My grandmother spent her childhood fleeing from Nazis, moving from one country to another, never knowing the language, never truly belonging. Yet she taught me that with her, I always belonged. My feelings would always be valid. My dreams would always be attainable.
My childhood “happy place” was being in New York City with my grandma. Eating treats for breakfast, walking to Central Park, playing games. She always smelled of Tea Rose perfume, and she always listened, really and truly listened, to my stories, thoughts, and feelings.
From a young age, I dreamed of being a mom. I worried this wasn’t enough in this wonderfully feminist world we live in. I remember asking my grandma, “What if I just want to stay home and be with my kids all the time?” Though she had worked through college and graduate school and obtained a PhD (all in English, which was not her first (or second) language), she assured me, “That’s the most important job you could ever do. And you were born to do it.”
In college, I fell in love with a boy who most people in my life disapproved of. I was terrified to follow my own heart; I confided in my grandma instead of listening to those around me. She told me, “What’s between you and him is magic. Look at who you’ve become and how you feel with him. That’s magic. The rest will all work out. I’ll make sure it does.”
Knowing that I might have been too scared to live the life I have now without my grandmother’s support and wisdom makes me grateful for her every day.
After my husband and I got engaged, the first person we called was my grandma. Two years later, when we found out I was pregnant, the first person we called to share the news with was my grandma. All my dreams had come true. And she was so happy for me.
Nine months after that, my daughter was born on a Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. My grandma got to the hospital at 9:00 to welcome her to the world. My husband didn’t leave my side until Friday when he wanted to run home to our apartment to shower and feed the cat. My grandma came to sit by my side, quietly holding and snuggling the baby while I rested and recovered.
Every day after that, once I was back home and my husband returned to work, my 87-year-old grandmother walked the 10 blocks from her apartment to mine to hold my baby while I showered or rested or had something to eat. And as my daughter grew from newborn to baby to toddler, her love for Grandma grew too, just as mine had at her age. She preferred books read by Grandma, strollers pushed by Grandma, and always sat next to Grandma at dinner and shared food with her. She knew, just like I did, that our grandma is magic.
To my grandma, thank you for being you and for allowing us to be us. None of us would be who we are or live the lives we do if not for you. You are my inspiration and my biggest cheerleader. Your love is weaved throughout everything I am and everything I do. You are magic.