Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Word of Gratitude to My Nana Emilie

Dear Blogging peeps: I love you and this blogging community very much. Lately, my life has been so busy that I feel I'm not able to do justice in writing the depth and quality which I prefer to share with you here. The other writing that I'm doing just now - editing the video transcript - is deep work, delving into memories of the hardest period of my life. I can't seem to write from my depths there AND here at the same time. I miss y'all, and I will be back, but for now, it appears that you are going to get the "fluff."

The enormous pile of laundry next to me on the couch, and the pile of shirts and tablecloth that need ironing are beckoning to me. But before I attend to those, I have to express thanks to my Nana Emilie for something really important that she passed on to me.
Nana & Coco, 1960s
When I was growing up, my grandparents lived a much more luxurious lifestyle than we did. They had live-in help, a large home, the highest-quality of clothes, furnishings, food and  travel. They were charitable and community-minded. They were not religious nor faithful, but they were dutiful and upheld the conventions of their religion.
Emilie Bloch, Mills College, ca. 1925
Nana Emilie was a highly unusual woman for her time. She was a college graduate, had spent a year on scholarship, studying in France at the University of Lyons (with her mother as her chaperone!), had a master's degree, and taught at the university level before her marriage. She didn't want to be a socialite; she wanted to do something more than simply being social. However, when it came to homemaking, she left those duties to others - cook, housekeeper, driver, gardener and even a nanny. She was a devoted wife and civic worker, but not a hands-on mother.
Nana & Coco with Deb, Jim & me in their garden
My parents expressed some ambivalence about my grandparents as I was growing up. They had good qualities which my parents acknowledged, but also difficult ones, with which they struggled. My mother took a different path of wife-and-motherhood - she was hands-on with us. We listened to my parents' conversations about my grandparents' lifestyle and personalities, and we were aware that our family lived differently, on purpose. However, my sister, brother and I found many things to admire and enjoy about my grandparents, particularly as we grew more mature. Nana showed more interest in each one of us as we grew more intellectually capable; she wasn't much interested in babies or toddlers.
Nana telling me that "the wedding is just the beginning; it's the marriage that matters!"
Nana taught us to speak French. She read stories to us in French. Nana & Coco took us to the Seattle Art Museum, to Volunteer Park and to the Arboretum near their home. They took us to the opera and symphony. We were occasionally taken to Canada, or to San Francisco to see relatives and learn about Nana's home and her college days. These trips were a bit strange, for us, because my grandparents were so unaccustomed to doing things for themselves, but it was an adventure in living a privileged lifestyle which we did enjoy. Fancy hotels, room service, exclusive clubs and restaurants and shopping expeditions were fun, special treats for us. The formality was a bit of a strain, but my parents had done an excellent job of preparing us for it. We all remember the night we first encountered finger bowls at our great-aunt and -uncle's dinner table. My father still enjoys the memory of how well the three of us children coped - and it was because he and my mother had taken care to teach us how to behave politely, so that we could go ANYwhere.

When Nana was getting rather elderly, she used to say that grandchildren were the great compensation for growing old.

Today, I went to see my massage therapist. The reason that I have a massage therapist is that Nana Emilie used to have a massage every week (toward the end of her life - in her 90s - she had massage twice a week). Nana introduced us to massage by giving us the gift of occasional appointments with her Swiss massage therapist, Mireille, who I love. We secretly thought this weekly appointment was a bit of a wicked extravagence on Nana's part, particularly since she didn't do any real manual labor or exercise that made it seem necessary. I couldn't imagine taking the time and funds to have a massage regularly - until Katie passed away. After that, I gave up one big luxury (housecleaning help) in order to have a massage every other week. I clean my own house, so I can have massage therapy; it's a worthwhile trade. I wouldn't have it unless Nana Emilie had set the example that showed that it is a huge help to our health, and that we are worth it. It has been an essential component of my grief healing work. Meeting Mireille, and learning from her, made a huge impression upon me; Mireille is a healer. Sadly, she moved back to Switzerland a few years ago, but happily, she is back here visiting now - and we are going to see her next week!

