“My favorite parts of a novel are always right in the middle. You get to the meat of the story, having built a foundational relationship with its characters, and then there’s a good while before it’s over, and you’re forced to part.” – Stacy, personal London blog aptly named ‘just my cup of tea,’ circa 2011.
I wrote these words ten years ago. As a sophomore in college, thousands of miles away from home and family, I was left with only the clacking of computer keys to help me process the loss of my paternal grandmother, Adeline Tell. Call it kismet, coinkydink, déjà vu, or just plain weird, but as I re-enter the blogging space, its proverbial arms embrace me once more as I now reflect on the life of my maternal grandmother, Sandra Brown Grotta, who passed away this morning. I wrote the quote above because I have had the unbelievably good fortune of knowing and building that middle, that relationship, with all four of my grandparents. Twenty-nine years alongside Grandma Sandy provided me not only with a proclivity for chocolate sweets, but an opportunity to stand beside a strong, devoted female role model that I will love and remember always and forever.
From the top of her Vidal Sassoon bob to the soles of her Gucci loafers, this woman was perfect… because that’s what grandmothers are, right? The stereotype itself invokes a vision of baked goods, a spoil-you-rotten-mentality, and an overflowing-with-love type of figure. Well, as I mentioned, when it came to sweets, no one could scarf down a Shake Shack chocolate milkshake quite like my grandmother. She would simply never leave the department store unless my sister had not just a new skirt, but an entirely new outfit with accessories to boot. And overflowing love? This is a woman who looked at some guy named Christian Ronaldo and told him, “Oh my grandsons play soccer too,” as if the leagues were evenly matched. She hit the marks in so many ways.
Yet this woman was also so much more. Our queen of the family… and though her throne was undoubtedly of Loro Piana fabrics, it’s her heart that was purely gold (and maize and blue.) Once you were in Sandy’s sphere, she never let you go. Her loyalty was far reaching, from the artisans whose crafts filled her home, to the nurses and caretakers that she treated as family in these final years, to the gangly looking Michigan ZBT junior who couldn’t take his eyes off of her at a sorority event all those years ago. My grandparents have always been a unit, a package deal, Sandy-and-Lou (order intentional). Though interior design and architecture and fine craft aren’t exactly my wheelhouse, I did learn that you make meaning from your pieces, not the other way around. I truly believe that’s why one of my grandmother’s favorite pieces of jewelry (and the woman has A LOT of jewelry) was a ring with the faces of her five grandchildren. It is also why their home is so much more than white walls, glass windows, and wooden turkeys (go with it), but a product of a beautiful, 66 year love story.
My grandmother was opinionated, strong, caring, and beautiful. I could share stories upon stories about her love for apple pancakes, fluffy dog pillows, oversized sweaters, and forties musicals, and those are only a few from my own experiences. These four titles demonstrate a grandmother-grandchild relationship in different ways, some more tumultuous than others. Though I have to believe the intent of each author was to provide a thoughtful point of reflection not only to what this type of figure may teach you about the world, but also what she may be able to teach you about yourself.
I love you, Grandma Sandy. Rest in peace.