******photo of Grandma Viv as a young child:
Grandma Viv* is my dad’s mom. She is warm, funny, intelligent, well read, and thoughtful. I have nothing but good memories about childhood visits to her home. In Grandpa and Grandma’s house there were two bathrooms next to each other in the hallway. One for Grandpa and one for Grandma. We always called them the girls' and boys' bathrooms. Grandpa’s bathroom was utilitarian. A small mirror hung above the sink, and the lighting in the room was bright and harsh. The washer and dryer were across from the shower and toilet and one of those tall old-fashioned scales sat against the wall adjacent to the sink. There were no unnecessary decorations in the room. It was sparse, clean and smelled like shaving cream.
Whenever we visited, I would assume that familiar bossy oldest child position, and with hand on hip and pointed finger, make sure that my five brothers used only Grandpa’s bathroom. After all, they were stinky boys who had no business in the girl’s bathroom.
Grandma’s bathroom was very different from Grandpa’s. It was lovely. After all these years, I can’t help but sigh contentedly when I think about it. It was pretty, with soft, delicate lighting, and a definite feminine touch. One of the walls was completely filled with cabinets covered by a smooth counter top. Above the entire thing was a giant mirror framed by soft lights. If I stood on a step stool, I could see all of myself in that mirror. I came from a home that had no full length mirrors until I bought one with my part time job money at the age of 16, so this was an amazing discovery for me.
Above the toilet was a shelf with pretty bottles of perfume. The counter tops displayed more crystal bottles of perfume and powders. They were beautiful:
*photo of perfume bottles:
I touched them with a reverence and seriousness fit for valuable ancient artifacts. Chanel No. 5, Chantilly, Poison, White Shoulders… They sat arranged on the counter; reflected light from their glass bottles would bounce in the mirrors. And the powders… Oh how I loved those powders! Once, Grandma gave me one of them to keep. It was gardenia scented. I still have that metal powder container in my memory box. If I hold it up to my nose, I can still catch a whiff of that light floral scent, even though the powder is long gone. Today the smell of gardenias never fails to transport me back in time to that magical bathroom.
The bathtub was modest – small and square, it was probably only 12-18 inches deep. Nothing compared to the giant soaking tubs we have these days. You couldn’t stretch out in that tub, but I loved it. It was perfect, mostly because Grandma let me use her bubble baths that were divine. She always had such girly, wonderful smelling things around. At home, with all those brothers of mine, it was hard to find a trace of femininity, especially in the bathrooms. I was lucky to get a five minute shower with hot water; baths were out of the question. Grandma knew this, and she had a way about her that made me feel special and loved because she actually let me use her bathroom things. I treated them with care, I tried not to make a mess, but I also thoroughly enjoyed myself in that bathroom. I would soak in the tub, surrounded by rose petal scented bubble bath. I’d use a shampoo that made my hair feel silky. Then I’d towel off and dust on some floral scented powder. It was time for me relax, enjoy myself, to bask in the glory of being a girl. Oh how great I felt. I smelled pretty fabulous too.
That’s how Grandma always is- impeccably put together and she always smells great. Never stale or 'old ladyish', just feminine and delicate. To this day, I'm drawn to a light floral or citrus scent. I don’t like heavy, musky or spicy scents. My preference for floral scents was formed by my experiences in Grandma’s bathroom. Those memories aren’t just about the powders, perfumes and bubbles that Grandma had. The foundation of those good feelings is the warmth and generosity she showed me. She trusted me enough to touch her stuff. She made me feel special by letting me use those private things. That’s how she’s been my whole life. Even though she has many grandchildren, she always knew how to make me feel like I held a special place in her heart among them all. She remembered what I liked, stuff that might have seemed common to other girls but was very special to me.
She’s still doing that today. In fact, now she does that for her great-grandchildren too. She sends my kids homemade cards for their birthdays and holidays. In each of them, she tells a little story to them about something that she once did at their age, or maybe about something that I did as a child. Or, she’ll tell them that she heard from me about something special in their lives, and she’ll let them know that it is special to her too.
I don’t get to visit with her very often. When I do, I don't tell her how much she means to me. But I think she knows how important she’s been in shaping who I am today. I’m very blessed to have had her in my life for all of these years. And I’m not just saying this because she reads my blog.
I love you, Grandma Viv. You have always made me feel special.
*photo swiped from her Facebook page. Did I mention that she’s a ‘cool’ grandma too?