In case you haven’t heard, Taylor Swift released not one, not two, but three albums in the past nine months. My teenage daughter, who is quite the ‘Swiftie,’ has listened to Taylor Swift on repeat for several years now — which means so have I. Never a huge fan in her country years, I enjoyed when she switched over to pop and I’m not ashamed to say my daughter converted me in 2019 when Swift’s Lover album came out.
But it’s a song from one of her latest albums evermore that truly moved me, one that Swift wrote about her late grandmother named Marjorie, the name that also serves as the song’s title.
My favorite lyric goes, “All your closets of backlogged dreams and how you left them all to me … ” Which is a bit ironic.
Because my Grandmother Sue — my dad’s mother — was the exact opposite of this lyric. She left no backlogged dreams, because my grandmother, as the popular saying goes, “lived her best life.”
She was an artist, at one time owning an art store and for a time teaching art at the local community college. All my life I watched her create. She painted canvases and stunning floral porcelain plates. She fired charming ceramic Christmas ornaments and figurines in the kiln in her basement and then painted them, as well as flawless dolls for which she then sewed meticulous gowns. Not long after she got her first computer, she bought software that let her create beautiful homemade cards, which her family then received for every birthday and other holidays.
She also traveled extensively. In her computer room hung a map with pushpins marking all the places she’d visited across the country. There were a lot of pushpins in that map, and it was honestly one of my favorite things in her house.
The most admirable thing about my grandmother, though — she was always present. She loved her children, her grandchildren, her great grandchildren with a fierceness and always — always — made us feel special.
For as long as I can remember, she told me she was proud of me. That was her closing remark: “I love you, and I’m so proud of you.” Even after the stroke, when she woke up only briefly in the hospital room for the last time and I was lucky enough to be there, she tried to speak and I knew instinctively what she was trying to say. I leaned down and whispered, “I know you’re proud of me,” and she squeezed my hand.
Last week marked five years since her death, and it still surprises me how deeply I miss her. There are a dozen little details, such as watching her peel an apple in one long twist. I miss the smell of her sewing room, and the beautiful Precious Moments figurines spread throughout her home. I miss the basement stocked full of little bottles with every color of paint you can imagine. I miss finding twelve toothbrushes, still in their packaging, neatly arranged in the guest bathroom drawer. I miss organizing yard sales with her, the Easter egg hunts at her house (both as a child and later with my own children), loud family dinners in her kitchen, and my goodness, her upside down German chocolate cake. I miss her voice, which I can still hear in my head, saying, “This is so nice,” whenever we came to visit.
My grandmother loved reading my columns when I worked for the newspaper back in Alabama. She loved everything I wrote growing up, and I was sitting in her kitchen when I made my first attempt at a novel as a kid. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to write a column when I moved here — because I know she’d love that I’m writing again.
I strive to live my own life as she did, and I know she’d be proud of our move to Georgia, about how happy we are here.
Another lyric from Marjorie sings, “What died didn’t stay dead, you’re alive, you’re alive in my head.” And it’s true. Although I haven’t written that novel yet, I’m creating — and of that she’d be proud. Writing about my Grandmother Sue here in the newspaper, about her life and her accomplishments, is one small way I can celebrate her memory, forever in print.
I can tell the world how much I loved her, and how very proud I am of the incredible woman she was — one whom inspired me to live my best life.
* This column first appeared in The Walton Tribune on April 24, 2021 *