At 1107 Nashville Avenue in Sheffield, Alabama sits a modest abode. It was home to my grandparents, my father and his two sisters for more than 50-years. Not only did is serve as the gathering place for our fifteen family members to celebrate during the holidays, but it was a summer retreat for me, where I spent memorable time with my grandmother.
My grandparents each obtained graduate degrees and were high school teachers in this small town. I would classify them as a middle-class couple, living comfortably but modestly, with little to no discretionary income. Their budget didn’t leave much for extras. Vacations were rare and typically included creative trips to spend time with family in the local area. It was a challenge to set aside money for other looming expenses, such as college tuition for their three children, and unanticipated home repairs.
However, being middle class was more than just their income. It was an attitude! They were optimistic, assumed great civic responsibility, and engrained themselves and children into the community. They were well respected and valued for their contributions in the local area and the Sheffield public school system.
I spent considerable amount of time with my grandmother growing up in this small northwest Alabama community. I never knew of her struggles financially or otherwise. I simply knew her as perfection. Yes, absolute perfection! She personified graciousness, kindness, caring and humility. My summer days were spent crafting, attending bible school, and learning the art of entertaining.
My grandmother’s home was center stage for family gatherings, bible studies, women’s club meetings, bridge groups and athletic booster’s meetings (my grandfather was also a respected high school coach). Card tables would pop up in her small living room and be transformed into literal works of art as she adorned them with her freshly pressed linens, cut crystal, and bud vases with fresh berries and greenery from her backyard. There was no budget for these festivities, but her creativity rivaled that of the Ritz Carlton. The air permeated with the smells of pot roast or baked spaghetti (literally the best made with her secret ingredients) and served perfectly staged on her best mixed and matched China dinnerware. For example, a single canned pineapple ring was placed on a leaf of lettuce with a dollop of Miracle Whip and a sprinkle of freshly grated cheddar cheese and was served with so much love and care to attention that it tasted of pure perfection. Absolute every attention to detail was addressed in the presentation of her home and the bountiful meals that warmed the bellies of her guests.
My grandmother won’t be remembered for her lavish home and expensive extras. She will be remembered for the love she shared by ensuring your time with her, in her home, at her table, was an investment in your time together. It was her gift and for those of us blessed to be at her table, each of whom will forever feel honored.
The moral of the story is this; stay optimistic and care, work with what you have, use elbow grease and create a polish on the projects you are proud of, and invest your time and energy in the presentation. Those around you are paying attention and your investment is the tipping point for others to do the same.