I was blessed to grow up with and have through adulthood both of my grandmothers. They both were very integral in my life and I would not know whom I would have become without their influences. My maternal grandmother, Nora, was born in the late 1920’s so she comes from a very different place in history. She would be the one to witness my first steps, teach me how to bake, sew, what it looks like to live a healthy lifestyle, how to pray and helped ground me with my foundation of faith. Gram was born to parents whom she would never meet who moved from Georgia to Philadelphia for a better life in the north. As an infant, her parents died from illness so she was raised by family.
My (late) paternal grandmother, Elaine, was young enough to be my maternal grandmothers’ daughter; she was twenty years her junior. GramE was born and raised in Chicago so we would spend lots of quality time when she would visit during the holidays. She helped me master how to read time, taught me to braid my hair, shared her love of music/records from classic artists like Al Green and Marvin Gaye and she also fostered a deepening of faith.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are from the summers spent with my grandmothers. I had the luxury of being the eldest grandchild on both sides of my family which afforded me a different type of attention with my grandmas. During those summers I would spend time creating meals with what seemed like little turned into plenty, cure a cast-iron pan to make the most delicious pancakes, swimming, singing, dancing and developing my creativity. They also made sure that I would lean into learning and reading as education was enforced as a way to be able to create opportunities that were not afforded to them. In fact, because of the need to help her family financially, my gram Nora had to drop out of school; however, through sheer determination she completed her high school diploma in her 60’s. This kind of “living the talk” character inspired me to always push through and never give up on myself or my dreams no matter how long it takes!
These two women (real heroes) had complicated pasts – born in poverty and without parental relationships where one often learns foundational life lessons, somehow, they were able to share the love they knew, learned, or obtained from living. If not for them, I would not exist as they did their best to raise my parents with a certain loving-kindness that they themselves had to learn through life lessons. Standing tall opposite of the men they loved and bore children with, they were strong despite adversity. They were not defined by struggles life presented but took on challenges with grace. I am forever grateful for the wisdom that they would impress upon me – I believe this greatly shaped the woman I am today as I still lean on their words, actions and love.