A two parter - written over the last week

about Eleanor

A scrap of paper with chicken scratch handwriting and poor spelling that one might have just tossed away without a second glance. In actuality a love note from a grandchild comparing your beauty to a Christmas Tree, signed “your fried, Kerri.” Tucked away, dated December 26th, 1985 in familiar perfect script. Saved for 22 years and now in my own home where I have glanced at it several times daily on my kitchen counter (now residing with the glassware in the cabinet).

She did this with all things deemed special; photos were dated with notes (“Easter Sunday 1984, Kerri Ann’s Sixth Birthday”), interesting newspaper clippings dated and tucked into a drawer, notes like the one I wrote to her so very long ago, lovingly stored for a purpose only she could know. She filled calendars with notes on the weather. All of this a chronicle of her daily life and I wonder where I get this need to maintain our family narrative?

There are distinct memories; air popped popcorn with melted butter on special overnights, the special way she greeted us at the door as if we had made her entire day, Thanksgiving gravy, Easter coleslaw, birthday cards, The National Enquirer, coloring books, my confirmation sponsor, the framed picture of my grandfather the sailor that hung in her living room, the nutcracker, Constant Comment, her laugh. More recently; her grace, dignity, her pleasant words.

During my last visit with my grandmother in the very brief time we had alone, I stroked her hair and gently touched her frail arm asking her to please share the secret of her amazing skin. Without pause “Oil of Olay, Lots of water, Stay out of the Sun.”

That was the kind of woman my grandmother was; styled impeccably, makeup carefully applied, with a smile as wide as the ocean, a contagious laugh and the ability to make you feel like the most special person in the room.

I wanted to say, “I’m sorry I have not been here more. I’m sorry you have only seen Caroline a handful of times in her two years. I’m sorry that I haven’t been more present.” I know that it was too late for I’m sorry, but not to say goodbye and when she needed family most, I was there. I find some small bit of solace in that.

I am wearing the bracelet she gave me for my confirmation. It was also the gift her father gave to her at her own confirmation. Caroline turned it over and over on my wrist this morning while I tried to load the dishes single-handed. In the frantic pace of our morning I pressed pause and told her that this very special bracelet had been a gift from my grandmother, her great grandmother. “Isn’t it pretty? Isn’t it as pretty as a Christmas Tree?”

suddenly I see

We made our arrangements to travel to Western MA for my grandmother’s services and though we debated leaving Caroline with her daycare provider in CT or with a close family friend for the actual funeral service, in the end we decided to keep her with us. We knew she would be a pleasant distraction for my father and she was so unbelievably well behaved that we said more than once that “she just knew” something serious was happening around her. (I joked with my uncle later that we needed to leave before the medication wore off.) With the exception of an occasional “where granda? where Nana?” or “Mommy, butterfly!” she was absolutely the most well-behaved two-year old I have ever seen and I am not saying that as her mother.

At the burial Caroline kissed the rose we had been handed before helping me place it gently on her great grandmother’s casket. She went from my arms to my mother’s to give Granda a great big kiss while I paid respects to my grandfather, gone 15 years now. I think this was possibly the hardest moment of the day for me; the knowledge that they are there together now.

The ride home brought introspection and while Snow White played in the back seat I considered that my Caroline is not likely to remember her wonderful great grandmother. I find that incredibly sad. I struggle to consider how best to present my grandmother's (and my grandfathers’) legacy to her as she grows. What lessons can be learned from their lifetimes? What wisdom to impart?

And just at that moment what came on my Siruis…“Suddenly I See.” Though I am sure it was not written about how a mother feels about her daughter, that has always been my interpretation. Whenever I hear this tune I always associate it with Caroline’s arrival. It quickly became abundantly clear to me that being Caroline's mother was always exactly what I wanted to be, nothing more, nothing less. The pride I have for my daughter knows no limits, my love for her reaches the moon and back, and suddenly as I sat there thinking about this song, I saw. The very emotions I feel about my love for Caroline echo her grandmothers' love for their combined 5 children, how my grandmother felt about each of her four children, how Steve's Nina cared for all of her nine children, and how his Nanny adored her seven. In that connection I have found a common thread, a way to continue that generation’s legacy with my daughter. Someday, God willing, she will share in this experience of motherhood and she will know the limitless devotion I, her grandmothers, her great grandmothers and beyond experienced. That if you give love, love comes back to you.

These songs have a way of creeping up on me in moments when I need them most. While looking out the window of the hotel room on our wedding day, seated alone having blush applied to my cheeks, I heard a song playing on a ship in the harbor waiting to take sail. I raced to the window 100% expecting to see my groom smiling up at me, and though I looked everywhere, he wasn't there, but it assured me that this was right, that it was perfect.

“All you need is love…Love is all you need.”

for reference:

KT Tunstall, Suddenly I See

Her face is a map of the world

Is a map of the world
You can see she's a beautiful girl
She's a beautiful girl

And everything around her is a silver pool of light
The people who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palm

Suddenly I see
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see
Why the hell it means so much to me

I feel like walking the world
Like walking the world
You can hear she's a beautiful girl
She's a beautiful girl

She fills up every corner like she's born in black and white
Makes you feel warmer when you're trying to remember
What you heard
She likes to leave you hanging on her word

Suddenly I see
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see
Why the hell it means so much to me

And she's taller than most
And she's looking at me
I can see her eyes looking from a page in a magazine
Oh she makes me feel like I could be a tower
A big strong tower
She got the power to be
The power to give
The power to see

Suddenly I see
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see
Why the hell it means so much to me


Post a Comment