Thursday, January 12, 2012

Celebrity Biographies

My grandmother loved to read, especially biographies. Dad bought audio books to entertain her since she rarely left home in recent years. 

Grandma listened to Seabiscuit so many times it no longer played. So dad bought a second copy. (We show love in the tiny, considerate things we do, eh?)

Since she passed away last month, we have been slowly and methodically taking her things home with us. I asked dad if I could borrow the books.

I’ve finished Betty White’s Here We Go Again and Carol Burnett's This Time Together. I’m now on my third, Dick Van Dyke’s My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business. (Coincidentally, Dick Van Dyke just made news because he’s engaged at age 86.)

Hearing Betty White, Carol Burnett, and Dick Van Dyke talk about life in show business has been incredible. It’s like riding to work with them every day. 

Betty White has told me about her marriages, love of animals, and working on Golden Girls. Carol Burnett has told me about moving to NYC, that dreams do come true, and she tugged her ear for her Nanny. Dick Van Dyke has told me about being too poor to get married, his road to success, and working with Mary Tyler Moore.

One thing common among them is a humble appreciation for doing work they loved and earning enough to put food on the table. They share the recognition that such luck is rare, but dreams do come true and anything is possible. Each took risks, followed their passion and intuition, and worked hard to keep working.

It’s no coincidence that I’m listening to these books—a girl with big dreams about making films, and trying to figure out a place in the world. 

My grandmother keeps giving me gifts, even though she’s no longer here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lessons from My Grandmother

My grandmother, Virginia.
My only surviving grandparent just passed away. Her name was Virginia, but her daddy called her Ginger. I call her Grandma, which sounds more like GRAN-mah.

My grandma taught me many things. Here are a few of them:

  • Laugh often.
  • Family is important.
  • Know your roots. Share genealogy with family. Document it for those who don't care right now, but might later.
  • Cook with love. Often. And share hand-written recipes.
  • Be a voracious reader. On many different subjects, especially biographies.
  • Write the names of people on the back of pictures so your kids will know who they are even after you're gone. But use a pen or pencil that won't destroy the picture.
  • Every Southern woman has to have a garden.
  • Plant things in your garden that bloom different times throughout the year. Decorate your house with the flowers.
  • God is love. Pray to Him. ("I love talking to the Lord!" she said.)
  • Handwritten letters can be treasured forever if preserved. Send snail mail often and don't wait for an occasion. 
  • Always write thank you notes. Send them immediately afterwards, so the person knows how grateful you are for what they did for you.
  • Take time to be active. Play tennis, golf, or soccer. Go swimming.
  • Explore: go to the beach, mountains, or NYC. Go with loved ones. 
  • Take pictures of the happy times so they'll take you through the tough times.
  • Quiz your kids and grandkids on the names of your ancestors.
  • Use resources wisely: money, materials, etc.
  • Learn to write, sew, craft, and do artistic stuff.
  • Find a new purpose for what most consider trash. It'll save you money and keep things out of the landfill.
  • Dance often. Take lessons. Do a show on stage. Learn to move with the music.
  • Sing proudly and joyfully. (She always asked me if I'd joined the church choir yet.)
  • Celebrate the holidays as family. And be happy you're together one more time--that can always change unexpectedly.
  • Go to the library. You can read plenty of books for free!
  • Have a pet-friendly home. Teach your kids to respect and care for other living creatures.
  • Spend time in nature. Appreciate and care for the great outdoors.
  • You don't need a lot of stuff to be happy. Happiness doesn't come from owning stuff.
  • Mac and cheese is baked with real cheese, and it is really good.
  • Sweet tea tastes better when you add mint, especially mint from your garden.
  • It's not the food, china, silver, or decorations--but the time you spend with loved ones enjoying good company that you'll remember.
  • Always offer someone a beverage when they come to your home. Even if they're there to work on your house. You never know what they're going through, or how hard the day has been. A simple gesture can make a big difference. It's Southern hospitality, y'all.
  • Have a front porch. With a swing. And rocking chairs. Spend time there, chatting with people you love about things you remember fondly.
  • Even though you may not visit family often, you're still family. Call and invite yourself down for a visit, and let them know they can come visit you any time.
  • Hug often.
These past few weeks have been tough. But today I recognized I learned so much from loving and being loved by an incredible woman like my grandmother. 

A person never quite leaves you, even though they aren't physically here on Earth. And that's amazing, isn't it? I'm still mourning, but each day gets a little easier. I'm beginning to remember how to laugh.