Thank you, Nana Emilie, for teaching me about one of the greatest therapies in my life! I don't know what I would do without it now.

13 comments:

Busy Bee Suz said...

I think it is wonderful that you learned so many wonderful things from your Nana...even if she was not the 'nurturing' type of G'ma. She still had many lovely qualities.
I agree...taking care of ourselves should not be a luxury. (spoken from the woman who gets her toes done every 6 weeks and a few facials a year) I used to feel guilt for doing that...but it is deserved.
I will accept your break from blogging. :)
And what is the issue with fluff? That is all I can produce.
xoxoxoxoxo

karen gerstenberger said...

You are right, Suz - I do love Fluff (and you produce much more than that)!

Ellen said...

Reading this reminded me a bit of my mom. Her lifestyle was so different from mine. Our children have been able to travel, eat at very fine restaurants and appreciated this gift bestowed upon them.

I have enjoyed massages but I got to say that I really appreciate the house help. Still I am glad you found what makes you feel good and really a massage it wonderful!

Fluff or not fluff I shall read your blog...I don't always respond but I am reading....

Elizabeth said...

And thank you for imparting such valuable advice here despite your comment that what you're going to be writing is "fluff." That's some valuable fluff, Karen! I loved hearing the story of your Nana -- all the details were marvelous. Most of all, though, I loved being reminded of the importance of massage. I am going to make an appointment for one tomorrow. Thank you --

Mary Potts said...

Massage therapy is a wonderful source of grief healing, I agree. I'm glad you have found a way to make it affordable so that you have that ongoing avenue of comfort. I hope to someday be able to include such things in my life, for at this point it would be considered a huge luxury. For now, we still attempt to recover from the financial assault that is often a part of the ripple effect caused by the illness and death of a child and the loss of one's job (by choice) to care for that child.
Life sure can be a challenge...

AnnDeO said...

I really enjoyed this post. My grandmother, even though she grew up in a small rural town in Utah, was "fancy" She wore hats and gloves to the basketball games and took us to lunch once a month at Arbach's (the department store in SLC) where she would meet with her personal shopper. Great memories you have brought back to me. My mother taught me about massage - she had MS - and was a regular. I have yet to add it to a regular therapy but am thinking of it. Oh and I never think your writing is fluff.

karen gerstenberger said...

Thanks, all, for the kind thoughts and words here. One word about affordability: massage schools require that their students practice, and I think they either do not charge for it, or they charge a minimal amount; I've taken that route in the past. Another possibility is that your doctor might decide to prescribe it for you - Nana's did that for her when she was in her 90s.
I'm so glad that you are going to get one, Elizabeth! Enjoy!

Mary Potts said...

Karen, thank you for the great advice about looking into massage schools for treatment that's affordable. I never thought about that as a possibility. I stopped back here to make sure my earlier comment didn't come off as "snarky". It was not my intention at all. I'm sorry if it was perceived as so.
Sometimes I'm just tired, and sad...
xo

karen gerstenberger said...

Mary, you are never snarky! I imagine that following MAJOR surgery, you are feeling tired and sad - and the lateness of spring arriving everywhere does not help! I hope that an affordable massage is in your near future. Your doctor might agree that it will help you to recover - and then insurance might cover it. I hope so! xoxo

Karen said...

Nana Emilie sounds very glamorous! What a great world to be exposed to as you grew up. I am sure it prepared you for your fundraising and guild work, as well. It all belongs.

I am with you on massage. I need to schedule another appt. It's been months. You gave me the prod I needed. Enjoy!

Kay said...

Your description of your Nana is very interesting. I'm glad you knew how to step into her world and enjoy the love she had for you, in her own way. I don't think this was a fluff piece. Very interesting. But a fluff piece is better than no piece, which is about all I've been producing lately. LOL : )

drw@bainbridge.net said...

Thinking of you today... as I always do on Mothers Day. Thanks so much for telling the story of your Nana!

Jim said...

Grandparents are so special! Especially Nana! Thanks for the 'push'....guess who I will be calling this week? Why? Because I deserve it!