The recent birth of the next generation in my family has got me thinking. Looking back on the past 12 months of my life, I am overwhelmed by how much change there has been. But what about someone who has lived 85 years? That’s my overwhelmed feeling times 85! How will I ever cope with this!? I decided to get some advice on this matter, so as to avoid self-implosion.
I got my grandma, Leatha “Tiny” Holly, on the phone. Thanks to a series of confusing “Save as” functions and an attempted “Export” from Garage Band (why is that program so confusing!?), I had a slight to major panic attack when I couldn’t find the 55 minute conversation anywhere on my computer. Already a little worked up from watching the Spain-Portugal game, I had to put my head between my knees and breathe. Turns out it was saved under “Female Voice.” Hmm. Now it’s saved for all posterity in my iTunes library under the artist name “Grandma Holly.” (I can’t wait until that comes up on Party Shuffle!)
Life, love, and children… here are some of Tiny’s words of wisdom:
Me: Grandma, do you remember your wedding day?
Tiny: OF COURSE I remember my wedding day! (she giggles- Yes I realize that was a dumb question. Who isn’t going to remember their wedding day?) I was stressed and I was glad when it was over! We went to Niagara Falls for our honeymoon, and then came back and settled into a long 60 years!
Me: Do you remember any fights with Grandpa?
Tiny: Oh, we didn’t have fights, we had discussions! I remember telling that to your mom once and she said, “Well boy, you sure do have a lot of discussions then!”
Me: Do you have any advice about discussing with your husband, then?
Tiny: Don’t take anything too seriously. If and when you get married (I smile), and you don’t agree, don’t fight about it. Try to figure out why you don’t agree. The most important thing in a marriage is to talk. The idea is to do that and stay sane. You have to know how each person feels, because you both come from different backgrounds, you both come from different families, and you gotta learn to do those things.
Me: What’s the hardest thing about being a mother?
Tiny: Oh my gosh. That’s a hard question! With each phase that the children go through, you have to know how to react.
Me: What about being a mother to teenagers?
Tiny: Now there’s your problem. Teenagers. (–connection sign!*–) Teenagers are trying to grow up and they want to do things on their own when their not old enough to. You gotta be able to not let them run wild, that’s all. And that’s hard. They want to do what everybody else does. And they’ll say to you, “Well she can do it, why can’t I?” Did you ever say that to your mother? (Me? Never! I was the model teenager!) It’s a nice feeling to be a mother of a teenager, because they’re growing up, they’re learning, but it’s also hard, because they want to do things that you don’t want them to do, but you have to let them do things. But it’s alright, every teenager grows up and mothers handle it.
Me: What was it like when you became a grandmother for the first time? (She insisted that it was the same for the births of all four grandchildren, me being the second. I said I wouldn’t be sad if she felt that the first one was more special. But she didn’t give in!)
Tiny: I really loved that. My baby was having a baby… I know people say that, but it’s true! I can still see Susie as this little kid clinging to my skirt and crying at me. And here she’s having a baby! It’s just something that is just hard to describe! And then when you came along it was the same (he he).
Me: What is it like to be a great-grandmother?
Tiny: It’s so thrilling. It’s cry-able. Because I cry a lot. I look at that little baby and I think, my goodness, that’s my granddaughter’s baby, I’m great-grandmother to this beautiful little baby! I’m so amazed that I’m so fortunate to live this long… I’m not very young anymore you know! It’s great, I’ve lived a long time, and this is one of the best things that’s happened.
Me: What do you remember in your lifetime to be an important event?
Tiny: World War II. I look back at that time, walking home from work or school and it was the strangest thing to have soldiers walking around. It was that feeling of “there’s a war going on” and knowing that all the guys went to war. Grandpa went to war, and he was very lucky to come home!
Me: What has changed in your lifetime?
Tiny: My goodness. Everything has changed, I don’t understand what’s going on. You can’t imagine, we had little radios and our cars weren’t very good. Now look!
Me: What has stayed the same?
Tiny: We all have families, we all get married, that’s all the same.
Me: Do you think we are better off now?
Tiny: Well, I wouldn’t want to go back! Some people want to go back to the ‘olden days’… I don’t! I don’t want to go back to when we had to ride a horse and buggy! I don’t like that stuff! I like things to be easy and simple! I want a washing machine, I don’t want to wash my clothes by hand! (I don’t either!)
Me: Will you tell the “Big Head” story? This is one of my favorite stories that my grandma tells… I just had to hear it again!
Tiny: Your mother came home from school crying one day in the 2nd grade and said to me, “Do you know anybody that has a head that’s bigger than their body?” and I said, “Well, no, I don’t. Who?” and then she says, “Me!” (We giggle, except my mom in the background who was surely rolling her eyes) Well you have to get these stories before something happens to me otherwise they’ll be gone forever! (Sidenote: My mom does have a “larger than average” head, but is now at peace with it because it means she has “more brains.”)
Tiny is one of seven siblings, the mother of three daughters and one son, the grandmother to four girls, and the great-grandmother to one tiny baby Stella.
*For those of you not fortunate enough to know the connection sign gesture yet: Make the gesture like you are saying “call me” with your thumb and pinkie… then point your pinkie at the person near you and wiggle your hand. It’s a fun, Quakerly way of expressing non-verbal agreement!
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