Gran's Apple Butter Blog

February 21, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: Love Letter to Gran (9I)

Filed under: Authentic self,Book Series,Books,Forgiveness,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Grandma,Love Letter to Gran — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 6:11 pm

Chapter 9 ~ Love Letter to Gran

I know you will wander and I know you will roam, but please just remember you can always come home. – Bob Sima

Just as our story opened with Gran’s letter to Mikey, it ends with Mikey’s letter to Gran.

December 28, 2009

Dear Gran,

I found our manuscript not long after you were gone. It was almost complete. I just needed to smooth things over a bit, although it took me a year to be ready to do that. Mainly I wanted to add your story, to introduce you to all my friends. And I needed to read those pages a few more times myself, to finally grasp what we were talking about so long ago.

It’s all a birthing process, isn’t it? We’re all being born again, Gran, born into who we really are. I think I know what a caterpillar feels like now, fearful as it faces death, not realizing the light and life and joy waiting on the other side with that gorgeous set of wings.

Early on I realized this wasn’t just our story, Gran. It’s a beautiful tapestry of the wisdom of friends I’ve met all around the world. Their voices rise up, blending in my mind, a light shining in their eyes that reflected the flame in mind as they shared what their own grandmothers taught them. How precious to know we all feel this longing for home. What a bridge this offers in our disconnected world.

I finally get it: We’ll keep learning about this our entire lives, redefining and reshaping our relationships, our worlds, ourselves. It’s never too late to start, and we’ll finish right on time. Like the story cousin Wayne shared about his talk with Aunt Tishie not long before she went home. She told him that somewhere just past 70, she’d realized she was ready to let go of some things she’d held on to all her life – to open her heart and eyes to seeing things in a whole new way. She understood that until then she hadn’t been capable of making that choice. She called it evolution – she had evolved.

Just like Wayne remembers her, Gran, I remember you. I have so many wonderful memories. Heading for your house, that feeling of anticipation that grew with each mile, seeing the lights as we topped the hill. Arriving late, neighbors fast asleep, one light shining softly through the living room window: Gran waiting up, listening for the car. A quiet knock, and there you’d be at the door, hair set for the night, headscarf not quite covering the bobby-pinned curls around your forehead. I can hear the quiet rasp as the door opened into your world and the smell of Gran’s house would wrap us in a blanket of home even as we stood on the doorstep.

Fuzzy robe just right for hugs, Gran’s special PJs awaiting all, and a big pot of chili simmering on the stove, waiting for our arrival. Never too tired to eat, especially not your famous chili, we’d gather in the kitchen, munching crackers from the big pink tub and dousing our bowls with vinegar. Do you know how many years it took me to learn that not everyone puts vinegar in their chili?

Sooner or later I’d find myself falling asleep on a pallet in the living room floor, listening to the big clock tick from the kitchen wall, comforting hum as the refrigerator kicked on. Belly full, blankets warm, pillow soft, all the smells sifting through the house from the oven that never seemed to be turned off. Grandpa coming back in for one last drink of cold water. Then silence, darkness, sleep. Waking briefly to a soft glow from the kitchen and the sound of the oven door being carefully opened, tinfoil peeling back, stirrings and stirrings… then the light would go off, and a beautiful shadow in a long, pink robe would quietly drift back down the hallway. So many memories…

Looking back, I realize my childish anger that we didn’t finish our book so long ago was disturbingly similar to my emotions years later, Gran, when you took your final journey home. How could you have let me down like that? How thoughtless. At least that’s how I tried to convince myself I saw it. Somehow that made it easier. Once again I went through all the stages of grief, not in a nice, neat, straight line, but in a jagged, messy, confusing mass, one and then the other and then the other, until I finally arrived at acceptance and love – love for you, and love for me.

I didn’t deal well with your death, Gran, no better than I’d dealt with many other things in my life. I went through it all, fighting the truth: depression, eating too much, drinking too much, sleeping too much, medicating myself with every substance and activity and form of busy-ness I could find, staying in bad jobs and worse jobs, losing good friends, keeping bad ones, enduring traitors, finding my own treacherous streak, starting good relationships that quickly soured and then staying in them long after I knew better. And that’s just the short list.

