Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What I Learned From My Grandmothers (Inspired by Adriana Trigiani's Don't Sing at the Table)

Grandma Carol (My Paternal Grandmother)
Grandma Penny (My Maternal Grandmother) and Me
Adriana Trigiani's latest book, DON'T SING AT THE TABLE: LIFE LESSONS FROM MY GRANDMOTHERS, definitely touched my heart (as you can clearly see in my review). I thought this book was a beautiful tribute to two very special women in Adriana's life, and I could definitely relate to many of her feelings about her grandmothers. Like Adriana (and many of you), I am incredibly blessed to have been given two amazing grandmothers, Carol and Penny. And I'm even more fortunate because I still have both of them in my life -- not many 41 year olds can say that. In fact just a few days ago, our family spent the day visiting with both of them (as well as my grandfather.)

I have to give Adriana a tremendous amount of credit for being able to write an entire book about her grandmothers' lives and the lessons she learned from them. I'm terribly emotional just trying to write a little post, and it's even more difficult for me to try to express my feelings in words. (Guess that's why she's a best-selling author and I'm just me!) Suffice it to say that I don't think I can do justice to these two awesome women. I'm just glad to be able to say that I have a little bit of their blood running through my veins.

I shared DON'T SING AT THE TABLE with my mom and the book got us both thinking about what we've learned from our mothers and grandmothers. I thought it might be interesting to make my own list of "life lessons" that I learned from my grandmothers. So my mom and I sat down and discussed what I've been lucky enough to gain from my grandmothers' wisdom. It was so much fun to reflect on the events of their lives and just how much they've managed to teach me. I have to think that Adriana would be so proud!

There are many, many valuable things that I have learned from my grandmothers, and I thought I'd share a few of them with you. But first, I wanted to tell you a little bit about each one of them.

My grandma Carol is my father's mom, and she is also my godmother. She's a very smart woman who never had the chance to finish high school because she had to get a job cleaning houses to help support her family. I absolutely adore her and she's definitely a character -- we never know what's going to come out of her mouth. She has been married to my Pap Pap for over 66 years (I actually have the ring that he gave her when she was just 14 years old), and she has two sons of whom she is extremely proud (if you don't believe me, just ask her.) When I was around a year old, I lived with her for about a month while my mom was recovering from surgery and I think that's when we really bonded! Her life wasn't always easy -- her husband left for WWII the day after they were married, her daughter died when she was just a few hours old, her husband was injured while working in a coal mine, and at times, she didn't have "two nickels to rub together" (her words, not mine) -- but she always persevered.

My grandma Penny is my mom's mother, and she's one of the most Christian women that I've ever met. She was the oldest of 12 children, and like my grandma Carol, she wasn't able to finish high school because her family needed her help. She married my grandfather who was a farmer and had 6 children over the next 23 years. Talk about a hard worker! She did all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry for eight people, but she didn't have the luxuries (like automatic washing machines, microwaves, and dishwashers) that we have today. In addition, she maintained a humongous garden, canned all of the fruits and vegetables, and made almost all of the clothes for the entire family -- the list could go on and on. As a child, I honestly don't remember her ever sitting down; and if she did, she was mending clothes. She has slowed down a bit in the past few years -- she lost her husband a few years ago and currently lives in a nursing home -- but she recently received a certification to be a peer counselor for other patients in the home. She is celebrating her 88th birthday tomorrow and she has 17 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Needless to say, her family is her life.

Things I Learned from Grandma Carol
-- Bargain Shopping
-- The Ability to Laugh at Myself
-- The Importance of a Good Meal
-- How to Make Risotto and Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
-- Fiscal Responsibility/Never Buy Something that You Can't Afford
-- Fairness
-- Be Direct
--The Key to a Lasting Marriage is Picking the Right Guy

Things I Learned from Grandma Penny
-- A Strong Work Ethic
-- Patience
-- The Importance of Family
-- Nothing Should Go to Waste
-- How to be "Green" -- reusing baggies, saving containers, composting, etc.
-- My Love of  Cookbooks and Crafts
-- The Value of Religion
-- There is Strength in Silence

I am so fortunate to have these two women in my life; and I'm even luckier that they've taught me so many important life lessons. Now it's my responsibility to share this wisdom with my children and my grandchildren!


rhapsodyinbooks said...

What a lovely post! I think you look a lot more like Grandma Carol than Grandma Penny. I love the list of lessons you learned. What a nice thing to compile. You sure are lucky you have those two!!!

bermudaonion said...

What a wonderful tribute to your grandmothers! You are lucky to have them in your lives still and you're smart to appreciate them. They both sound like gems!

Beth F said...

Wow -- What a moving post. You and your grandmothers are blessed to have each other.

Meghan said...

You're so lucky to have two incredible grandmothers! This was a lovely post and I bet they're thrilled to have you as their granddaughter. :)

Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

Beth Hoffman said...

Your post made me teary! What a beautiful tribute to both of your grandmothers!

Karlie said...

So true! We are incredibly lucky to have such amazing grandmothers. Really well said.

Sandy Nawrot said...

That post made me very emotional. My grandmothers were my best friends, and they were a huge part of my childhood. I sink into a malaise when I think about not having them anymore. I had to chuckle at being green...my nana saved everything! Plastic wrap, aluminum foil, sugar packets from restaurants...except back then they didn't call it "green". She was ahead of her time!

Meg said...

Julie, what a beautiful post about your lovely grandmothers! Both of my grandmas have played (and continue to play!) special roles in my life, too, and you're right: they have so much to teach us.

Amy said...

This is such a beautiful post, Julie. It's wonderful that you still have both your grandmothers here and that you realize how fortunate you are in this respect. I was also thinking that it's a great opportunity for your chidren to know their wonderful great grandmothers. Your respect, love and admiration for both remakable and strong women shines through your post and brought tears to my eyes. And I think sharing Adriana Trigiani's book with your mom was a wonderful way to bond with her and share heartfelt memories.

Thank you for writing & sharing this post.
~ Amy

Amused said...

What a sweet tribute to your grandmothers!

stacybuckeye said...

What a wonderful post. I love my grandmother to pieces and have always thought that I'd love to write a book based on her. Your lessons list makes me want to sit down and reflect on my two grandmothers. Thanks for that :)
And you are very lucky to still have them both. I'm 39 and lost one grandmother 3 years ago. My other one is still inspiring me .