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It’s okay! My mom shares!

June 25, 2014

When I was in the seventh grade, my family moved from about as deep in the South as you could get to a prairie valley in North Dakota.  Through my dad’s career as a college basketball coach, we befriended many families of his players.  One of my life’s mottos: “Family includes people you choose” had its rudimentary origins in that little town.

I will never forget when we were asked us to bring the matriarch of one family to an away game. Grandma Leone Nilsen was unlike anyone us kids had ever met. Norwegian (we didn’t even know where Norway was), proper, and one heck of a Scrabble player (never, and I mean never, challenge her words because she was a walking dictionary)! A real fairy grandmother like a character from a storybook. Upon hearing about our situation of being “proximally family-less” meaning no family within a thousand mile radius, she made a declaration that she stood by to her dying day. “I will be the grandma now!” She remembered all of our birthdays, special events, and even sat with my grandparents at my wedding.

Once, my parents had to travel out of town; so, she invited us to stay with her because she lived in town close to our schools. Boy! Was that an adventure! The first day’s breakfast was buttered jelly toast with eggs. The only problem was she didn’t clarify that there were two types of butter in the fridge, and we choked down grape jelly and garlic butter on wheat toast. Not a combination that I would recommend – ever. But we sure did have some giggles.

Later that night, we went to the local pizza restaurant. Grandma Leone, who was everything maternal including fair, decided we should order the three ingredient pizza, giving each of us a chance to make one selection. Our parents never did that; so, my brother and I thought this was the best idea ever. Back in those days, my food tastes were fairly conservative; so, I didn’t branch far in pizza topping selections. Canadian bacon was my choice. My brother, always having a flair for the dramatic, ordered pineapple. What kind of goofball orders pineapple? (Today I love that on pizzas.  At 13, I was less than enthused by his selection.)  If I thought that was bad, what came out Grandma’s mouth made me wish that my quirky brother could have had the third selection. Sauerkraut! What in the name of all that is holy would make her pick that? Miserably, we ate our pizza because we didn’t want to be disrespectful. I have hated sauerkraut ever since, even ordering Reubens sans that ingredient.

Even though her pizza topping choices were less than appealing, the love she lavished on us kids was genuine and real, even if the bloodlines that connected us were not.

Her church had a mother-daughter tea, and since I was the closest granddaughter, she invited me as her guest. She picked me up in her big boat of a car, complete with stuffed white kitty in the back window. (That was her signal as to which car was hers in a crowded parking lot.) On our drive to the church, she told me to pick up a small box in the backseat. Inside were the most beautiful teacup and saucer. She told me that she wanted me to know how absolutely beautiful and special I was to her and how honored she was I chose to spend my afternoon with her. It is a moment I have never forgotten.

The actual teacup given to me.

The actual teacup given to me.

Just recently, our church held a “Daughters of the King” tea. Since it was held on the last night of our church’s youth group for the school year, that left just one little Sally Gal to be my date. While fellowshipping after church, C asked a family friend if she was coming to the tea. Her heartfelt response was her girls would be going to youth group; so, she wasn’t sure. Without batting an eyelash, Cloie said, “Oh please come. Don’t worry! My momma shares!” As if there wasn’t any other choice in her mind, my nine year old decided that was just the way it was going to be. She made sure our friend signed up, and we would attend as a trio.

As the tea approached, C sat me down for a heart to heart. “Now mom when we get there, I know this is a special night. But, I will have to sit between you and Miss Linda. That would be the only fair way to handle this.” Which is exactly what she did, and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Tea parties are pretty special events indeed, but even more special are those people who open their hearts to share moments with people they love – biological family, family of God, or simply the family you choose.

Looking back now, even if it was not due to genetics, I am so glad that Cloie has her Grandma Leone’s heart. I know that she would be so proud!

  1. What a sweet story!

  2. You taught your daughter well, …and so she has learned to share with others the love that has been lavished upon her.

  3. Thank you, Daisy! My friends all giggle that even though God has given my children talents, the one I care about the most (and speak about the most) is that they are kind people. So glad that I sometimes am able to witness that kindness in action. Kandy

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