Welcome to the next installment of The Fives. I introduced this series of little post shorts I’ve had in mind for you with 5 Instant Ways to Be a Better Cook, and today I’m sharing 5 Things I Learned From My Grandmothers.
I am incredibly blessed to have grown up with all four of my grandparents in my hometown, where I saw them almost every week. To this day, I can’t imagine my childhood without them in it, and now that I live away, they are the people I most anticipate seeing when I come home to visit.
Grammy and me at my wedding. I’m not sure which one of us should win “best dressed.”
Grandma and me. I wish I were this cool in my glasses.
My grandmothers—“Grammy” (on my mom’s side) and “Grandma” (on my dad’s side)—are two of the people who inspire me most, and I value their opinions dearly. I also value their advice. Over the years, they have taught me innumerable lessons through their words and example. Consider these five a small excerpt.
1. No job is perfect. That’s why we get paid to do them.
This one came from my Grandma when I was bitterly struggling in a corporate job. I knew it was a fantastic opportunity, but I had paradoxically managed to become completely unengaged and utterly stressed at the same time. Her words, “No job is perfect. That’s why we get paid to do them,” said far more to me than “hang in there” or “it will pass.” To this day, they are my reminder to evaluate my aggregate happiness in the workplace, versus allow myself to become fixated on a specific week or project. They are also a hearty dose of reality. No job, no matter how much I love it, will be all hearts and rainbows, all the time.
My sisters, Grammy, Aunt Roxanne and me a few Christmases ago.
My sisters and me with Grandma on Thanksgiving.
2. Nurture your marriage.
Actually, according to her children, my Grandma’s exact words were, “You have to look good for your man,” uttered while she she, a stay-at-home mother of nine, touched up her lipstick before my Grandpa came home from work. My Grammy and Poppa still have standing dinner dates every Wednesday night. Both couples have been married for more than 60 years, and I can still see the tenderness between them.
Less than three years into my marriage, I wonder at my grandparents’ secrets to maintaing long, happy relationships, but I know that one is to continually put time and effort into your marriage, whatever that means for you. Lately for me, it’s been trying to shut my laptop and hide my phone when Ben gets home from work. Some nights are more successful than others.
3. Two cups of flour, sifted is not the same as two cups of sifted flour.
My favorite page in my Grandma’s recipe book.
Every Wednesday during my elementary school summers, my Grammy would pick my sisters and me up to spend the afternoon with her. Each week, she selected a different dessert recipe, shopped ahead for the ingredients, then taught us to how make it step-by-step. We baked everything from simple homemade sugar cookies to fancy marshmallows to this strawberry super pie. I credit those summers with my Grammy for my voracious sweet tooth.
I baked with my Grandma as well, paging through her photocopied and handwritten cookie recipes, and she was the first person who taught me not to be afraid of yeast. I still aspire to bake cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls as sublime as hers. I have the recipe (pictured above), but hers will forever be superior.
(For the baking curious: if a recipe calls for “two cups of flour, sifted,” measure first, then sift. If it calls for “two cups of sifted flour,” sift first, then measure.)
4. The show must go on.
My Grammy: The original hostess with the mostess.
I’ll never forget the story my Grammy—an expert hostess and entertainer—told me about a fancy lobster dinner party she attended. One cut into the spiny beast, and butter spewed all over her silk dress, spotting the front. She looked down, looked up, then smiled and kept going as if nothing had happened. The show must go on.
5. Believe in yourself.
One of the dozens of pages of letters from my Grandma I’ve saved over the years.
I couldn’t have asked for two greater cheerleaders in life than my grandmothers. My Grammy still listens eagerly to all of my latest projects and is so encouraging, and my Grandma has sent me dozens of handwritten notes over the years, telling me just how proud of me she is. Honestly, these women believe I can do anything, and on days when I doubt myself, I try to remember that they haven’t steered me wrong yet.
Thanks for letting me share these little reflections with you. Who have been some great teachers in your lives? I’d love to hear all about them!