Eleanor is popular. Her renown is not recognized by her own admission, but there is overwhelming evidence that shows she’s sought after. “My neighbor used to watch how many cars would pull into our farm and wonder what was going on,” Eleanor said wryly. The trick to popularity, according to Eleanor, is to love people well.
Eleanor is a master at hospitality. People went out of their way to visit her farm. “(We had a family member) who owned a restaurant…Her kids liked eating at our place more than their family restaurant,” Eleanor commented.
Eleanor spoke of the way the kids invited themselves to her house, noticing when she and her husband were in town. The couple would drive to the grocery store, passing a relative’s house on the way. The children would run to the end of the yard after seeing Eleanor’s car drive by. The kids would plop themselves on the grass in eager anticipation, waiting until the couple finished shopping and would pass the house again. “They would fight for a spot next to my husband,” Eleanor said, downplaying her cooking as the motivation for the kids to eat at her house over their family’s restaurant. They came for community.
Eleanor’s love for people is evident especially in how she approaches the holidays. “It gets you closer together. It’s a time that’s necessary to spend together,” Eleanor notes. There are some ground rules set by her family during the holiday season. “Well, of course, now I’m a great-grandma. And the kids’ parents have said that I’m not to buy gifts.“
“Grandma, all we want from you is to love us. We don’t need gifts. Then one of them said, ‘we need you, and you’re not something we can unwrap”
While many might protest not giving gifts around the holidays, Eleanor has evidence that they’re not necessary. She remembers one poignant conversation where a younger child said, “‘Grandma, all we want from you is to love us. We don’t need gifts.’ Then one of them said, ‘We need you, and you’re not something we can unwrap.’”
Simply sitting in a chair during the holidays is not what drives the excitement of Eleanor for her family. She is an engaged grandma, who observes and advocates for good, truth, and beauty in the lives of her family. “In one of my brother’s families, they favored one kid. And I chewed ‘em out about it. I didn’t think it was fair.”
Where some might think Eleanor’s approach abrasive, she explains a different tone in her tact. She believes it is imperative to live together in peace, while also living together. “Don’t interfere in their life. If they’re having a problem and come to you, then don’t go in to it with ‘I have to have it my way’. Just open up your mind and work together."
Eleanor shared the result of her scolding of her brother’s family. “I did it after they were older, and a couple weeks later they came over to see me and when they walked in the house the two of them hugged me and then kissed me on the cheek and said, ‘Grandma, we’ve never been so glad in all our life that you spoke out and said something.’”
“Don’t interfere in their life. If they’re having a problem and come to you, then don’t go in to it with ‘I have to have it my way’. Just open up your mind and work together.”
Eleanor smiled, remembering the story and the result of her giving a perspective to her family members. “Sometimes parents don’t see it. I think you should get it out. Don’t keep it, because the longer you keep it and it dwells in you the harder it gets. If anything bothers you, sit down and without losing your temper talk things out.”
Eleanor is looking forward to being shuffled around this holiday season. Between Thanksgiving and New Years she will make the rounds, connecting with kids, grand-kids, and great-grand-kids. In all her interactions she will be the engaged grandma that they’ve come to know and respect. Her encouragement for you is to do the same. Engage in your family, love them well, and laugh together. Give the gift of an invested self this holiday season.