While engaged in a not-so-deep-or-philosophical conversation with a friend last week, he mentioned that he had Googled himself. My first thought was, “Really???” Though I can’t say it’s something I had ever done this (but apparently, lots of people do it), he seemed fascinated by his new wealth of self-knowledge.
So, being of a very curious mind, I decided to give it a shot. What I found was this picture of myself with two of my cousins, and I was suddenly flooded with the memory of that summer.
This picture was taken 10 years ago at a family reunion, just a few months before Grandma died, a month shy of her 90th birthday. None of us knew then that this would be our last summer with Grandma.
As a mother and aunt, I can’t help but look back at my grandparents with awe. They had raised five kids and had 15 grandchildren. Yet, each summer, they managed to handle all of us. For a couple of weeks. At the exact same time. Either they were the bravest people God ever created, or secretly they hit the moonshine when we weren’t looking.
The day this picture was taken, myself, my siblings, and several of our first cousins had gone out to Grandma and Grandpa’s old house. We reminisced about rolling down the hill at Laco’s, catching fireflies in the field, and walking to the old school-house to play on the playground. We laughed as we recalled playing hide-n-seek in the cemetery down the road, where my cousin Lee and I quickly learned that hiding in the old, unlocked mausoleum was the best hiding place ever because no one else dared go in there. We also recalled having to walk up the hill to the outhouse in the middle of the night because they didn’t have indoor plumbing. This was scary when we were little, and in the middle of summer it was also quite pungent, to say the least.
We called Grandma “Pooch”, a childhood nickname that she never quite lived down. To this day, I’m not sure anyone really knows how she got that nickname. We just knew she hated it, so it became a challenge that we all happily embraced.
Pooch was our matriarch. She held us together, and she knew how to tear us apart when necessary. When she looked at you and said, “Go right out to that tree and bring me a switch,” you knew you had crossed the line. And if the switch wasn’t big enough, she sent you out for another one, and she used both. She really had no trouble keeping us all in line.
As I looked at this picture and recalled the memory of one last summer with Grandma, I realized that the lessons I learned from her were much deeper, and more philosophical, than I had realized. Over the years, she taught us about family, responsibility, and accountability.
But I think one of the most valuable lessons my Grandma taught me was to always be myself. Gran could out cuss a sailor and make him blush with her stories. She loved a dirty joke, and would tell it to whomever was within ear shot, including the preacher. But that was Pooch – always true to herself, for which she never apologized.
Being myself isn’t something I have always embraced. Like most of us, there was a time when I tried being who others expected me to be or who I thought they wanted me to be. But Grandma was right – the best person to be is simply myself. So, as my friends know, I am the same all the time – warm, funny, quirky, and sweet with a little-more-than-a-dash of my Grandma thrown in, which sometimes bites me in the ass.
But as Gran once told me when I was a teenager, “What other people think about you isn’t any of your business, little girl. Your business is being sure you like who you are.” And I do, Gran. I definitely do!