Vibrant lipstick in a shining gold or silver roll up tube. She was never without it and as little girls she'd dab some brilliant rose hue on our lips, me and my sisters. Bubble baths and fancy powder on the bum afterwards and crisp sheets that had been ironed down the hall with the family gallery splayed against both sides. And the smell. Her house never smelled anything but fresh and wonderful.
She was raised partly by an English grandmother which accounted for her impecible manners and the collection of beautiful china in her cupboards. We learned Rummi at her dining table or on the back porch in cooperating southern weather. Little girls shouldn't gamble and so we played for dimes or m&m's from her stash.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner had cloth napkins and matching placemats and tablecloth and napking rings, always. When we were little we could chose from the vast assortment of colored napkins and shaped rings and pleated edged placemats.
"Now, Darling..." she'd begin a sentance, next to me on her sofa, as she rubbed my arm and asked about life or boys then later marriage, then great-grand babies.
My grandmother never hid her feelings. She was not flagrantly moody or emotional by any description, but we all knew whether or not something met her approval. My husband, she loved and all the great grand-babies too.
Rifts within our family, she did not love, and implored me to mend them, quoting scripture to me. :) It was such a hard time for both of us and I felt sad relief when she later learned the truth of things. She was a true matriarch of the family.
When I flew down with our firstborn for her introduction to my grandparents, Grandma flew to me arms wide at the gate, tears streaming down her bright eyes, lipstick perfect, outfit coordinated. Grandma never dressed in old lady clothes or orthopedic shoes. A few years back she clucked her tongue at having to set aside her bright heels and vast array of sandals in colors that shamed a rainbow, but still, hers were not old lady shoes.
When we visited, she let me dig through her photos and ask a thousand questions, absorbing family history. Her in a gorgeous outfit she knit, Pop-Pop and she standing at the alter in a dress she borrowed from a girlfriend, Pop-pop in a TB hospital for two years, her waitressing, raising three boys in the mountains while Pop-Pop taught history, her mom passing away from a brain tumor, tea with her ladies every week at the hotel (which I fondly remember attending with her, though I recall the hotel's coffee cake being dry, funny the things you remember), the one time she went camping with her boys, the first time women were "allowed" to wear "slacks" and so on and so on. I would ask over a photo and she would make a curve in the air with her manicured hand, diamonds flashing, bracelets gently clinking and say, "oh that... that was the time..."
I have so many lovely memories of my Grandma. I love that she sang loudly in church but could not carry a tune, her reverence for taking the Lord's table, her generous but wise spirit, her potato salad, her excitement over the phone, calling to tell me of "a deal" she got at Belks - an extra 75% off an already reduced ticket which bought her a pair of "slacks" at $2, that into her eighties and with cancer she still hung laundry on the line, that she loved my Pop-Pop all her life and took care of him until a few weeks before she left for heaven.
In our last conversation, and I knew it would be the last, I told her how proud I was of her, what a good job she did taking care of Pop-Pop, that I loved her and that I would talk to her soon.
I am so thankful, so very,very, that I have a huge memory bank of memories from my Grandma, and some photos from her albums. I wish these memories onto my kids and so we've been telling lots of stories the last few weeks, mulling over photos and smiling happy smiles at the life of a beautiful, strong woman who I am so thankful to have known.