One thing about it, I reinvented the wheel of emotional learning so many times, I should be a genius by now. I insisted on learning all my lessons the hard way, rather than learning from others’ mistakes. And here I thought my dad was the hard-headed one in the family. Gran, you knew I would go through all this. That I had to, before I could finish our book. And so it was. I know I still have a lot to learn, a lot to work on. But Gran, after all these years, I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe there is a way.

I remember how you used to talk about innocence, how it was a wonderful thing when it was a true innocence based on experience. You knew I would lose my innocence as I grew older, just as you did, as my life seemed to prove everything I remembered wrong. But I feel like I’m on my way back to regaining this, this time the true innocence you chose to have, in spite of everything, because you knew what the full potential of each person, each situation, really was. You trusted, when there was no obvious reason to trust, because you knew what COULD be. You loved, when there was no obvious reason to love, because you knew what really WAS.

Thank you for setting this example, Gran. I’m trying to live up to it now, one baby step at a time, and I can feel you holding my hand. Thank you for teaching me about love, and hope, and faith, and trust. Thank you for teaching me not to give up on myself when everyone else did, when even I did. Thank you for not giving up on me, even when it looked like I’d given up on you. No, we’ll never get back those years, and letting go of that guilt is something I’m still working on. But you knew, Gran. You knew who I really was, who I really could be, and you taught me to look for that in others. I’m trying, Gran, I’m really trying.

Gran, it’s taken me years to figure out who I am and who I want to be when I grow up. I’m not sure I fully know now. As I’ve tried on different personalities along the way, I’ve managed to alienate a lot of people I care about. And like you predicted, I wasn’t sure how to go about mending those bridges, or if I should even try, because I knew some of those chasms were deep and wide – most times with good reason.

But Gran, you had one tidbit of wisdom I wouldn’t learn ’til further along – that people are often harder on themselves than on those around them. So while I spent years castigating myself for things I should or shouldn’t have done, once I started reaching out, to my amazement I’ve found that more often than not the person on the other side was already walking in my direction, holding out a hand in peace. Wow.

In many ways, Gran, finishing our story is more than just ‘finishing our story’ for me. It’s also a big long apology to all these people. I hope they can look at me a little differently now. Even if they can’t, at least I can look at myself differently, understanding a bit more about where I came from, and where I’m headed.

As I pen these last pages, I can’t help but feel sad. I know we have more books coming. I can feel their seeds stirring in my soul, just waiting for the sunshine and rain to help them grow. But this was our first, Gran, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Maybe it’s silly, but I’m sitting here with a big lump in my throat. This book is so much more than just ink on paper. It’s my love letter to you, Gran, the one I never wrote before. Just like the love letters you used to write to me.

Maybe in a little way it’s also a love letter to myself, sending love in a circle, knowing that as I send it to you, it will come back to me. I realize that in saying goodbye to these pages, I’m also saying goodbye to you, the one I never got to say in real life. And I’m in no more of a rush to say it now than I was then. I don’t want to say it. Who knows, maybe I just won’t say it at all. Somehow, I think you’ll be good with that. I’m not ready to let you go just yet, Gran. Not yet. Someday. And that’s enough for now.

Gran, I forgot the book. I forgot a lot of things over the years, including most of what I knew about Home. But as I read our words, it all came back. I could feel the energy shift, the blocks moving as my tears melted them, and I could finally mourn, letting go of the one person who had meant more to me than anything in the world: Myself. At least, the me I thought I had become. As those tears fell, more followed – tears for you, tears for me, tears for others, great big sloppy drops across the pages for all the years and fears and feelings, expressed and not expressed. You’re right, Gran – you were right all along. But then, there was never really any doubt, was there?

I remember your do-over theory, Gran, that we get more than one chance to learn the things we need to in life. I hope you’re right. That’d be quite a relief, to know I didnt’ have to get it all perfect this time ’round. And if that’s right, I just wonder what you’re doing now, and what Big Adventure you’re planning next. I wonder if I’ll see you somewhere out there. And when I do, I wonder if I’ll look in your eyes and know you, seeing a fresh reflection of home. I think I will. Maybe I already have.

Thanks for everything, Gran. I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.



P.S. I think I’ve finally earned my whole name now, Gran, just like you said.


In Gran’s honor, it’s only fitting that we end this little story the same way she always ended hers, with the reminder that everything we had talked about was just our truth – hers, mine – and that it would serve me well to not accept anything she said “just because she said so.” Instead, she’d invite me to think about these things and drawn my own conclusions…


So there ya go, Gran. Did I do good?

