When You’re Smiling
I was a serious child and a shy one, prone to gazing mutely at enthusiastic adults with solemn, enormous eyes if I wasn’t in the mood for interaction.
My grandmother Millie was the opposite: vivacious as all get out, gutsy of voice and broad of smile.
“When you’re smiling,” she’d sing in her smoky alto, shimmying up a storm, “when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you…”
I don’t know how any person survives losing first a spouse, then a daughter within a handful of years, but she did so in a way that embraced both life and grief wholeheartedly.
Her religion is not mine, but there was common ground where it mattered: in services on the beach at sunrise, in sitting quietly with the memory of loved ones at sunset, in music of all sorts.
She lived to be 94 years old. Ninety-four and a half, actually. Can you fathom it? That’s exactly three times as old as I am, almost to the day. She lived to see all of her grandchildren reach adulthood, to meet her great-granddaughter. And in the most graceful of all possible exits, her curtain call was just enough to give fair warning. Then, this past Thursday, December 11th, 2014, she drifted off to sleep one final time.
I showed Owlet and Platypup photos and told all the stories I could think of. Platypup thought the one where Millie is holding infant me was of “Gama Jack” (Grandma Jackie) at first.
When I went out to honor her memory last night, I felt my lineage flare up within me more strongly than ever before. I felt how she had made my mom, my wonderful gem of a mother, and, in making her, had made me. Surrounded by the objects of my choosing — the first and last photos of she and I together, my mother’s ashes, a lilac-scented candle because lilacs always remind me of my mom, a sprig of fresh rosemary, a blue jay feather from Thor’s mother, three treasured stones (mugglestone, rose quartz, and blue lace agate), mom’s candle snuffer, and a scattering of lavender — I sent my love and said goodbye.