Why Roots Matter: The Believer

The icon of my Grandma for our Dia de los Muertos ofrenda —  from a photo taken while she was dancing at my cousin’s wedding. 

In case you want to listen:

The Believer

Last night my roots called to me, and my grandmother came in a dream. She was at her “mountain house” –the place she so loved, the house that became her home in the retirement years. We were upstairs in a big, expansive room, lined not with wall to wall carpet, but wall to wall grass. “Come dance with me,” she offered, stretching out her hands. I didn’t dance, but I watched her move, slow and lovely in her own age-ed way.

The dream changed then and she was sitting on the window ledge, her legs hanging over the side of the house, languidly smoking a cigarette.

“Grandma, come inside!” I said, in fright.
“No dear, I’m watching the grandchildren play.”

And there we were, the five us, as we when we were in grade school — all braids, and bellbottoms, and knees skinned from rollerskating in the drive way.

“I’m happy here.” My grandmother shrugged. “If I fall, I fall.” She blew smoke away from me, up and away from the side of her mouth. “Besides,” she said, reaching over and tapping her opposite shoulder with the hand that held the cigarette. I have my wings.”

My Grandmother did indeed have her wings, inked on her shoulder by a tattoo artist when she was past 80.  ”It’s an angel,” she told me. “Because I have my own beliefs you know.”

Grandma did have her own beliefs.

She believed when war is at hand, you should marry the man you love before he ships away. So she ran off and eloped, in spite of her parent’s disapproval. (And they were together ’til death did part.)

She believed that a woman could go back to work — because she wanted to, not because the family needed money– and that everyone would be the better for it. (My father and auntie agree.)

She believed she didn’t need to stop chain smoking, because something else would get her long  before lung cancer did. And also, that she would be safer if she didn’t wear her seat belt. (Right in both cases.)

She believed it was good luck to “rub Buddha’s tummy,” and never passed the statue in the living room without giving it’s belly a shine. (See the aforementioned lack of auto accident injuries and absentee lung cancer.)

She believed that it was better to make gin and tonics for everyone waiting to pass through the Canadian border, than to give up the alcohol in the back of the camper. (The border guard agreed.)

She believed there should always be cookies in the jar, new jeans for back-to-school, and $25 on your birthday. (I received my last birthday check only when she could no longer remembered how to spell my name.)

She believed her grandchildren were “perfect, just perfect.” And indeed, through her eyes we felt like maybe we were–or at least, we were a better version of ourselves than we otherwise understood ourselves to be.

My grandmother was not a perfect woman. She smoked to much and worried too often. She hid her sparkle behind my more gregarious grandfather. She made far too many jello-and-mayonnaise salads.

No, Grandma was not a perfect woman. But she was a great believer. She believed  in indulgence, and magic, and the power of family gatherings. She believed it always snowed on the dogwoods before the spring would come; and that if you played a roll of pennies, then nickels, then dimes before you started in on quarters you would have better luck at the slot machines. She believed you should always have a doll in your stocking; and when in doubt you should make a turkey and a ham for Christmas dinner.

Most of all she was a believer in us, her “just perfect”grandchildren. And that belief, that unconditional love, has given all of us wings.

May you have someone who believes in you. And may you pass your beliefs onto the ones you love.

(Amen? Amen.)

***

Who in your history believed in you? What beliefs (erroneous and otherwise) have been passed on through your ancestors? Come remember with us as we celebrate the Day of the Dead in Flock, our online soulcare community. Click here to join us before October 31st. 

 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Renee October 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm

What a sweet and inspirational story! I’m glad your grandmother made you believe the best of yourself. So often our closest loved ones make us feel just the opposite, even if unintentionally.

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Rachelle November 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Oh, yes that is hard Renee. Not all our relatives show us love! That’s why I extend the idea of honoring and remembering people on dia de los muertos to anyone who has positively influenced us. Ancestors by blood, and ancestors of choice. Van Gogh, Rosa Parks, and St. Catherine and Claire all live on our ofrenda as well.

Hugs to you,
R
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Evan Griffith October 20, 2012 at 6:23 pm

You evoke the spirit of a life in just a few words here — I believe your grandmother was right to believe in your perfection . . . .

Thank you for opening up your heart to us –

Evan
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Rachelle November 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm

(blushes.)

Thank you Evan. Your kind words often encourage me on days when writing comes hard.
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fiona lynne October 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I just love this. And your last post about Day of the Dead too. Pondering now how I can best remember the loved ones who have passed. I love how you get me thinking, prompt me to fill life with meaning.
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Rachelle November 8, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I would love to hear what you decided to try out for your remembering-time, Ms. Fiona.
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Jenna/The Word Cellar November 1, 2012 at 10:46 pm

This is a beautiful essay, Rachelle.

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Rachelle November 8, 2012 at 6:00 pm

That means a lot to me, Jenna, coming from such a beautiful writer as yourself!

I got to have lunch with Liz L. last week. When are you coming thisaway? Let’s all go to the sea!
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