Memories of Grandma - or - Who's in the Mirror?
My Grandmother - a woman of strength, love, and faith
My grandmother lived in a duplex on the corner of our block. She was a survivor of the Armenian genocide, a strong woman of faith, a proud American citizen, and an avid reader. Se loved to knit, crochet and do needlework. She also loved to garden. I think because of the horrors she witnessed during the genocide, the beauty of her garden, the colors, the "life" it held were important and therapeutic to her. She had a small vegetable garden in the courtyard of her duplex where she grew swiss chard, tomatoes and parsley. While she tended to the garden, I would play waitress with her, pretending to take her order on an ivy leaf that was my pretend notepad.
She lived on the top floor of the duplex. When you walked into her home, you would stare right at the stairs that led up to her unit. Her house smelled like a mixture of palmolive soap and onions, and it was always cool in temperature in that grandma's house sort of way. As a little girl, one thing that I remember are the large gardening shears that were always on the second step of her staircase. I remember how huge and sharp they looked, like old rusty giant's scissors. My grandma would use these scissors to edge the grass of her front yard. Not the garden itself, but the grass that grows in the sidewalk sections.
She took a lot of pride in her garden. Her knees were bad, and she'd sit on the sidewalk, one knee extended, one knee bent, and she would snip the grass where it hit the edge of the walkway, scooting herself down the plot as she worked. Her flower garden was beautiful. She grew fuschia flowers, the pods of which my brother and I would love to "pop" as they hung down in clusters. She loved showy dahlias and roses, and most especially she loved to grow oriental poppies. She would harvest the seed pods of the poppies and collect the seeds to put on her boregs and fresh baked bread. Once she shared with me that when she and her friends were children in Armenia, she would work in the poppy fields, harvesting the pods for opium. The beautiful red, ruffled blooms brought back happy memories of her childhood.
I've been thinking about my grandmother a lot lately. When my life feels like it starts to get overwhelming, I think of her and her quiet strength, her faith, and her inner peace. She had a soft face, a broad nose, her hair was long and always coiled into a bun that was pinned up at the nape of her neck. Her stockings were knotted at the knees. Plain. No make up. Basic. Despite my health issues, compared to her life and what she had to endure as a survivor, raising a child as a single widowed mother, my life is a piece of cake.
At this stage in my life, when I look in the mirror, I've been seeing my grandmother. When I was young, I looked like my father; as I grow older, I look like my mother; but there are certain times, when my hair is pulled back, when I have no make up on, when I'm just plain ol' me that I look like my grandmother. And a few months ago, when my brother and sister came to visit me in the hospital after the mastectomy, I heard them whisper it to each other, "She looks like grandma!" My ears heard it...and I was glad, because up until that point, I thought I had been imagining seeing grandma in my reflection.
And the similarities don't end with looks. I too like to knit and crochet, I love to read, and I find a great peace in spending time in my garden. Although I haven't had luck growing poppies, I do love to grow my vegetables and flowers. Like her, I have bad knees and can't squat, so I do sit...and bend just like she used to.
My sister Susan came over to help me weed the garden since I'm not able to pull and use my arm too well yet. Two sisters-in-law, but truly more like sisters, we worked together - Susan turning over and loosening the dirt so that I'd easily be able to pick out the grass/weeds. We cleaned up the garden together, talking, sharing while we worked. And then just like my grandma, I picked up my gardening shears and trimmed the edge of the grass against the concrete. We finished, and came into my cool house -- was it me? or did it smell like palmolive soap and onions? I went to wash up, and there she was in the mirror. I look like my grandma. It's a nice reminder of someone that I miss and hold so dear.