Yesterday, Domenico and I spent the afternoon with my dad’s parents. We ate melon and a delicious tortilla soup, talked about recent and upcoming travel plans, watched some cute baby quail scurry across the patio, and lounged by the pool. It was such a sweet summer day, and was the perfect time to see them as our visit landed right before National Grandparents Day. If you didn’t know already, that’s today, so send your grandparents some love.
There are so many little things I love about my grandparents, so rather than making an exhaustive list, I thought I’d share some old photos of those grandest of people. This first bunch is of my dad’s parents. They are masters of traveling the world, making fancy salads, encouraging my struggling green thumb, gifting books with thoughtful messages written inside the cover, and putting on shows of old family slides.
These are snapshots of my mom’s parents. I’m looking forward to seeing my grandpa later this week for the first time in a few years. My sweet grandma passed away in November 2012. Earlier this week, I wrote a brief post for my travel writing class about a memory from a visit I had with them seven years ago. I thought it would be appropriate to share here, on this celebratory day.
When I was 14 years old, my sister and I were sent to Florida in the middle of the humid summer to stay with my grandparents. I didn’t want to go. Growing up across the country, we weren’t particularly close, and I was in that unbearable phase of early-teenage angst and sulking. But on a plane we went.
During our stay, we played a lot of cards, ate traditional meat-and-potato dinners, went to outlet malls, sat on the screened patio, and spent many evenings in awkward quietness. We were all a bit like strangers, trying to learn about each other by watching how each moved and ate rather than talking directly or asking questions. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was perhaps the closest I ever was to them, even in our sometimes silence.
It was during that trip, that I began to know the girl who became my grandma. Hanging over the breakfast table in their Florida home was a 1930s photo of my grandma’s father’s dentist shop. In their bedroom was a color-touched photo of her at age six dressed as a ballerina, perhaps before a performance. I could see the girl she used to be. The morning before we were due to leave, my grandpa corralled the three of us out of the formal dining room. From the corners of the house, we could hear glass and china tinkling and his feel shuffling along the dense carpet. When he called for us, we walked into a little teahouse, the dining room transformed. Pretend afternoon tea was one of my grandma’s favorite things, and it became our thing together. Whenever she came to visit us as children, she would bring a box of petit fours, and we would sip imaginary tea from a plastic set. But this time there was a grand spread: fancy china, sugared petit fours, real tea. We sat down and laid our napkins over our laps. My grandpa stood in the back as the butler. We started out fancy, holding pinky fingers out. But within a few minutes, we spiraled into our old, funny British characters, taking on flamboyant accents and making up nonsense for our characters – where we were shopping that afternoon, whose garden had the prettiest azaleas. I looked up from my tea and saw the girl my grandma still was. And I looked at my grandpa and saw how much he loved that girl – the preserved, painted one in the ballerina costume and the aging one in front of him.