March 7th, 2010
My cousin Elaine’s husband Brad summed my grandmother up with precision. “She keeps the light on for everyone.” This sentiment rings true on a few levels. My grandfather had suspicions that she was having a love affair with the Duke Power guy because she literally has never been a fan of turning off lights. But the true intention of Brad’s description makes perfect sense as Grandma Harriet is and has always been “there” when her love ones are having challenging times. And happy times. Why? Because that’s what family does.
Over the weekend, 35 relatives gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina for my Grandma Harriet’s 90th birthday celebration. She has devoted her life to maintaining a joie de vivre and making every member of her family feel special. The most special.
Over the last few days, four generations just “hung out” eating the 60 Omaha Steaks grandma bought, drinking from Elaine and Brad’s bar in their basement (equipped with beer taps, a mahogany bar and guy relatives fulfilling their bartending dreams.) The performer in me surfaced when I directed three little girls in princess dresses to dance to “Vogue” and “Faith” for a captive audience.There was tushie shaking. And well received.
We participated in a formal tribute for grandma last night and we all shared funny stories, sentimental memories and even video footage of her cousin’s wedding at her house in 1954. It felt very “Madmen.” It was happiness. It was real. It was an overwhelming reminder that we have had so many good days. And Grandma Harriet has always been a benchmark for those times when your heart feels the fullest.
As the weekend was nearing an end, everyone was still laughing. And crying. The good kind of tears. There was a collective understanding that this was a pivotal weekend that gave us the opportunity to cheer on the matriarch who has always been our constant cheerleader.
Not only are my friends the family that I would pick. My family is the family I would pick.