And a whisper reaches my ear, the voice of Gran – or it is only my imagination?

“You did it, Mikey, you did it. Now can we all do it? Yes, we can.”


Thank you for sharing this time with us on Gran’s front porch. As darkness falls and the shadows lengthen, Mikey and Gran would like to offer one final question for you to think about as you fall asleep tonight…

Follow the Love {Bob Sima}

Have you ever asked yourself
Have you really sat down and asked yourself
What is it that makes my head and my heart collide
What am I gonna do when it comes down to choosing sides… choosing sides…

Have you ever asked yourself
Have you really sat down and asked yourself
What is it that makes my soul catch fire
What is it that I really believe inside?

Have you ever really listened to the little voice inside your head?
When it really comes down to it, you shouldn’t have to think about it
When it really comes down to it, just go with your heart
It’s easy to see where you’re going when you’re following the love…
Follow the love, follow the love, follow the love…

Have you ever doubted yourself
Have you ever just sat down and wept
What is it that makes my plans and my dreams collide
What am I gonna do when it comes down to choosing sides… choosing sides…

Have you ever really listened to the little voice inside your head?
When it really comes down to it, you shouldn’t have to think about it
When it really comes down to it, go with your heart
‘Cause it’s easy to see where you’re going when you’re following the love…
Follow the love, follow the love, follow the love…

Don’t change your mind, don’t change your mind, don’t change your mind, don’t change your mind


Gran’s final borrowed advice:

Then give to the world the best you have,
and the best will come back to you.
~ Madeline Bridges

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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January 10, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: Visiting (8III)

Chapter 8 – Visiting

But wait! Before we get too far from that front door, Gran said we might want to slow down and remind ourselves of a few things so this could, indeed, be the Best Visit Ever. She had three very practical suggestions for visiting – whether it’s your grandma, your best friend, or the Reverend Lovejoy at the end of the street.

#1. Always bring a gift for the hostess, even if it’s just your smile and a big hug.
#2. Remember: All guests, no matter how nice, begin to stink after three days (like fish).[i]
#3. If it’s a potluck, don’t bring chips – or hummus – except maybe every third time. Mix it up a little.

This might also be a good time to brush up on house rules. These change, depending on the place.  Different homes have different rules, and what’s appropriate in one may be atrocious in another, so it’s a good idea to get this straight from the beginning.

As far as Gran could tell, all these rules were pretty much right. Just different. So if I wasn’t sure which fork to use, she said to look around and see what others were doing. It’s good manners not to act or think that my way is always right. According to Gran, this meant I couldn’t always do whatever I wanted. Well, I could, but like any choice, that would carry a consequence, and those consequences can be downright inspiring when it comes to decision-making.

Gran said these different rules are one reason our reflections of home can seem a little out of focus. In our one true home, it’s simple – it’s all about love, no question about it. But along the way, as we learn our lessons, there can be a bit more involved, and sometimes it seems like the love part gets lost in the shuffle.

That’s why Gran said we want to do our best to make sure others see a true reflection of home in us, and not one that’s smeared with dust or someone else’s fingerprints. When that happens, people may do things they don’t mean to do, or say things they don’t mean to say. Feelings get hurt and we act all angry so no one sees how sad we are inside. That hurts the other person, who starts acting angry back, and our poor little reflection gets more and more muddled ‘til it all but disappears.  

Gran said if I polish my mirror each day, and fix any cracks or tarnished spots, I’ll be a good reflector. And if everyone does this, we’ll all be good reflectors. Can you imagine how shiny the world would be then?

We polish our mirrors when we forgive others, and even when we forgive ourselves. The granddaddy of all cleaners, Gran said, comes with the practice of rewriting our stories about the people in our lives, writing these scripts big enough for each of us to grow into, like a new pair of shoes, letting go of our fears and judgments and creating something entirely new.

It’s like bringing your dirty laundry home. That’s fine and dandy, but you don’t have to walk in the front door wearing it. It’s also best not to leave it outside the bathroom door: Take that stroll to the laundry room. And if you start a load, it’s nice to ask if anyone else has some whites. And remember that it really isn’t in anyone else’s best interest to do this work for you, even though it may seem like it at the time. A good friend might help you with it, but remember, it’s still your dirty laundry.

[i] Thanks, Mama Rosi, for this tidbit of wisdom

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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