Category Archives: birthday

Memories of My Grandmother

Today my grandmother turned 96. I emailed my aunt to wish her a good day. I can just picture my grandmother sitting at the table asking my aunt to “turn on the box” to read it (referring to the computer), or “turn on the little box” (laptop) if she is in bed. She likes to read my emails, even when she doesn’t understand what I am saying.No, I don’t write in English, but I do so many things that she just doesn’t have any concept of, it all sounds very strange. She has never driven a car, and even though she has been in them she can’t wrap her head around the distances I drive each day simply to get to and from work mainly because she has never lived outside a large metropolitan area where you walk everywhere, and driving is reserved for special excursions to the country side or the beach (4 hour drive from where they are). Grocery stores are still a new concept for her, as opposed to specialty shops for everything (bakery, diary market, butcher shop, farmer’s market). When I write to her telling her how my week has been, or what I have been up to, it is not so much that she doesn’t understand (she has an idea of *what* these things are), but she doesn’t understand, which is also a result of her progressing years, where certain things just aren’t clear anymore.

I remember when I was little my dad and I used to write her letters. They would be long, spanning several days, in the style of journals, and once they became thick enough we would mail them out. It would take at least a month for a letter to reach my aunt and grandparents, and vice versa. It still does actually. Which is why I hardly ever send them cards, and just use email for all communication (this wasn’t always an option).

I ordered some books from Romania for my mother for Christmas in early November. I am still waiting. This summer I learned to order things early. When my dad was in the hospital with almost nothing to do, I wanted to get him some of his favorite books, ordered them in Romanian on Amazon knowing they would take slightly longer, but had no real idea of the delay that still existed via actual mail. They arrived too late.

At this rate I would have had to send out my grandmother’s birthday card to her back in October. Which, come to think of it, was how we used to do it.

Considering I lived with my grandparents and aunt for my first years (until about five and half), I have dozens of memories and stories about my grandmother. Sometimes when I remember them I write them down, almost afraid I will one day forget. When my children get older I will tell them some of the stories. Sadly I don’t think my children will ever meet my grandmother.

Here are two pictures I found in an old album a few months ago… the first is with my grandparents and my dad (and obviously me)… the second was taken a few years earlier (not entirely sure when).

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

First of all, happy birthday! I guess today is as good a day as any to tell you how much I appreciate you. You have spent my entire life trying to teach me, but honestly, I learned most from the things you weren’t overtly explicating.

You are the strongest woman I know. I got my stoicism from you. I never quite learned how to block out all emotion, or never show I care, but I learned enough to protect myself. I have watched you my entire life, taking everything in stride. Nothing affected you. In a way I envy that, and maybe one day I will perfect the art of nonchalance.

You taught me how to build everything from nothing. You withheld from me when I was young, and as resentful as I may have been (and maybe still am once in a while), I learned to do everything for myself, never relying on anyone else. I am at a point in my life where I will have to build myself from nothing once more, and this time I have others depending on me, and because of the experience you have given me, I have quite a running start. I have learned from you how to pull things out of thin air, and in times of desperation, push just a bit further.

I have heard your stories, and I don’t know if I could do what you did, but I would like to think I could accomplish half. I have learned that much.

No matter what I did, you always wanted more from me, it was never good enough, and I think that was simply your way of motivating me, giving me impetus for achieving just a bit extra and never stagnating.

You even taught me the silly things, yet still important in their own right. I have your insane fashion sense, always ready for all occasions. I remember being about eight, and wanting to wear an outfit not far from pajamas. You asked me to change and I didn’t want me. You asked me to think about what would happen if plans change, if something spontaneous happens. What if I may think I am just running out for an errand and something comes up that demands I arrive somewhere formal? Then what? Wouldn’t I be embarrassed at the way I am dressed? That was the example you gave me and I never forgot. You will be glad to know I have never been embarrassed anywhere.

I cannot enumerate your many lessons, things learned directly, and indirectly watching you, inadvertently studying you and mimicking you as a child would do.

You have never lied to me, and taught me to be more honest than may be good for me. You praised my talents, and simultaneously reminded me of my shortcomings. Thank you for never deluding me into believing I am good at everything, or worse, at the very things I don’t have a calling for. Thank you for helping me develop those things at which I excel, even when you could not give me the answers, but guided me to find them elsewhere.

Now you have grandchildren who learn everything from you second hand through me. So far I cannot say I have taught them any great life lessons, but they see, and have probably gleaned more than I think.

Mom, from you I have learned patience, defiance, wit, charm, decadence, passion, stoicism, strength, and my own weaknesses.

I love you like I love my own children. When you had me you gave me life. Since then you have given me your life in pieces. Thank you for giving me everything, and teaching me how to find those things you could not give.

Driving and Stuff

My mom and I took the kids to the beach today. She was sitting next to me while I drove and asked why I hold the gear shift while driving. I haven’t driven a stick shift in many years, but it was the way I learned how to drive and I still drive in the same position. I am actually not even sure I could drive a stick again since it has been so long. I would probably stall the car.

I remembered learning to drive. My dad and my first husband took turns teaching me. I guess for them it was a bonding experience over my driving inexperience. For me, it was stressful. I would try to change lanes on a busy street, and my dad would shout “don’t ever do it like that! Your mirrors don’t show you everything! You need to turn, all the way, and look! Really look! What if someone was in your blind spot? What if the car in the other lane was driving faster than you saw in the mirror? Then what?” Changing lanes became terrifying.

Then, later in the evening I would go out driving with my husband. I would change lanes carefully, looking in all directions, making sure I missed nothing. “What are you doing? Don’t take your eyes away from the road for that long! That is what you have mirrors for!”

It is a miracle I ever learned to drive at all.

Although several people may argue that I still don’t know how to drive. Eh.

In a few days it will be my first ex husband’s birthday. He is turning fifty so I feel like I should send him something. I am not sure what. I have a beautiful copy of Coleridge with some very well done illustrations. I could send him that. But I haven’t spoken to him in about five years. I wouldn’t even know where to send it. He sends me emails once in while. Usually links to things. Maybe I will send him a link to something for his birthday. Maybe just an email.

Last time I heard from some mutual friends he had gotten back together with his first wife. I don’t remember much about her except that she hated me. When I first got with him she kept trying to get in touch with me. After a few months I finally called her. We had a long conversation in which, even in my youth, I realized she was crazy.

After we got married she started sending me little “gifts.” They were usually baby items… onesies, rattles, baby books. Obviously a reminder of the child we could never have. They came in intervals, usually around my birthday. Maybe she meant them as Christmas gifts, but since my birthday is so close they generally arrived around then. On my twenty first birthday she sent me a clock. Implying time was running out? I don’t know. I never replied to any of her packages. Received them and threw them away. Except for the clock. It looked very nice in the living room. She kept this up for almost six years. Like I said, crazy.

I should have kept the onesies and dressed my children in them. Who’s laughing now? Well, I guess she is. I guess I could retaliate and send her a few things too. But there is nothing wrong with *my* head. At least not like that.

At the beach today, seeing me in a bikini my mother noticed I have gained weight in a good way. I think I have gained around five or six pounds. For the last year I had lost so much weight, it was a little disconcerting. I was under a lot of stress and for me, stress eating leads to weight loss. I haven’t been eating very much lately so my body stopped burning everything. But I have gained weight in all the right places. I love it.

My mom and I talked about a lot of things. The kids were asleep in the back seat and she just let me talk. I think I rambled on for about an hour. I can’t even remember everything I said, but it felt good.