When my grandma met my now husband for the first time she slapped him on his face and told him to go back to his country. She then instantly regretted it, for even for her, she knew she took it a bit too far, so she proceeded to grab him and hold him close, essentially welcoming him in to the family. That was her seal of approval: a slap, an insult and a hug. And then they were friends.
My grandmother was one of the most enchanting people you can come across. She also had one of the most captivating and sad life stories of all times. To me, she represents home.
I didn’t have to make any effort with her. Just my mere existence gave her so much joy that I was affirmed immediately. As a child, I felt her love more than anything else around her. She was my biggest and loudest fan and I felt safe around her.
I was born a few months after her husband, my grandfather, suddenly passed away and I was given her name. I don’t recollect loss or mourning, perhaps I was too young to pick it up consciously, but I have always known she found some respite in my birth. I wonder now whether being born under these conditions perhaps keeps me grounded in a strong sense of reality and perspective and a yearning for balance. Perhaps unconsciously I took on the role of the holder of space, both for coming to terms with what has been, but also for seeing possibility. Perhaps that’s why I was born a Libra.
I have so many stories to tell, but they will for now be kept within. I know her loss is felt by many, but to me, it has cemented our bond. I feel no complication towards her; no regrets, no unspoken words, no unexpressed emotion. I feel as close to her as I have ever been because I am grateful to be her granddaughter.
She is one of a kind, but secretly I hope I’ve inherited some of her crazy.
Here are 18 of the myriad of ways she has enriched my life:
- Russian heritage: I’m always amused when I use this as an ice-breaker: I am 1/8 Russian. Yeah, right, look at my pale skin… But it’s true. And Pirozhki (of course).
- Extravagant posing for photographs.
- Inappropriately stroking waiters: This trait has thankfully been passed down to all the women in my grandmother’s lineage and I proudly await the day I can pass it on to my daughter.
- Pancakes with sugar and honey: Best childhood treat ever.
- Sifnos: I cannot imagine what my life would be like without my connection to this island. When they were young, my grandmother and grandfather visited Sifnos in the Aegean Sea and fell in love with it, so they bought land and a small house. I have spent 99% of my summers there; my whole family has an emotional bond in there. My sister recently wrote a book about her decision to leave her life in London and move to Sifnos to pursue her dream of writing.
- Beautiful jewellery from Iraq and other places in the world.
- A love for the Spanish language: My grandmother spoke English, French and Spanish fluently. Now that’s awesome.
- Love lasting a lifetime: Although she didn’t share often about him, she wore my grandfather’s wedding ring on her finger her whole life.
- An attitude of ‘don’t fret the small stuff’.
- A collection of little objects gathered along the way and displayed in random parts of her flat: I do that – my mum does that – great for memories, not so great for Feng Shui.
- My healthy sense of self: I definitely owe her this one, thanks to her constant and faithful expression of love towards me.
- A love for all things beautiful.
- A connection to and deep respect for art.
- Living life with humour and play.
- A sense of nostalgia for what would have been.
- Pulling off eccentricity like a master.
- Express emotions like a mofo: Oh yeah, hello drama.
- My name: Thanks, Grandma.
My friend said she’ll be a wonderful guardian angel for me now she’s left the physical world;
I think she has been that all along, except now she can fly.
With love x