My grandmother, Ruby, passed away at the end of April. She died on her birthday at the age of 95. I called her The Matriarch. She wasn’t even five feet tall, but she was a quiet force to reckon with. It was a good passing, a mercifully peaceful one. I am fortunate that she was in my life as long as she was, supportive of me and my life and my people and my communities. She was my champion, always.
As someone who is single, I make a home for myself, as many of us do, alone and according to my preferences. Gramma Ruby did, too. She’d lived alone after my grandfather died in 1994, which is longer than I’ve lived alone as an adult. I have much to learn from her way of being independent and fulfilled, whether hosting family and friends or sitting and listening to the local radio as she tended to do, all day long, loudly.
What I didn’t prepare myself for, physically or mentally, was how much of her home I’d end up taking into mine. Something the previous generations seemed to have in spades were dishes and linens. And, for those of us who haven’t had a wedding for which we’ve registered for such household items, an opportunity such as this yielded quite a few additions to my domestic world. I chose a number of quilts, towels, crystal goblets, a coffee service set, platters, serving bowls, and even my own set of silver. I’d never put much thought into an inheritance; I certainly never planned to bring so much of Gramma Ruby home to live with me in St. Paul. But I see her all around me now.
My loft is only so big. Because I’ve lived in apartment buildings my entire adult life, I’ve learned that I can only take in what I can make room for by removing something else. It’s a balancing act. So, as I brought in goblets, out went mismatched glasses and mugs. As I brought in quilts, out went blankets I’ve had since my dorm days. As I brought in platters and bowls, out went a few boxes of other kitchen items to go to Goodwill. I also made room for heirloom additions that have plenty of historical and cultural significance, like her old church cookbooks that are bursting with notes and recipe cards, two spritz maker sets, an almond cake pan, a lefse flipper, and even an old coffee grinder with a hand crank. I am so fortunate to have these artifacts of my grandparents’ life in my own space, to share with anyone who I welcome into my home.
As I consider the Fall Home & Garden Issue, there are topics of decor, furniture, and big living in smaller spaces. From the view in my loft on University Avenue, I can tell you: I am living large and hardly alone.