I saw this quote a few weeks ago and have been ruminating on it ~ rolling it over in my mind and listening to its message ever since.
to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonderand the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.” ― William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents
The extraordinary will take care of itself. I love that line. Preparing our children for greatness seems to be the mantra of our time. The best is what they deserve, they must work harder to be more successful, to earn more, to have a higher standard of living than we do, ACT scores must soar, college applications must be full of extracurricular activities and clubs and awards. We want the best for our kids ~ certainly ~ but I am feeling now that it’s in defining what’s “best” is where my energy is best spent. I have spent a few weeks thinking about this passage and what it means to me. I cried the first time I read it, my first clue that I should think about it more. It’s funny how life works sometimes.
The first time I met Eric’s grandma was over 20 years ago. I was 22 years old, we were yet to be engaged. She was jumping on the trampoline with her great grand kids. Bouncing them around like popcorn, laughing and shouting. Enjoying them thoroughly. She was full of energy and warmth. Over the next twenty years Grammy Esther became one of my favorite people ever.
She grew up on the family farm ~ until she left around the age of 13-14 years old to live in an apartment in town with her sister Glenna and work at the pickle factory. The factory was too far from the farm to make it to work every morning and back home at night – so there the teen aged girls lived, in town, taking care of themselves and working. Working every day. She lost her daddy when she was young, and her family needed money. She would have many jobs through the years, including one at Quality Farm and Fleet where she earned an employee of the year award. She was nothing if she wasn’t a hard worker.
She grew into a woman who had a family. A husband and four sons, one daughter. Her children had children, and those babies had babies. She cared for her children, and then her grand kids ~ and then her great grand kids. She lived through The Great Depression, WW II and the wars in the Middle East. She despised the Japanese ~ because Pearl Harbor was unforgivable. She grew up with a horse and buggy, and bought her last car, a Saturn in the 1990s.
All the while she made chicken and noodles from scratch – rolling and drying each string of pasta by hand. Her deviled eggs were legendary and her candied cucumbers are hers alone. She loved to ride in the Gator through the field and the woods in search of morel mushrooms, deer tracks or turkey feathers, she loved westerns and read until she couldn’t anymore. She loved flowers and the color purple. McDonald’s coffee was her favorite ~ with an Egg Mcmuffin, too. She loved to bird watch and could name every bird that perched at her feeder outside her window. She was simple, ordinary.
She was a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother. She was an aunt and a sister and a friend. She was a mother-in-law and a sister-in-law. She was a daughter and a wife. She lost her husband before she turned 60, two sons and a still born child left her too early. She had sadness and more grief, losing her sister, Glenna and her faithful pup Chester. Eric and I often talked about how many people she loved dearly she had lost – too many for one lifetime. Every Memorial Day she visited each grave site, planting and cleaning the memorials of her lost love ones.
This Memorial Day ~ as the sun rose ~ Grammy Esther passed from this life. Her ordinary story left to help us define greatness. Because while she was busy being ordinary, the extraordinary took care of itself. Her love for her family created a legacy that I am so proud to be included in. Her cooking and baking, her washing and garden tending, her pleasure in nature, the simplicity with how she viewed the world are all lessons I will continue to draw from. You work hard, take care of your family, enjoy nature and love deeply. She was not my grandma. I was not one of her granddaughters, but she never once let me feel it. She loved me, and I adored her. My life is better for having her in it. I am certain no one will ever make me feel like she did when I walked into her room for our weekly visit. She made me proud, she made me humble, she made me a better person.
Her 96 plus years on this Earth were unremarkable in the history books. She did nothing conventional wisdom will remember her for. She loved her family. She lived her life with integrity and hard work. “Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives.” How much more extraordinary could she be? I will strive to be her version of ordinary every day. Love you, Grammy xoxo