Birthdays and Grandmothers


My birthday is this week and birthdays always get me thinking about family.

This year, my grandma Ruth has been particularly on my mind. I’m not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that she was the one who first bought me a bakery-made birthday cake. That was huge for me. Frosting roses were so glamorous!

But I think, really, it has more to do with the fact that my grandmother managed to make me feel so loved – even while living three states away.


I’ve often wondered how she did it. It wasn’t that she spent a fortune on me. And she didn’t really even play with me much, either. The memories I have of her are of doing ordinary things – watching her brush her teeth when she was visiting, sorting through the contents of her purse, crawling into bed with her in the morning, or being fascinated by all the pills she and my grandfather took (This actually worried her, as she was always concerned I’d mistake them for candy.) DSCN3671

And she was interesting to me. Her house was so different from my own. She had velour footstools in her livingroom shaped like mushrooms. She kept a fiber optic sculpture on her TV and Andes mints in her refrigerator. She painted ceramics and golfed.

But underneath all of these details was the very real sense that she loved me.

I found this picture the other day:


It’s a picture of me in my grandmother’s backyard at some sort of family gathering – and for the first time I really looked at the other people in the photo, too, not just at myself. There, in the top left hand corner, is my grandmother, looking straight at me – and her look says it all. I was loved. Really, really loved. What a wonderful thing.DSCN3673

Sadly, my grandmother passed away the summer I turned nine. My mother wasn’t even thirty. It was a huge loss. And yet, in the years that followed, the memories of my grandmother’s love remained. I saw her love for us in so many places – in the ceramics she’d painted and given to us, in the books she’d written little dedications and messages in, in the letters and cards she’d sent.

My mother talked freely about my grandmother in the years that followed. And though she had questions herself (after all, she hadn’t had much of a chance to know my grandmother as an adult), she told us all that she could. And she always, always ended our conversations with these words: “She loved you guys so much.” (“You guys” being my sisters and I).

Maybe it was my mother’s words that did the most to keep my grandmother’s love alive for us. And because of this, I believe that even though my own children live far from their grandmothers, that feeling of love and acceptance can be there for them too.

At our house, we talk often of the grandmothers  – we share memories and stories of them. We discuss their quirks, their interests, and their talents. I display things these lovely women have made for us. We look at pictures of them, and we remember the fun times we’ve all shared.

But this year, I’m going to start doing more. I’m going to start reminding my girls that they are loved. Their grandmothers really, really love them. And knowing what a difference a grandmother’s love has made in my life, I want to pass that gift on.

Of course CPT America and I love the girls too – but, you know what I mean….

From the dining room table, just now realizing that I may have gotten my penchant for cat-eye glasses and plaid pants from my grandmother…,

Mrs. Smythe

22 Comments on “Birthdays and Grandmothers

  1. I agree with Grandma M. That does look like Pepper in the picture.

  2. There’s nothing like a grandmother’s love, my grandmother “spoiled” me rotton, not with things, she didn’t have much money, but by doing things with me. One of my favorite memories is coloring with her, she sat next to me and colored one page, and I colored the other. When I colored my girl’s legs purple she declared that was such a wonderful idea! I think I was around 4 at the time.

    Happy birthday, it was nice seeing you tag saling today!

    • Thank you, Jane. And, what a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing. Sounds like your grandmother was a pretty special woman. And it was great seeing you, too!

  3. in the 3rd picture, is that you with your grandparents. It is the
    spitting image of Pepper, since she couldn’t have known them, you, at
    that age surely looked like your daughter today.
    And Happy Birthday!!!! you are loved also.

    • Thanks for pointing that out! I hadn’t really thought about it until you mentioned it. You’re right, though. She and I do look a lot alike.

  4. Great tribute, Mrs. Smythe, and happy birthday!

    • So glad you did – thanks for saying so!