Mom’s family had a big ol’ family reunion at Christmas that year. My great-grandma turned 80 two days before Christmas and my family threw a big party. Everybody showed up.
I don’t know a lot about this party, but from memories I’ve pieced together, I get the impression that we had a little variety show in honor of Grandma’s birthday. I remember my mom’s cousin doing a little ventriloquism act, and the whole family stood up front and sang “How Great Thou Art.” (I found both creepy. I don’t remember a lot from my very young years that wasn’t scary.)
We tried to get pictures of each family posing with Great-grandma that year.The picture my mom gave me from this endeavor was of me crying and everybody else smiling at the camera.
Everybody, except Grandma. She was holding me, whispering to me, comforting me, letting me know that everything was going to be ok and this wasn’t something I needed to fuss about.
She was always like that.
I grew to trust my great-grandma to always be there for me, always listen, always encourage, always play, laugh and just be. She was the best, in every way you could imagine.
This was a stark contrast compared to what I was used to.
I was used to situations like the photo shoot. I would do or say something (or cry, or laugh, or tug on someone’s sleeve) and my family went about what they’d been doing, never acknowledging me. And, if I expressed a negative emotion, I was most definitely ignored.
This, too, had a huge impact on who I became as I grew up. This is where I learned that no matter what I said or did, no one was going to notice or care anyway, so why bother even trying? This is where I learned the “Children [girls] should be seen and not heard” doctrine. This is where I began to withdraw and do everything I could to stay as little and insignificant as I felt.
I also have a picture of Grandma with all 6 of her great-grandbabies, ranging in age from 7 months to 6 years. Me and 5 boys. (Just wait — this situation got even worse as time progressed! Y chromosomes were plentiful in my family!) In this picture, Grandma is holding the two youngest babies (the ones under 12 months) and I’m standing next to her with a faint, sweet smile on my face.That is how I like to remember my toddler years.