Grand Humans are the best kind of grownups!
Photo: My great-great-grandfather, great-great-grandmother, great-great-great grandmother, great-great uncle, and great-grandmother.
"Peoples People," declared Edna Murry, born on Elvis's birthday and who I met while traveling the outback of the United States in 1996.
Edna was 82 then, living in a school bus nestled in the Apalachicola National Forest, outside Tallahassee, FL.
Photo: Not quite Edna's bus, but isn't this lovely?
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Edna made the best-fried chicken and grits I ever tasted. Her words resonate today, in 2022, when many people feel disconnected from each other unable to honor and celebrate our individual uniqueness as 'people.' Indeed "Peoples People".
"Welcome to Sunny Mexico!" announced the elder of a tiny village on the border along the Rio Grande, smiling widely. It was 1999, he was 80 then,
and I will never forget how every part of his essence shined 'happiness'- even though he had no shoes and lived without electricity. His disposition continues to inspire my daily appreciation for life.
Photo: Boquillas Port of Entry
"Honesty, Humility, Courage, Love, Respect, Wisdom, Truth, this is how to live a good life," shared Naynegah-Tae-Geshik, meaning "colors of the morning and evening sun," an Ojibwe elder I befriended in early 2012. Had it not been for his shared wisdom, I would not have had the courage to follow my dreams. Megwich Ivan.
Photo: Naynegah-Tae-Geshik, Ivan Hunter
Growing up, I had three great-grandmothers, one great-grandfather, two grandmothers, and two grandfathers, who were paramount to my upbringing. Each was very different; each had a unique signature sparkle woven into my quirky and eclectic character. I was not close to all of them, though each has made a mark on who I am today.
Photo: My great-grandfather & great-grandmother
Summers were spent with my great-grandmother Tess at her cottage on Burt Lake in northern Michigan. She spoiled me with the love and attention I deeply needed. I remember the dryer was not working one day, and she had just washed my undergarments. So, she placed them on a cookie sheet (I was age 8) and into the oven. We went outside, and she must have forgotten to set a timer. The fire alarm went off, the kitchen filled with smoke, and I had burnt panties!
We laughed and laughed.
When I was around 12, my mom and I went to see great-grandmother Ann perform at the local senior center. She was in her mid-80s then. She looked radiant, dancing, and then her clothes started coming off bit by bit until all left was her tank top, hot pants, fishnet tights, and vintage pumps. My mother blushed with embarrassment while the crowd went wild.
Together, these grand humans taught me that life does get better with age- life gets more decadent with a slower pace, and we can blossom into wholeness. These stories I hold dear, and their legacy lives on with me, and I miss them dearly.
I look forward to many more grand humans blessing my life, and I delight at the thought of becoming a Grand Human one day.
Thanks mainly to the grassroots advocacy of West Virginian Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day.
Marian had 43 grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild and was married 60 years to Joseph L. McQuade, a strong supporter of her advocacy.
"I urge each citizen to pause and to reflect on the influence his grandparents have had in shaping his own destiny, and on the legacy bestowed upon our contemporary society by his grandparents' generation." - President Jimmy Carter 1978
Photo: Legacy Project, Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade
I have a Christmas card my great-great-great grandmother sent to my great-grandmother- my great-grandmother's grandmother- in 1957
"I wish you would write me once in a while- I think of you so much."
"I am enclosing $5.00 for your Christmas present. Much Love, Grandmother Watts. "
This weekend, let's pause and reflect on the legacy of the grand humans and grandparents who have nurtured our character. Gather (or even call!) with friends and family of all ages, share their stories, honor their lives, and appreciate the elders we still have here today.
Their legacy becomes our legacy, and the cycle continues.