Share, Make the World Go Round

Got Grandmother Power?

Pictures may speak a thousand words but when there is no context around them, they can be thousands of words in a language we cannot understand. Such is the case with the mementos and photos I've inherited that belonged to my Grandma Sobel. I know almost nothing about her except that because of her love of cats, my Dad also loved cats. In the 21 years I knew my father, we talked very little about his family and so I'm left with pictures and postcards with no explanation. Most of the postcards are written in old Slavic or Yiddish scripts.

Grandma Sobel and cat

The people in the pictures have a mysterious beauty because I can only identify 3 people as belonging to either the Sobel or Medanic side of the family. As a teenager, I found the photos once and asked my Dad about them--he told me he didn't know who the people in the pictures were. If you’re a grandmother out there reading this or if you have a grandmother, don’t forget to label your pictures! If you are of the younger generation, make sure you know who is in the photos or what the context of the letters or mementos you will inherit is.

Cousin Rochelle (seated)
Rochelle is the granddaughter of my great aunt Rebecca. She is a link to my paternal grandmother on the Sobel side of the family. I think that’s correct. How we are linked is something I don’t sweat the accuracy of anymore. I’ve come to realize what matters is that we’re connected through our heritage. Because of Rochelle and her late mother, I understand more about the people I never knew on my Dad’s side of the family. Rochelle is also a proud grandmother and someone I call friend…as well as family.

Don’t let this happen to your family’s legacy. When he was alive, I asked my Dad—but he didn’t know. Grandmother Sobel also died young and the information was never shared.

In search of Grandmother Power, the focus of this blogging campaign initiated by Tara Mohr, I called on Rochelle just after she had celebrated her 70th birthday. To boot, I spoke with her on Mother’s Day.

Here are the Grandmotherly (Power) Perspectives she shared with me:

⦁    Grandmother Power isn’t about age at all. It’s about the amount of wisdom we use in our approach to life and the values we abide by every day.

⦁    About the “mother” in “grandmother.” The ability to love is what makes a mother (and mothers lead to grandmothers). Mothering is not about gender. It is not about societal roles. Anyone, female or male, can assume this power of motherhood.

⦁    Boundaries are blessings--abide by them. Honor them in others’ lives. A grandmother’s place in the lives of her children is about healthy boundaries. “If you understand the boundaries of life and family around your children and their lives when they become parents, you learn that there are times and places to be separate and times to be together; when you understand this then there is no uncertainty.” Uncertainty, contributes to misunderstanding and sadness in familial relationships."

⦁    When that first grandchild arrives. “How you feel when you first become a grandmother depends on whether the child’s mother is your daughter. But you think to yourself- ‘Fantastic! I can enjoy this kid without the responsibility of being the parent. No worries about being the primary provider during the early years. The way is opened for Grandma to the rescue, if you live close enough for that to be possible.”

⦁   On being hip. I was pretty impressed that Rochelle both responded to my Facebook message AND she was able to text me a photo! She attributes her “hipness” to the choices (and circumstances) she made at different times in her life. “I went back to school after 20 years and it happened to be at the same time my daughter was entering college. It gave me  empathy to really be supportive of her because I was in a similar situation.”

⦁    About that legacy… “Sometimes I wonder what my legacy will be. When you get to 70 you do start thinking about it. I knit for victims of domestic violence or those suffering with cancer. I hope that what I’ve given them (and the joy I get out of it) helps them realize that there is someone out there that cares. I knit all year long for them and then at Christmastime and Hanukkah I bring them stuff because it is truly my pleasure to give. Who I am and who receives the gift isn’t what matters. I just want to share something that gives hope and love.

A couple of years ago my daughter was the proud beneficiary of one of Rochelle's creations and amazingly, it has not gotten lost. Sure, misplaced from time to time, but Chloe still loves her cap and scarf when the weather turns cold. For that love embodied in such beautiful things, I thank and will always remember Rochelle.

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