Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Experiences over things

I've written a few times about my late grandmother on this blog:  here, here and here. (The last piece was read at her funeral this past summer.)

My grandmother holds a special, special place in my heart. The pain of losing her is still so raw that I will tear up if I let myself think about her for an extended amount of time or talk about her with loved ones. I do not grieve as the world does, for she is dancing in Heaven right now, but I do miss her, cherish her.

She touched a deep place in me that very few people have. I remember so much about her. Her smile, her kindness, her gentleness. Sitting on her lap. Snuggling with her in her bed. The way she smelled of coffee and fried ham on Sundays when we visited her. Looking in her jewelry box and looking at each piece of jewelry she wore. Her fur coat hanging in her closet that she never wore. Her quilting. Her crafts. Her hugs. Feeling loved. There's so much.

When I think about being with her, we really didn't do a lot together. By that, I mean we didn't go many places. I can only remember a handful of times going to the grocery store with her. (Painful experiences, as she was extremely frugal and looked at every. single. thing.) We didn't go to the movies, or the zoo, or the toy store. In fact, there are very few tangible gifts that she gave me.
When I think about being with her, it was very simple. "Gaga" lived on good sized acreage (about 15 acres?) in a house she essentially helped build with my grandfather. They lived there until they died. Weekends were spent at her house, roaming the land, playing pretend, eating good food, and just being together.
She loved to teach us things, as she was a home economics teacher for years at the local high school. We took walks, she showed me her quilt project she was working on, we did Christmas crafts, but mostly I just remember sitting with her on the porch outside, being with each other and talking. I loved those times. Those are the times I grieve for.
I seek to create those kind of times for my children. I seek to give them experiences, not things. Crafts, playing games, eating together. Sitting outside together--you know, just being together.
I seek to be focused on them, and make them feel loved and cherished for who they are, for who God made. Those things are so important to me. I want them to grieve those experiences in the very best way when they are not living at my home any more.
I feel like striving for these ideals (in a very natural way, not a legalistic way) will pass on the value of "non-disposable living". That relationships matter more than things. That time spent with each other talking is way more important than rushing here to there. Relationships and time spent with others is what takes deep root. It's what speaks to us ultimately because it's how we were created: to be intimate with God, and with each other. It's what connects us, balances us and fulfills us. I seek this not only in my family, but in outside relationships.

"I want them to value experiences over things. And when we make something or when we acquire something with a history, those things are experiential." ~ Stephanie Congdon Barnes


Sandi said...

What a beautiful post. It really is what matters. To keep that in the forefront and not get caught up in the rat race is such a challenge for me, even though we HOMEschool.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

laurel said...

Your grandmother sounds wonderful. My memories of my childhood with my grandmother are very much the same. As are my mother's memories of her grandmother. I feel so at peace when I am at my grandmother's house, and my children do too. That gift of simplicity and time is such a beautiful thing. I have struggled with parenting lately and with living the kind of life I want for my children. I just pray that they remember the good, and forget the bad. And I am thankful for the sweet times we have had, sandwiched in between the frustrations and the harsh tones, and the impatience. This was a lovely post, Andrea.

Susan @ HeartPondering said...

Thanks for this post. It expresses a lot of what I've been thinking about lately. The quality of BEING is so vital. It's paramount. My mom does this phenomenally well. Relationship with her is not about activities. It's about talking, interacting, processing life. It's about being known and understood and feeling valued.
I observe this in the way she interacts with my young children (3 and 1). She reads to them, yes, and plays with them some. But mostly she just lives life alongside them. Smiles at them and talks to them and includes them in what she's doing. It's not about new toys or gifts or outings. It's such a different way of relating. So invaluable.

I appreciate your putting this into words and the 'expose' you gave of these qualities in your own grandmother.

Monica said...

Thank you for sharing your grandmother with us. It seems as though she passed on a lot of wisdom to you.

I was very close to my grandmother as well. My grandparents lived in an apartment attached to our home from the time I was two. She was wheelchair bound due to polio. I loved just to sit beside her and imitate her in her crafts- knitting, crocheting, cross stitch- or snap beans for canning. She always had time for me and I was never too little in her eyes to try something new. She later had a stroke and lost use of her dominant hand. My family continued in her physical care. Looking back, I now cherish those times of bedside care knowing that somehow I was giving back just a small part of what she gave to me- attention, dignity....

I grew up to be a nurse just like her (she served in WWII). I do miss her so.

Natalie said...

I took a few moments to read the three other posts about your Gaga and wanted to say that she sounds like an amazing woman who left quite a legacy. I am grateful that you have allowed me to read your blog, my sister, and get to know you more. God is using your thoughtful post to stir me unto good works!

Prairie Chick said...

yes. so often lately I find myself re-evaluating what I am doing and what message it is giving my kids. The last time was when I was so carefully trying to plan the perfect passover meal for them to experience sweet depths of tradition and yet I was flustered and short with them amidst the bustle and kept telling them "don't talk to me right now, I need to concentrate." I stopped dead in the middle of my kitchen and just cried when I realized how silly that was. I sat down and pulled my 3 year old into my lap and just let him babble while the clock ticked on,it wasn't long before he got his fill and retreated and I returned to my "labor of love". What kind of love would it be to give them the lamb and trample their tender hearts in the process????

Christine said...

This is such a wonderful reminder. I think we as moms have so many minute (and eternally UNimportant) things to do every day, it's easy to neglect the important, though not urgent, things. Your relationship with your grandmother sound like a beautiful picture of love and comfort.