This past week, I didn’t celebrate Independence Day with the typical fanfare. Normally, I participate in a local parade, and then attend a carnival with my kids before settling in for the fireworks display.
But this year, I was out of town on the 4th. I spent most of the day alone, and deep in contemplation. My mind wandered to the celebrations of my early childhood in small town, USA. I can still remember the sound of crackling grease at our local fish fry. I can smell the burn of the sparklers my young uncle would light for me. I can feel the tug of tightly braided hair, and the joy of discovering that my friends were wearing the same red, white, and blue Garanimals I had donned for the day.
My grandma and her famous potato salad figure prominently in those childhood memories. I think about her a lot. When she was 48 (the age I am now), I was seven-years-old. Because she didn’t have a driver’s license, her world was pretty much confined to church life and the rural home where her nearest neighbor was a mile away.
She was the most hospitable person I’ve ever known, and her house was always full. She created close friendships with the mail lady, the Avon lady, and Martin-the guy that delivered fuel. From her living room, she made phone calls for AMVETS, and was asked on dates (that she didn’t accept) simply because she was so kind and cheery.
She made the most of her life and relished what traveling she was able to do; primarily road trips to see her kids. I don’t know if she ever flew. My grandpa was always at the wheel of his immaculate Chrysler New Yorker with the light blue leather interior that felt like marshmallows. I loved seeing that vehicle pull into our Tennessee driveway. The trunk was full of home baked treats, Polaroid pics of the cousins we didn’t often see, and sacks of seashells from the beach where she visited my aunt in Florida. But the main thing was, I knew the next few days would be spent with her...the one person I could count on to love me unconditionally. I know my dad has always loved me unconditionally, but when you’re a kid, you don’t necessarily see that in someone who is in a disciplinary role. But to have a grandmother like mine was to feel unconditional love from the very beginning.
Growing up, I never thought much about her life. She always seemed happy, except maybe when my grandfather was in a mood. But when I think about my life now...my travels...my freedom...my expansive world...my frequent flier miles...my adventures...my driver’s license...I wonder what she would have chosen to explore if she could have picked up and gone anywhere. She had a whimsical spirit. I think she would have enjoyed hitting the open road, meeting people, seeing new things, trying new foods. I can visualize her wearing one of her head scarves, holding her hand out the window as she blazed down the highway, probably blaring her Oakridge Boys 8-tracks.
I believe my grandmother died having lived her very best life and making an immense positive impact on those she loved. And that really is the goal. But as I reflected on my freedom and independence, I realized how ever-so-grateful I am to be a forty-eight-year-old woman in 2018 USA.
Syndicated columnist Ginger Claremohr is an author, motivational speaker, and mother of five. Follow her on Facebook, find her on the web: www.claremohr.com, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.