Up until the age of 5 or so, I lived in an unbelievable world of magic and fairies. My grandmother and I would spend much of our days in her beautiful gardens, preserving fairy spots for the little people that we couldn’t see, but who would most certainly came out at night to play. We would clear all the unwanted weeds from her garden while dreadfully careful not to disturb any of the fairy homes that were invisible to our eyes. We would water her gardens just before sunset and make sure that the leaves on the trees were thoroughly watered too. She was sure that the fairies would soak up all the drops that would rest on the trees, while others would float around in the bubbles. It was all so captivating to me; my grandmother and her fairies became my own little bit of magic. We would spend the days playing piano, reading and writing. She would write her letters and I would write my poems. We would read together at night before she would tuck me in after we had said our prayers. Everything about her, about her home and about all we did was magical. She was my wonderland, my far-far-away land and my happy-ever-after land.
On one of those magical days, I clearly remember sitting in front of a burning fire in the living room when she began paging through a photo album that she had kept tucked away in a beautiful, wooden chest. I was enthralled and sat down beside her when she began telling me stories that she was reflecting on from a long, long time ago. As we paged through, she pointed out her mother and her father to me. I was horrified! I was entirely caught off-guard and taken aback! At that very moment, my entire world came crashing down on me! My grandmother once had a mother and a father! I was devastated! In total disbelief, I asked her why she had a mom and a dad? How could it be? Was she born, like me? She closed the album and explained all there was that I needed to know and to understand how she was once a child. Yet, all I heard and grasped was the fact that the world did not begin with her. How could the world not have begun with her? She was perfect. She was smart and beautiful. She was greatly feared and enormously treasured. She knew EVERYTHING! She was on top of any and every situation … she worked things out, every time. I always felt so safe with her. I always thought that nothing bad could ever happen to me when I was with her. There was nothing that could slip past her. She knew things no-one else knew! She knew something about EVERY SINGLE LITTLE THING! My parents were terrified of her! Everyone feared her. She made her own butter! How could she have had a mother? How could she have been a child, like me … once?
I remember gazing at her in utter confusion and entirely overwhelmed by disappointment. All that I had believed up until that very moment, was a lie. An enormous lie. I inspected every inch of her as though there would be something there to tell me that she was, in fact, something superior. Like an Angel … in disguise. I was horribly disenchanted to discover that she was human, just like me and just like everyone else. I was profoundly distressed by the thought that God hadn’t taken her directly from Heaven, and placed her on earth. For just a second, I felt unsafe and insecure. I was devastated that she did not willingly choose me to be her granddaughter. I was severely disillusioned by the sudden reality that she was not put on earth, just for me. That was the moment I was convinced that I had lost all that was enthralling about this larger than life grandmother of mine. I didn’t want to know all this about her. I did not want to look at her like someone who simply did not possess something that was so much more enhanced than anyone else.
But, as I inspected and scrutinized every inch of her; as I noticed her silver hair and tired eyes, I realized that she was magical, mysterious and exquisite. Every line on her face told of a story. They were stories of having lost both her parents; of having lost a daughter and a son, of adopting a child and of caring for her seven children when her husband was off fighting in the war. They were stories of not only supporting her own children, but the children of two other families while working as a full-time Secretary and an after-hours bus driver, just to make ends meet. Her face told me of the hardships and struggles she was forced to endure; of raising a family and of growing her own food while she tended her beautiful flower gardens. It spoke of her untainted belief in God and how she would leave before sunrise each Sunday morning to drive the 200 or so km’s just to attend a Church service. Her hands were old and tired. I looked at them and realized the sparkles she had created with those beautiful, worn hands. She would knit all our sweaters, yes, every single grandchild’s sweater. She would make her own dresses and she would make her own cheese. She would grow her vegetable garden and feed her family from her own soil. She would add a room onto a tired and outdated house by mixing sand and water by herself while she would lay one brick at a time without any help. She would crochet beautiful table cloths and she would play music as though she was playing for the President in the State’s Theater.
What I appreciate now is that she was a special kind of human. A magical being that indisputably believed in fairies and Santa Claus right up to the end. She DID choose me; she singled me out and taught me all that her mother had once taught her. She told me that it was okay to arrange a dinner table elegantly and beautifully … and for no reason at all. She was steady in her belief that we ALWAYS dress suitably for any meal. She taught me the importance of prayer and that it was not only limited to bed-time. We would pray before we traveled; we would pray before any meal and we would pray at any time and for any reason. She embodied the word grace and elegance. She taught me that being brave does not mean we are not afraid, it simply means we have courage. She told me that even though I was living and functioning in a crooked and cruel world, I can still be anything I want to be. She told me that fairy tales, fairies and magic are what adds sparkles to our lives.
What I didn’t know then was that magic can be found in anything. It is up to us to find it and hold on to it; to cherish it and to believe that it exists; it’s real to us. We create our own magic … we believe in it and we give life to it. We hold on to all that is valuable and dear to us; that becomes our magic. Grandmothers are our story-tellers from a time, long ago; they are our link to enchantment and fairies. Our worlds don’t know much of worlds that came before them … so, life for us, begins there.
My Universe still begins with her.