A Eulogy for my Gram
First: If you aren't related to me, you might want to just skip this post. It won't mean much to anyone but my family.
Yesterday, we said good bye to my Gram. It amazes me that so many people could have interpreted her words and actions so differently, and the tiny little stories that made up her life were all stored in different places. What makes one person remember one thing that everyone else forgets? And how is it that each of us does this to all different seemingly insignificant moments? Here is what I remember about Gram.
Based on my childish reasoning and worldly knowledge, I think my oldest memories of Gram must've formed when I was in kindergarten. I was certain that she was the Queen of England's sister. I thought the woman on the back of our coins was my Gram, and when someone older -- and without imagination -- told me about the Queen, everything came together for me. My grandmother was the Queen's taller, prettier sister. It all made sense in my four-year-old mind: she was certainly proper, they looked a lot alike, they were around the same age, they had the same name (didn't people from families share a name?) and Gram spoke English. And of course, the hardest proof of all: Gram was rich. Or at least, I figured she must be; how else could someone afford to bake birthday cakes with dimes and quarters hidden in the batter?
I continued with this belief for months, or maybe years, until either age or an older cousin convinced me otherwise. Although it my have been my imagination that won her my devotion, it was her real skills that kept it. She made my Barbies one-of-a-kind, straight-off-the-modest-churchgoing-runway fashions from her sewing scraps. She gave me the most luxurious double-sized Kleenex's you've ever seen when I sneezed (which was often, because I'm kind of allergic to her house). She turned full packs of Life Savors into elf ornaments and told me to eat the whole pack after Christmas. And it was her pies and butter tarts that really and truly made everyone swoon.
When I was twelve, my mom dropped me off at Gram's house and told me I wasn't allowed to come home until I knew how to bake a proper pie. This was their version of a rite of passage. I spent the day with Gram in the kitchen and after my second attempt, I was given a seal of approval and the apple pie to take home for dinner. Since then, pie has been my favourite dessert to make and eat.
As I've grown older, it has been her waste-not, want-not mentality that is so common from children raised in the Great Depression that has proved most inspiring to me. Her kitchen is filled with thrice used twist ties, scraps of paper and plastic cartoons waiting to be repurposed. Long before zero-waste was a thing with Millenials, she and my uncle were throwing out a grocery-sized bag of garbage only once or twice a month. Some people thought her lack of shopping and intentional minimalism was cheap, but I thought it was beautiful. In university I loved getting her homemade cookies ("Date Dainties, Sasha, because they taste the same even if they are a little stale"), sent cross-country in a plastic Wendy's salad container wrapped in half-popped bubble wrap. It was endearing.
About ten years ago, she copied down her recipe for peach pie for me so I could make it for my mother. It is well worn and loved: it has shortening stains on it and brown speckles (cinnamon, maybe?) but I want to frame it. I love the regal, tightly formed slant of her cursive letters and that the recipe is of a beloved pie filling, but most of all I love that it is written on the back of a used envelope with gold paper lining. She saw the beauty in the discarded, in efficiency, and in sharing her gifts. Her love was not loud or boastful, but it was present in every little detail, quietly shining for those who noticed, like the gold lining in a discarded envelope.