My grandmother, my Maw Maw, my Bonnie, is my soul sister. Though I’m not one for old wives’ tales, I’ve heard it said that the first person to walk you through your home as a baby is the person you’ll grow up to be like. Sure enough, Mom let Maw Maw stroll me through the house after we left the hospital, and to say I’m just like her is still missing the mark.
We’re reserved, not because we’re standoff-ish, but because we’re observing. We’re reading the room, figuring people out, maximizing that spiritual gift of discernment. We could talk all things Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, and Dickens for days—and days and days. Lovers of literature, we talk words, rhyme schemes, and classics like they’re the weather. In fact, she told me I would be an author long before I even liked the idea. That’s why my debut book, Not So by Myself, is dedicated to her.
I’m thankful for this woman in so many ways, and when her husband, my Pepa, died, I stopped by his graveside and promised him I would always look out for her, I’d always be her best friend, I’d try my best to fill the gaps that losing him cost her. Pepa passed away only three days after Thanksgiving in 2015, so it’s a tough holiday.
Yet, there are ways I can show Maw Maw some extra love, extra appreciation in this season that’s sometimes a little too chilly for her.
Check out these five ways that we all can let our grandparents know how much we love them this Thanksgiving season:
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1. Get Vintage with It
Good news—vintage is trending these days. One of my favorite things to do with my grandmother is visit antique stores. Now, it’s not only because she’s the bargain queen, walking away with a $750 antique dresser for $400, though that’s part of the fun.
But, it’s because she can point out pieces of who she was, and I can better understand what her world looked like when she was my age. All the while, we’re creating a fun memory.
This Thanksgiving season, I’d encourage you to take your loved one to an antique store (if health permits) and see if the two of you can find any Thanksgiving dish sets, napkin holders, or decorations that’ll bring a piece of who they were to this year’s Thanksgiving dinner table.
2. Attend Their "Cooking Class"
I have to admit, the kitchen is the only place that Bonnie and I are not identical twins. Her whisking powers are magic while I can’t figure out the can opener for my Chef Boyardee. She loves to cook. I loathe the mere concept of creating food.
But, cooking with Princess Pastries and Pies is always fun. I turn on the oven and stir a few things while she does the rest. What makes this so special is the stories she shares and the memories we create in this time.
Talk with your grandparents about their favorite Thanksgiving dish. It could be the turkey, the dressing, or the pumpkin pie. Once you know their favorites, invite them over, or swing by their house with the ingredients, and the two of you take some time to make more than just food.
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3. PUT. DOWN. THE. PHONE.
Too many times, I’ve made the mistake of forcing a photo for the sake of a memory, but when all is said and done, I didn’t create an experience. I created an Instagram post. And what’s that worth once the likes trickle away?
When you’re with your grandparents, whether you’re at their house or anywhere else, put your phone away. I’m not saying you shouldn’t snap a few fun photos amidst a sweet moment, but don’t makeshift a moment for the sake of a photo.
Show your appreciation for them by stepping away from the technology and carving pumpkins, introducing them to the newest pumpkin spice craze, and strolling through the orange and red leaves. Pay attention to their words, make a mental note of the way their eyes light up when they laugh. You’ll treasure these moments more than a photo anyway. (Promise.)
4. Blast to Their Past
Maw Maw grew up on a farm in Alabama. She was the firstborn of six children, entering the world amidst WWII. Her family didn’t have much, so she’s no stranger to hunger; she’s too familiar with raising her five siblings—childhood’s fun never fully accessed.
Even still, I’ve learned that she, like so many others, wants to share her past. Her past explains her present. Her present, and all its past experiences, provide wisdom to shape the future of whoever’s listening.
Be the person who asks the questions, who listens to the answers. Even if your grandparents, like mine, grew up in hard times, ask what their Thanksgivings looked like, what food was served, which traditions were their favorite. Even in their answers break your heart, the reality that you care about every piece of them is what’s helping mend their hearts.
5. Continue the Grateful Spirit
It’s easy to be thankful in October, November, and December. These months create nostalgia that makes life a little easier to celebrate. Nonetheless, your grandparents deserve your thankfulness, your friendship, your presence once January rolls around.
Discover the best way to regularly stay in touch with your grandparents—even if you live 1400 miles away from them like I do. Maybe it’s a FaceTime date once a week. Maybe, if your grandparents are like Bonnie, they’ve caught on to texting and Zoom calls, so she’s only a few buttons away. Perhaps you want to keep it old school and write letters.
If you live close to your grandparents, take the time to go for walks with them, stop by and offer to cook their dinner, make sure they don’t have any leaky faucets or blown bulbs that you could patch up for them. Love them in the little things too—you'll be thankful you did.
This Thanksgiving, take note of the tiniest details--the flannel they wear, the prayers they pray, the way their hands cut the turkey. Soak it up, store it in your brain, and remember that their hearts need who you are this holiday season.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/yacobchuk