Monday, July 20, 2009

This one's for you Gram...

Yesterday was bitter sweet for me. We got together at the cemetery for a memorial in honor of my grandmother, Florence Carey. She passed away five years ago. I still have a hard time believing that it's been that long already. Although I miss her it was nice to get together and share our memories.

She was, and is still in many ways, the backbone of the family. Her never wavering love of family and strict adherence to right and wrong has made me who I am today. I just want to take a moment to share a bit of knowledge that has stuck with me; some things I wish I had told her before. She always knew she was loved, but I wish she could have known how important she was in all our lives and how much of her is in the foundations that make us who we are today. Of course she did not always use traditional methods to ingrain her morals and beliefs into us.

Before I share her words, let me share the image of her; the way I will always see her.

Gram was a giant among women. Not in stature, as she barely touched 5 feet tall before age and gravity took their toll, but in personality. She had long fire red hair that she rolled up each night in small foam covered curlers. Her dancing blue eyes that could make you smile or cringe depending on her mood. She had a love of life that no amount of money or material things, or lack of, could change. She was loyal to her family and friends and fiercely protective when either were threatened. I couldn't begin to list everything she taught me, but I can share one that I am always trying to pass along to my own kids.

When I was young Gram would stop me before I went out to play to see what I was wearing. If she didn't like it she would tell me, "You're not going outside in those shorts (or top...whatever the clothing item in question was) I'll find you dead in a bush!" If that doesn't scare the crap out of a young girl nothing will. I'll be honest, for years just out of the fear that some killer would be lurking around every bush I was careful about what I wore. As I got older I understood that she had taught me a very important lesson; one that I am trying to teach my own children. Of course I changed the wording some.

The direct message is especially relevant with my daughter. She is going into 5th grade and is starting to be more self aware and media aware. I still control her clothing purchases but that doesn't stop her from trying to hike up, tie up, or roll down her outfits to emulate today's pop teens. My version of my grandmother's wisdom is, "If you don't respect yourself no one will." And unfortunately there are many examples of this on television and in print. These pop teens, who are trying to dress and act like adults are instead attacked and taken advantage of by the media and the public.

The indirect message goes much farther. I try to teach all of my kids how important it is to respect themselves. Their clothing choices are just the beginning. I want them to be aware of how they present themselves to the world and know if it matches with how they want to be seen or if they are just copying what they think will make them popular. Popularity can be a dangerous goal for a child who is still trying to find out who they are and who they want to become.

Don't get me wrong, my kids wear clothes I don't agree with. I believe in letting them find their own style and personality, even if I don't like what they choose. I just remind them that if they are going to wear their jeans halfway down their backsides, boxer briefs blazing, and thick chains around their necks they better understand the message they are sending to the world. But at the same time, I do not allow my daughter and her friends to run around the front yard in their bikinis. Call me over protective; call me a prude, but some lessons are so deeply embedded you have no choice but to pass them on. Is it a little sexist? Yeah, I guess it is. But boys running around shirtless in their swim trunks don't carry the same sexual connotation. If Sport's Illustrated starts publishing a male swimsuit edition I will have to rethink that though.

Thanks for stopping by and giving me a moment to honor someone very special and very grandmother.

Gram, thanks for your love, smiles, dances, lessons, cakes, kaliloo, patience, flowers, everything purple, support, and for your time. I love you.

Kristin : )

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