Grandmother’s Helper, 1899. Painting by Harry Herman Roseland.
I owe a lot to my grandmothers. They each taught me something about how to love and enjoy life.
My mother’s mom taught me what it means to love. Whenever I got mad at my parents or was having a bad day, I could go to her house, just down the street from mine. She’d hug me and let me talk it out, then turn on the TV. We’d just sit there for hours, but she made me feel like everything would be okay. She listened to me and let me lay my head in her lap, running her fingers through my hair while smoking a cigarette.
It’s those moments that I loved most. They taught me what it meant to love: to just accept someone, no matter what mistakes they made, and always help them feel like it would be all right. She didn’t have to say anything; she was just there. And that was enough to make me feel loved.
My father’s mom was a bit more practical. Though I never had as deep of a bond with her as I did the others, she taught me another aspect of loving someone: providing joy‚ and in this case, by baking cookies.
I’d sit at the counter for hours, combining ingredients and stirring the batter by hand. Then I’d have to stay in the kitchen to watch the cookies, taking them out at the perfect time so they were crisp on the edges and gooey in the middle. I still make those cookies. My entire family loves them, and baking them brings me‚ and my family, joy. There’s nothing like the joy found in some hard work over a hot oven, just to enjoy five minutes of melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
Finally, there’s my dad’s stepmother. I didn’t see her as often as the others, but she taught me another aspect of love: keeping secrets. When we would visit her, I’d often have trouble sleeping at night (her cats loved to make noise). I’d wake up and go into the living room. She stayed up late, so she’d let me curl up on the couch with her to watch TV.
The thing was, we watched what I wasn’t allowed to watch at home. With her, I watched my first wrestling match. I watched Starship Troopers, probably at way too young an age for that film. And she always kept it our secret: letting me stay up until the wee hours of the morning, helping me explore new shows, and accepting me whether I liked them or not. That’s another part of love: keeping (and sharing) secrets, especially the ones for which others might frown at you.
My grandmothers taught me a bit about real love: acceptance, providing joy, and keeping secrets. ¬†Every time I sit quietly with my fiancé and run my fingers through his hair, or bake gooey cookies, or watch TV late into the night, I think about my grandmothers. And I smile. They helped me find little things in life that bring me joy, and that help me bring joy to the people I love.
-Tiffany Rhoades
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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