As the “J” suggests, I was named after my grandmother, Janette. My parents were creative that way, my brother is “Joe”. Not even kidding. Had my mother abit more of an adventurous spirit, I might have been named after my paternal grandmother, Stella. Now THAT’S a name thank you, Marlon Brando!
Growing up, I spent part of each summer vacation traveling to Philadelphia, visiting my father’s family and the city where I was born. As you might guess, there was more to do and see than we ever had time for. Not just in Philly, but checking out the best the East Coast had to offer. I’m sure Grandma Stella had many pearls of wisdom to pass on, but being a fabulous hostess and vacation planner, she busied herself maximizing every minute of each excursion to Cape May or the Atlantic City Boardwalk right down to the freshly pulled saltwater taffy. Huh, so now we know where I get that from….
Grandma J was the “Mother Earth” type. From my maternal Danish grandmother I inherited not only her name but most other attributes. She lived close by and I had almost daily access to her influence and common sense know-how. She is the reason this City-Girl-at-Heart can jar homemade preserves. She let me pick berries from her garden even though she knew it meant I would eat half of them before returning to the kitchen. My earliest memories are fuzzy and consist of her in the kitchen. As I got older, I began to absorb her sensibilities.
During my dating years alone, Grandma J saved me from much grief: “Promise me you will never date a guy you meet in a bar. What do you think they’re looking for?”. And lets not forget “Leave the [party, club, bar] by midnight. Nothing good is going to happen after 12:00 and it lets people know you have a life, you’re not desperate”.
When I married, my ex and I found ourselves sparring over every little thing, it was more of a control issue. Her guidance was: “Whenever you find yourself being pulled into an argument, ask yourself: ‘Is this going to matter in 6 months? 3 years from now will you even remember, except for the fact that it hurt feelings?’ If the answer is No, suck it up, be the bigger person, quit the bickering and move on to something that IS important.” She was tellin’ it like it is long before Dr. Phil.
In no way does this suggest becoming a doormat; the point being the Battle of Gettysburg need not be reenacted when an opposing opinion is introduced. As it turned out, this advice did not work with my ex, as we did not realize early on he was a closet alcoholic, and walking away from the fight only antagonized him more. Oops.
But it translated well in professional situations and with friendships. While working in Economic Development, our Executive Director was well, a Director. As I worked on countless reports or proposals, his suggestions were not always in line with my vision of the final piece. My ideas were prettier. What report doesn’t need at least one multi-color graph? But I learned fairly quickly that a simple “OK, I see your point” rather than vying for bragging rights that my pie chart would revolutionize an entire industry (a girl can dream) allowed me to “let go” and there was no residual stress taken home at the end of the day.
Her wit and wisdom could counsel any issue I tossed her way:
Parenting: “Try not to do things for a child they should be learning/doing themselves”.
Friendship/Soulmate: “One soul occupying separate bodies.” (Grandma paraphrasing Aristotle)
Nutrition: “Dont eat anything if you don’t know where it’s from or can’t pronounce any of the ingredients”….. I think Whole Foods owes her some serious residual cash!
Independence: A couple of years after my grandfather passed away, she commented about a friend of hers dating. Naturally, I asked if she would consider dating again, to which she replied “I loved your grandpa with all my heart but Lord knows he was a pain in the ass. Why would I date again?” Gotta love that kind of fiesty-ness.
Religion: Early in my teens I became disenchanted with religion, and confused as to where this left me with God. She was very involved in her church, and I was surprised when she told me “God isn’t in a church, he’s found in hearts and souls”. It was then I understood the difference between spirituality and “religion”.
Coffee: (When asked if she had decaf in the house) “Decaf? Why?”
Housework: “Quit stressing, keep things tidy enough so you wont be embarrassed by unexpected visitors….you’ve got better things to do”.
Fashion: In highschool, lets just say my mother and I had a difference of opinion. The 80’s allowed designers and taste to be dictated by MTV. Grandma came to my defense “Oh let her be, I wish I could’ve worn stuff like that when I was her age”.
Love: “It’s not a 50/50 deal. Do you love them enough to give 100%?”
I could go on, but I’m approaching 900 words. She’s been gone many years, but something about spring stirs all my memories. So lets all dig up a neon sweatshirt and tacky jewelry, put on a pot of coffee and get started on spring cleaning…. Until we think of something better to do!