Today is my grandmother's birthday. A day and a life I will always celebrate, even though she has been gone for over ten years now. Depending on whether the family Bible or the official record was correct, she would have been ninety-seven or ninety-eight today. (It was late in her life that she learned they said two different things!)
She was a letter writer, which meant so much to me when I lived in Italy and Croatia, but the letters continued when we lived only an hour apart. When we chose the furniture we would like to have after her death, I knew I wanted to have the "housewife's desk" with its drop-down writing surface and organizing slots for stationery and such, because her letters had been such a part of our relationship.
She was an amazing cook, with a huge deep freeze full of all kinds of things that she shared generously and bountifully and beautifully.
She loved beauty in many forms, and when I left to live in Croatia, the magazine Victoria had just come out. She saw to it that I received it overseas and for many more years, until she died.
She is among my earliest memories, and she often wrote my entire name. When I married, she made a point of encouraging me to keep my last name as my middle name, because, as she said, "It's important to remember where you come from and who you are."
She had a beautiful smile. She was not a people pleaser; she did not smile because a camera was around or because she needed to impress anyone. She lived a life of courage and deep determination through many hardships. And when she smiled, you knew it was for real.