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Monday, April 17, 2006

Little Big Things

I was thinking about J-Mazz’s entry about loving the little things in life. I am reminded of the little things that I love every time I am around my grandparents. Most people are particularly fond of one set, or just one grandparent, having forged some bond or spent some extended period of time during their lives together. Maybe a vacation, maybe they moved in for the latter years of their life before passing away. Maybe they were a favorite babysitter.
But my love, adoration, observation and great appreciation for my mother’s parents is founded in years and years of closeness. Sleepovers, long talks, letters, hugs, kisses and milkshakes can’t begin to explain the time we spent getting to know each other, learning how to love life together. I could write for hours today and only touch the surface of the great ocean of experience we have shared. Instead, as I am at work and will probably be busted for writing this, I will touch on a few of my favorites- the little things I remember that somehow amount to so much in my heart.
My name. My grandfather named me…have I written about this before? I got my name from a Portuguese woman my grandfather met while he was serving in the Navy. He fell in love, or maybe lust with her and her beautiful name, and so it is mine.
Banana splits and the Golden Girls. I found a great appreciation for “old people tv”, as my siblings and I have referred to it over the years, from the many nights I spent at my grandparents house. Sometimes they were babysitting, other times I just couldn’t stand the idea of being away from them for the night. I’d sit in my grandmother’s lap and she’d tie my hair in rags, hoping to recapture, in the morning, the curls I had as a baby. I’d sit and feel her fingers run through long, straight brown hair, the shiny kind untouched by heat and styling, the kind of hair that we had when we were kids. Golden, no matter the color. I’d laugh at Blanche and Rose, I’d lick hot fudge off a spoon and wince at the pain in my head, always trying to eat ice cream as quick as I could before it melted all over my footie pajamas. My grandmother was this perfect mix of the beautiful Blanche and the care-free Rose, the wit of Sophia and the height of Dorothy. She is in her late seventies now, and still as tall and beautiful. My grandfather, it is obvious, takes great pride in that.
Commitment. That feeling of always knowing I could count on a ride, a place to stay, a hug, a smile, a person to keep a secret. Cheese fries. Chocolate milk. A Halloween costume, a bathing suit that I forgot to bring to school the day of a trip to the YMCA. The day my grandfather went to a department store, bought the most pink, most adorable, most expensive bathing suit he could find and rushed it to my classroom in plenty of time for me to make it on the bus to the Y with the rest of the kids.
Nail polish. They way I feel when I wear it. The way I felt when my grandmother, and on occasion, grandfather applied it to my tiny nails. Regal. I learned that a lady should never leave the house without her nails done, and to this day, it is one of the first things I think about when I have anywhere to go- will I have time to do my nails? I started out wearing the same frosted pink that my grandmother wore, a little ritual between the two of us. Pretty ladies in pink polish. I wear clear today, or sometimes brown, but on summer days my toes yearn for frosted pink, and feel pretty when I give in to them.
The importance of tenderness and touch. My fiancé likes to watch my grandmother and I in church. We always sit side by side. We always hold hands, I put my arm around her sometimes, and we share secrets. We do this other places, but I think he finds it most evident and most entertaining in church. It is mere tiny proof of our love for each other, of our understanding that love manifests itself in many ways and that touch is one of them. I see it when my grandparents kiss, hold hands, help each other out of chairs. I know it when I long to hug my grandfather, dance with my fiancé, laugh with my grandmother. It’s that sweet, caring love that you can spend a lifetime trying to find and another trying to keep. You could even spend time trying to figure it out. But I’d rather just cherish it.
Sunrise. Most people find their love or need for coffee in college or shortly after, as they find themselves in the real world, waking up early by force, spending their days at work. I found my love for coffee as a four year old.
Some kids want to be old and wise beyond their years, and there isn’t a saying that could better describe me as a child. Anything adults did, I wanted to be a part of, specifically, anything my grandparents did. So in the summer, when it was my turn to spend a week at the beach alone with them, I mimicked their every move. This included waking up around 5 am every morning to watch the hummingbirds. My grandfather, an avid lover of all things natural and beautiful, fed every creature that came across his path. The hummingbirds were among his favorite animals, and he fed them a mixture of sugar water each morning from a variety of feeders. If we were very quiet and didn’t move too much, we could watch them as they drank nectar from feeders posing as flowers. And as they sucked sugar from those faux flowers, I sucked sugar from a coffee cup, just like my grandfather. That taste of warm, milky-sweet coffee and the feeling I got after I drank it quickly became a favorite drink. I log for the days of ritual; of waking early, watching the sun rise and the hummingbirds eat over easy conversation and coffee with my grandfather.
So, when I started writing an hour ago, I meant for this to be about little things, but as I read over it now, I find that it really is about the biggest things in life. Things that may seem small in size, but are in fact, huge in my memory, sustaining in my heart.


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