A Better Life

I’m Stealing This From My Grandma

Photo by author’s mother My kids are at an age where most everything I do is embarrassing. I never realized how much I spontaneously sing and dance until now. I am...

3 min read
Haley Stomp

Photo by author’s mother

My kids are at an age where most everything I do is embarrassing. I never realized how much I spontaneously sing and dance until now. I am not supposed to do either one in the car with them, even though they insist on playing my playlist and request so many good, head-bobbing, new songs. I know one day they will realize I’m actually pretty fun and interesting. Until then, I’ll have to sneak off and drive-dance on my own. I’m also going to leave some breadcrumbs for them to find later, like my grandma did.

My maternal grandmother died near the end of 2019, right before Covid. She was 92 and in an assisted living facility. She would have hated the isolation in 2020. For her funeral, my aunt and uncle recommended I say something on behalf of the grandkids (all fifteen of us). I asked my cousins to share their best or most memorable things about Grandma to piece together a brief, entertaining tribute, appropriate for that petite, fireball of a lady.

Although I knew grandma was a voracious reader, I had no idea about the commentary she wrote on the inside covers of books. My cousin, Katherine, told me about how she loved Grandma’s book rating system, written inside each book — good, very good, too sexy. Grandma didn’t believe in sugar-coating, so you knew you were getting a true review of the book.

My uncle built beautiful bookcases for my grandma’s book collection, and one of them was handed down, completely full, to my mom. Over the holidays, my mom and I sat on the floor and pulled some of the books off the shelves. We laughed as we read her different notes inside the books in the familiar, slanted, cursive writing — “very good” and “Pat would like.” Pat is my aunt, and she will laugh and cry when she reads this. One thing Grandma gave all of us was her laugh.

It occurred to me my mom wrote notes inside the books she and Dad gave me for birthdays and holidays. I have my Little House On The Prairie collection, complete with dates and greetings from the 80’s. Those messages inside the cover make the books much more special. “Happy birthday, Haley! 1983. Love, Mom and Dad.”

I recently read and enjoyed Joni Picoult’s Wish You Were Here. It’s life in 2020 through the eyes of a young, career woman in NYC who goes on her own journey while her boyfriend is a doctor dealing with Covid patients. The story is captivating, but it’s the facts the story is wrapped around that caught my attention. This book is a time capsule, historic fiction for later generations to understand what it was like during those first few months of the pandemic. I’m saving the book, with a note on the inside cover for my kids, or whoever ends up going through my book collection someday.

From here on out, I plan to write notes in other books I keep or give going forward, missives for my boys when they want to know more. I’m stealing this from my grandma. You never know what special thing you do will eventually mean something to those you love, even if they think you are currently put on the earth to “hurt their ears” or “stop tapping your fingers” or “I saw your head move.” I miss my grandma, but she’s still here in those books and the laughs and all the great people she left behind to carry on. I’m grateful she left a few breadcrumbs to remind us.