I've been working on a project about my grandmother. So far, I've amassed a great deal of stories and pictures. It's been hard to get started on the actual writing and compiling because reading and re-reading is so much fun.
I grew up next door to my Grandma Helen. I was named after her. When I went away to college, she sent me notes and her family famous Valentine cookies. Every return home saw me running across the driveway to see her before I'd even think of unpacking the car.
Grandma Helen died at the end of my senior year of college. She didn't see me graduate from college. She met my husband, but didn't see our wedding. She never met Phee or shared stories of her six pregnancies.
I learned a lot and shared so many experiences growing up next to Grandma. I was the only kid I knew with family next door and, even then, I knew how special that was and how lucky I was. There's so much more I wish I'd been able to find out, though. As I grew up, got married, got pregnant, I know she would have had so many more stories of her younger years to share. With all I did have, it's hard to say that I missed out. But I did. And I do every day.
She is on my mind so often. When I'm in the kitchen especially. The kitchen is the center of so many homes, and none more so than Grandma Helen's. When you walked into her house, you walked right in to the heart of her home and our family. The side door led into the long kitchen, scene of weekly family dinners, all day baking marathons, and too many childhoods to count.
Phee isn't growing up in that kitchen. She hears stories, but even then, I can only remember so much at one time. Some things are just better for having been experienced. And so I'm working on this project. It's a considerable undertaking, compiling memories and stories from relatives. Already I have learned so much, seen many old photos for the first time, and cried over Grandma's handwriting in well-worn cookbooks.
A grand project full of so many facets of my Grandmother and her life. A trip down memory lane; memories old and new. More than anything this labor of love is a way to find my place in a family full of strong women, led for so long by our beloved Grandma Helen.