Saturday, January 10, 2015

What a Life To Be Celebrated!

I was prepared to show up to Boccali's (HIGHLY recommend this restaurant in Ojai) for a family gathering of ten to celebrate my Grandma Carol. Not only was I surprised to find out it was going to be a gathering open to the public, but I was not expected for what was to come from learning what the public of Ojai felt toward my Grandma.

One of the most beautiful aspects about funerals are all of the stories. And, boy, were there a lot of stories! And such beautiful stories from the sweet people of Ojai who cherished their friendship with my dear Grandma more than I knew.

Our families always knew Grandma had friends and different social networks, but she kept that information privy for the most part. We knew she had her trolley friends, her McDonald's morning breakfast crew, her thrift store friends, and so forth. But we had never met all of them, heard of some of them, or knew just how many friends she had! It was such a blessing to see the turnout today at Boccali's!

While the family shared memories of the past, went on and on about how beautiful she was growing up, and stated her strong value of independence, which sometimes made relationships rocky at times, her friends shared a different side of Carolyn we didn't know much about. They truly loved her. I had no idea how vast Grandma's social network was on a daily basis. Her trolley drivers, thrift store managers, Vons' cashier, neighbors, old local friends, and so forth, all showed up! It was beautiful to hear what special role Carolyn played in their lives. It was so meaningful, which turned out to be my mother's word for this day. Meaningful. Thanksgiving was valuable and today was meaningful.

Mom sharing pictures of Grandma throughout her life
As Uncle Mike so wittingly put it best, it would have made all of the family be able to sleep a lot better the past ten years if we had had this gathering earlier! We did not know to this extent how many people valued their relationship to Carolyn and helped her, loved her, cared for her, and looked out for her. What a blessing, Ojai. Thank you!

Grandma's trolley
Ojai is a special place.

As I lost my dear Grandmother, I pondered that I feel saddened by the fact that I'm also losing another part of my heart: Ojai. I want to make it a priority over the next few years to intentionally revisit, even though I no longer have family ties that draw me there. There is just something special about towns that have been family ties for the breadth of my lifespan and more. As I come from a childhood of moving around and changing cities, it was always a comfort and joy to be able to visit grandparents in the cities they lived in for longer than my age!

Thank you, Ojai, for treating my Grandma well. Thank you for caring and reaching out to her. Thank you for finding her fascinating and valuing her with interest.

It is still hard to believe that she is gone. Some days will be harder than others in the days and years to come, but I feel such comforting closure from the unfolding events today that were of a surprise to me. An assumed gathering of ten turned into a celebration of life over thirty! What joy, what spirit, and what love filled the room! As a sweet Boccali's employee, Starlit, stated as she walked into the room, she could instantly tell there was a good vibe. Thank you to all who helped make this an honorable and respectable way for the family to find closure. Thank you for celebrating with us.

Thank you to the kindness of Boccali's for so graciously and generously allowing us to hold this celebration of life at your restaurant. Grandma would have wanted it no other way. I kept thinking she would have had such a kick out of being there with all of us since she was such a lover of parties and social gatherings. I also thought she would have been tickled pink to have known Boccali's removed a picture frame off their wall of decorations in order to place a framed picture of HER during our gathering! Tickled pink, indeed!

In order to continue honoring dear Grandma, I brought my own mother a goodie bag full of Grandma's oatmeal cookies I scurried to whip together this morning. Mom always made them for my sister and I growing up and it's a recipe that has stayed in our family throughout the years; it always was one of the most worn recipe cards. I would love to share it and spread the joy!

Grandma Carol's Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 36 cookies

3/4 c. shortening
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3 c. oats
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat shortening, sugar, egg, water, and vanilla until creamy. Put flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in center of shortening mix and blend well. Stir in oats. Place teaspoonful scoops onto greased cookies sheet and bake for 9 minutes.

I will always remember my dear Grandma and will pass down the stories, her contagious giggling laughter and smiles, her zest for life, and her recipe for generations.

Today was a day of memories and celebration. Every hug lasted a few more seconds than normal. Hug the ones you're with.

All smiles by the end of the day

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