When you were a child, who was the person you most looked up to, the one you hoped to be just like when you grew up?
For me, it wasn’t one person. It was a combination of two. Not just one or the other, but an odd sort of mixture of two distinctly different personalities.
You won’t find their names in history books or on monuments or in lists of great achievements.
They weren’t rich or famous or powerful, at least not in a worldly sense. Their looks, by any standard, would leave much to be desired, though they didn’t seem to mind it at all. They were always unpretentious, never the sort to stand out in a crowd.
And yet they had all the things that I wanted in life — things I could never explain as a child but have often tried, as an adult and a writer, to put into words.
What did they have that I wanted? In my eyes, and in my heart, they were the Queens.
They had faith that propped them up in good times and bad. Families to love and feel loved by in return. Ears that listened and voices that were heard. Wealth to share but none to flaunt. And a clear sense and full acceptance of who they were.
I wish you could have known them — my grandmothers.
One walked miles most every day on a mountain where she knew the song of every bird, the scent of every flower and the driver of any car that came growling up the gravel road.
The other kept watch over the main street of a small town where she knew the names of all the passersby, where they’d been, what they’d bought and how much they’d paid for it.
You would’ve liked them both. And they would surely like you. Provided, of course, that you liked me. And if you didn’t? Well, why wouldn’t you?
I remember the smiles they gave me, and how those smiles always lit me up. I promised myself, someday, when I had children and grandchildren, I’d smile at them that same way. I practiced it on my blind brother. He could feel it. He’d reach over grinning and pat my face.
It’s hard to explain how two women, whose lives were so different from each other’s, had such a similar impact on mine.
Maybe it’s as simple as this: What I loved most about them was how much they loved me. Who doesn’t love being loved?
After college, I left my family in the South and moved to California, to marry and start a new family. I tried to keep in touch with phone calls, letters and occasional visits, but my new life left little room for the old life I’d left behind.
Over time, I lost most of the family I grew up in, including my grandmothers. But I never lost their love. People leave, but love remains. We don’t need to be in the same room to feel it.
Easter Sunday, for the first time in too long, my immediate family — those of us who live close by — got together in my daughter’s yard to laugh and talk and eat too much and watch the kids hunt plastic eggs.
I wish you could’ve seen us.
I sat like a queen on a throne, while being served all manner of food, drink, two slices of cake and a whole lot of sweaty hugs from grandkids running wild.
I kept looking from face to face, giving each of them — children and adults alike — the smile that I give just to them, or to most anyone I truly like. And they, in turn, smiled back in a way that will always melt my heart.
I may never have the kind of strength and grace that God gave my grandmothers. But I am blessed with a great many gifts: A faith that props me up in good times and bad. A husband and family to love and feel loved by in return. Ears that listen and a voice that is sometimes heard. Wealth to share but none to flaunt. And a clear sense, if not always acceptance, of who I am.
It’s good to be the Queen.
Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley, CA 93924 or at www.sharonrandall.com.