My grandmother is getting older.
I understand that’s probably stating the obvious, since she turned 93 last month. The truth is, though, that she didn’t really start to age until she turned 90, and now, as her steps become more and more unsteady, and her thoughts become more and more muddled, we are left realizing she isn’t exactly who she always has been. It is a shock.
Still, it should be noted, she has her moments.
The women in my family are spunky, opinionated, and strong, and we came by those characteristics honestly. We all got them from Mama. And in the same ways we have become spunky, opinionated, and strong, we have also become artists. Because Mama is an artist.
A couple of weeks ago, as I shared dinner with my aunts and uncle and cousins, my grandmother — who, admittedly, these days occasionally gets lost in the conversation — reached out and touched my sweater. The look in her eyes was unmistakable. Her eyes were the way they used to be. They were full of life and excitement and possibility.
She was in awe at the beauty.
My sweater, my new navy blue sweater with flowers shouting all over it, had caught my grandmother’s artist eyes. Mama has spent much of her life looking for beauty and creating it. Her hands crafted the clothes I wore as a child; they mended my dolls’ tiny treasures and have made thousands of children at the local hospital very happy during their times of trouble. Her blankets grace our home, and a precious quilt from her is hidden in my cedar chest, waiting for the day we have a home big enough for its presence.
Mama is an artist, and that evening, I was reminded of how she used to see the world. Her eyes looked for beauty, and, in the words of Bill Cunningham, when you look for beauty, you will find it.
That night, my grandmother found beauty in a sweater. She saw beauty. She reached out and touched it. She celebrated it.
I want that to be my legacy too.