In my life I have learned that there are many ways to judge the wealth of a person. Richness, I have realized, extends much further than the wallet or the bank account and even the simplest things, when recognized, can make you a very affluent person.
One such thing in my own life that makes me feel like a million bucks is that I still have two living grandparents. The other two I lost just within the last year, but the ones that are still around are alive and kicking and bring great joy to my life.
Joy, and delicious cookies, old country music, and hours of stories while sitting on lawn chairs in their garage.
I’m a lucky girl.
But because they live out of state, it’s not too often that I get to enjoy those cookies and lawn chairs, so when we do get the chance to be together I take in as much as I can, which is exactly what I did over a recent trip this year.
Among our standard activities (eating, watching America’s Funniest Videos, eating, singing, eating) we also pulled out some old photo albums that including pictures of my grandparents and my parents on their wedding days.
Jammed in a small book, these square snapshots of years ago smiled and the wrinkles of today were as distant as the thought of digital photography. My grandmother, in shades of black and white, was the tiniest little bride, my grandfather strong and bulked up from a term in WWII. My mother’s youth and her lacy dress in faded color made me smile, and my father’s mustache to waist ratio was much different than it is today (but I’ll never tell him that.)
The fashions and the vitality of these two women so important in my life doesn’t become a realization until you see them all at once, and for me it reminded me of the answer to a question I am always waiting to be asked:
“Living or dead, who would you most like to have lunch with?”
My answer would be, “my mother and my grandmother” which seems easy enough because a day of driving can take me to where they live and we could easily lunch. But my answer has a second part.
“My mother and my grandmother, all when we are the same age.”
At my age, my mother would have been a mother to an 8-year old (me.) She would have been coming into the same things I am now: school groups, piano lessons. Socially she lived in a neighborhood with a yard to mow and a garden to tend. She had a husband who put in a lot of hours and two dogs to take care of.
My grandmother at my age had a 4-year old (my mother), and 6-year old and 10 year old boys. She had lost her first husband in the war and had married my Grandfather. Her world was spent raising children and taking care of elderly relatives while her husband worked 7 days a week at the Ford plant.
And while those are the basics, I know there was more, much more. The way they thought and spoke, the things they wondered and worried about, all those years before their wisdom of today kicked in. That’s who I would want to have lunch with, my maternal idols, before they knew what they were doing and were flailing through their days just like I do now. What did they make before they mastered pot roast and chicken paprikash? What was the latest laundry disaster? How did they deal with misbehaved children? (Not me, of course.)
What a lunch it would be, the three of us. My grandmother with her curled hair and stockings. My mother with her ironed hair and miniskirt. Me with my jeans and Crocs. Three generations, bridging the gap of time and space over iced tea and chicken salad sandwiches. Surely a lunch like that would be worth all the wealth in the world.
The only thing greater would be a photograph to remember the occasion, whether it be black and white, faded color, or sharp and digital.