beauty and let special qualities shine, to learn and push through challenges, and to cherish and love unconditionally. Their legacies live on through memories and the generations of strong women they left behind. I miss them all.
Karen Lange is a freelance writer and blogger, online writing instructor, and author of Homeschool Co-ops 101. She is a fan of good historical fiction, dark chocolate, and hockey. Karen loves to read, write, and spend time with family. Connect on Karen’s Blog, on Twitter, and Facebook.