Last week I got married to an amazing man.
Really, everything was so perfect, it was like a dream. There were a few friends and family members who were unable to make it, and we were definitely disappointed by that, but such things are expected of weddings, and so many loved ones did come show us support that it was easy to focus on the positive. Over the course of the weekend there were countless laughs, a few tears of joy, and memories made that will last a lifetime. On Sunday we danced the night away, and as Chris and I walked out to the car in the drizzling rain after the final song, I couldn’t help the smile that came to my face as I thought that our wedding must have been an exception to the rule– not a single thing had gone wrong.
It wasn’t until we were on a plane the next day bound for our honeymoon to Mexico that I realized I had forgotten something. It came to me in a flash and the thought hit my gut like a boulder. I had forgotten to take a photo at the wedding with one of the most important people in my life, my Grandma. Not only that, I had neglected a photo opportunity with that whole table. My aunt, uncle, and cousins who were also ushers in my wedding were absent from the list of people I remembered posing with. The latter were easier for me to swallow since I’ve been pretty good about taking pictures with them in the past, but the absence of a photograph with my Grandma definitely put a damper on my good mood, as we are notoriously bad at taking pictures together for some reason and I had made a mental note several times throughout the weekend to remedy that. But before I knew it the opportunity had once again passed us by, and the possibility that I had missed it absolutely crushed me. Not wanting to ruin the honeymoon, I pushed the thought aside and told myself that I was probably mistaken and I’d figure it out when we got home.
Five days later my mom verified my suspicion and I was overwhelmed with sadness and guilt. It wasn’t the thought of the picture itself necessarily, but the fear that my Grandma, my friend and my hero, might doubt how important she was to me because I had forgotten it. My mom tried to comfort me by telling me that experiences are more important than pictures.
As with most motherly wisdom, this simple sentence hit me in waves. At first it just passed over me, and I took no comfort and continued to wallow in guilt and self-pity. But as I got ready for the day, the sentiment continued to crash over and over into my mind, bringing along with it memories with my Grandma, experiences we had shared. And I realized that, of course and as usual, my mom was right. There’s nothing to be done about a missed photo opportunity, but I had memories that I knew would never fade.
One of the first memories I have with my Grandma is an unusual thing to remember. This morning I realized I had just brought this up to Chris the other day. We were talking about kids today not respecting their elders, and I told him that no matter how much our Grandma spoiled us when we were kids, we definitely knew better than to act up on her watch. All it took was one time, my little sister was throwing a temper tantrum (and I was egging her on I’m sure) and Grandma gave one warning and then thumped Anna right in the head with the loudest thump I’ve ever heard to this day. I remember Anna gazing at her, stunned, and stopping her tantrum immediately. In typical Grandma fashion, she didn’t linger on the incident, and we were all laughing a few minutes later.
I remember going to Grandma’s house when we were little and sitting in her big chair and watching Days of Our Lives with her. Endlessly patient, Grandma would fill us in on the years of backstory, and the three of us sat entranced, wondering if Stefano was really still alive, or what tricks Sami had up her sleeve that week. Anna and I felt like little adults, and like the three of us had our own marvelous alliance, and thinking on these lazy summer afternoons with Grandma fills me with so much joy.
Then there were memories that I shared with my Grandma alone. When I was 8 or 9, before my beloved Papa passed away, we went on a family camping trip one summer. My Grandma and I got up early one morning and crossed a small creek to go into the woods. We found a huge tree and dug a hole, then together we buried one of my Grandma’s rings. The details are fuzzy, I’m not sure if one day we intended to go find it again, or if we just hoped maybe someone else would. The intent doesn’t matter so much as the ritual itself. For us it was a secret, something we alone shared, and that makes it one of the most special experiences of my life. It makes me smile to think that somewhere in the woods on the Naches Trace, there’s a big tree with our initials carved a few feet above the ground, and beneath it is a piece of our hearts.
There are precious memories of long nights of card games. It is well-known among my family that I inherited my competitive nature from my Grandma. Any game she could teach me I learned eagerly, and the two of us are always ready to continue long after everyone else is ready to quit. Unlike me, however, my Grandma doesn’t get upset or angry if she loses; she’s always just ready to shuffle up and play a new game. Actually, when I think about it, over the last 27 years I can’t recall a single time my Grandma has dwelled in anger or sadness. I’m sure it’s happened, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t recall a day with my Grandma where her smile was absent, or she didn’t crack a joke. My Grandma is quick to speak her mind about everything, and she’s stubborn too (another trait she passed on), but she also gives the best advice, and she’s never met a stranger. She’s also one of the toughest people I know, not just mentally but physically too. Over the years I’ve seen her with bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes and bone breaks, but she doesn’t dwell on them beyond an occasional comment poking fun at her own clumsiness.
None of these little anecdotes paint as accurate a picture as I’d like to share. Between tricking me into letting her pull my baby teeth, telling me and my friends scary stories in the dark at my first slumber party, giving me my first car of my very own, taking me on my first trip to NYC when I was sixteen, giving me advice on how to have a marriage as happy as she and my Papa had…there are thousands of little moments and I can’t even scratch the surface. I just want my Grandma to know how much I love her, how much I admire her, and even though I didn’t get a photo to capture the moment, when I close my eyes I know I’ll always be able to recall how I felt when she squeezed my hand and told me how happy I looked with Chris, what a beautiful bride I made, and that she knew Papa was right there with us.