I call her Grussmommy. She was my paternal Grandmother – the gentlest soul I’ve ever known. The preeminent lesson she instilled in me was to take joy in the simple things of life.
The normal Western world in which I live has precious few women who would be content to live without the things like electricity, telephones and television which we call essentials. I can’t even imagine the typical American woman carefully making and caring for every piece of clothing they own, rarely going shopping or visiting a restaurant for dinner. And to do without the “finer” things in life – such as jewelry, cars, a night out to see a movie, a trip to Starbucks, a glass of wine or a well-deserved, relaxing vacation? Most of us would consider such simplicity a massive sacrifice on our part.
But for my Grandmother, not even one of these things was considered essential. She didn’t need the latest appliances, magazine, shoes, smart phone or destination trip to bring to bring fulfillment or pleasure into her life. Instead, she found immense joy in modest matters.
She loved songbirds, and knew them all by name. Her face beamed with quiet happiness as she pointed out something as tiny as a sparrow, or identified the call of an owl. She cared tenderly for these little creatures in God’s creation. I remember one day when she cleaned the hair from her brush, carefully placed it outside near the bushes, and explained to me how the birds would come take it to use as material for their nests.
My grandfather was a cabinetmaker, and his woodworking shop was next to the house. I remember the contented smile on Grussmommy’s face as she made fresh squeezed lemonade and peanut butter crackers (just the way Grussdaudy liked them), and we carried them down the little walkway to the shop for my hardworking grandfather’s mid-morning snack. Once when we visited their home, she baked brownies from a new recipe. She was so excited to share the goodness with her family you would have thought she was making the most delectable of desserts for the Queen of England herself.
She delighted in the beauty of God’s creation, especially flowers. She planted them on the borders of her vegetable garden every spring, where their abundant, fragrant and vivid blooms brought color and joy to all who passed by. Her favorite room of the house was the sun porch, which housed her collection of violets, succulents and a myriad of other plants. I remember sharing her wonder when the Christmas cactus bloomed in December, and she pointed out the delicate blossoms to her family as they gathered around.
Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the Little House books) once said “I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” I believe my grandmother was well aware of this truth, and demonstrated it not only on a daily basis, but in every moment of her life. And I’m deeply grateful for her beautiful example of joy in the simplest of pleasures.
~ Justina Dee
Special thanks to street photographer Julia Lea Waldron for the beautiful images from Amish Country, in Lancaster County, PA.