97 Years Young

My daughter and I took a four day road trip to Kentucky to celebrate Grandma Talley’s 97th birthday last week.

Grandma Talley is a remarkable woman who raised eight children, has twelve grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren. My daughter is the tenth great grandchild and the youngest girl.

When my husband and I found out we were having a girl we didn’t need to make a list of baby girl names or browse the Internet in search for the perfect name, instead we instantly turned to each other and in unison said, “Let’s name our baby girl Lillian.” My husband and I are pleased that Grandma Talley approves of our name choice. My heart swells with joy when on multiple occassions Grandma Talley has thanked us for naming our baby Lillian. If our little Lillian Talley grows up to be as grand as her namesake, Great Grandma Lillian Talley, we will have succeeded in our job as parents! She has a feisty personality like her Great Granny and isn’t afraid to let you know what she wants and how she feels. She even eats a banana every morning just like her namesake, so I guess we are on the right track!

Our little Lillian has made five trips to Kentucky to visit her Great Granny during her twenty-one months of life. Although I wish we could visit more frequently, we are blessed to have the time together and the photographs I have been able to capture of the two Lillians along with the four generations of Talleys have become cherished treasures. Grandma Talley beams with pride when she holds my daughter and little Lillian, who no longer likes being held by anyone but mommy, surprised us all when she instantly sat on her Great Granny’s lap, without protest upon Great Granny’s request.

IMG_7413Grandma Talley has experienced a lot in her 97 years of life. She has seen the world change, some things have changed for the better while other things for the worse. She is proud to announce that she has been present at all of her grandchildren’s weddings including the wedding that took place in Mexico! She loves to talk about the places she has traveled across the United States and around the world. Her favorite trip was one she took to France while one of her daughters was living there. It must have been a memorable experience because one of her prized possessions is a “one of a kind puzzle”made out of a picture taken on that trip. She has the completed picture puzzle prominently framed on her wall and shows it off to all of her visitors. Grandma Talley continues to live in her own home on the farm and is blessed to have her son in-law and grandson only a few steps away. She has fallen a few times over the past couple of years, which has resulted in some extended hospital stays and rehabilitation, but overall she is in great health. Although she is the first to admit that she has “slowed down a bit,” she continues to keep an active schedule and her mind is sharp, making it impossible to beat her in a game of checkers or spades. Over the years she has mourned the death of her husband, multiple brothers and sisters and friends who God has called home. She told me she never expected she would live this long and doesn’t appear to regret any decisions she has made in her life. Although she has been blessed in life, one of the most painful things she has experienced in her 97 years is saying goodbye to her youngest child when she passed on after a long battle with cancer.

But this weekend was a weekend of celebration. A time for thirty-two family members and friends to gather and celebrate the birthday girl, Lillian Esther Talley, who was born on August 14, 1918. There was cake, presents (that included her favorites: puzzle books, jig-saw puzzles, a new deck of playing cards and a few bags of FUNYUNS), lots of reminiscing and plenty of card playing, which is Grandma Talley’s favorite activitiy. My sister in-law captured this photo at the party and everyone agreed it pretty much summed up a perfect birthday celebration for Grandma Talley.

There are a handful of family members who live in Kentucky but a majority of us live in one of nine other states. I always get a bit melancholy when it is time to leave grandma and head back to Missouri. I imagine Grandma Talley sheds a silent tear when we all pack up after a weekend full of celebration to return to our routine lives, never really knowing when we will see each other again. But knowing Grandma Talley, the sadness is short lived because there are plenty of other things to concentrate on, like finishing her 66th jig-saw puzzle, visiting the senior center, and most importantly, having the winning hand during a game of spades!

Perfect Imperfections 

While bathing my daughter a few weeks ago I noticed she had a huge bug bite on the side of her leg. It must have been itchy so she scratched it making the wound red and inflamed. While drying her I noticed the tiny scar on the right side of her nose from where she fell on the brick walkway in my parents front yard. I was suddenly saddened by these giant imperfections on my little girl’s perfect little body. Gone were the days, in her not so distant infant-hood, when she had perfect skin that was free from bug bites, scratches and flaws of any kind.

Now that my infant with the flawless skin has grown into a toddler, she is constantly on the go and her little knees are often adorned with scrapes and bruises from falling down or running too fast while playing. And my little one is beginning to notice small imperfections all around her and she is pointing them out to me. Yesterday she discovered a small freckle on her arm and tried to pick it up. The other day she spotted a pimple on my chin. She pointed at it and in a concerned voice said, “Oh no!” She gently touched my face and I assured her I was ok and that my chin would heal. Everyone gets “ouchies” and it is ok. It is part of life.

As I reflect on these childhood imperfections I realize they are actually small reminders of a life well lived. Some of them will fade over time, while others will leave scars behind, but all are reminets of childhood. A childhood filled with fun exploration and new discovery. A childhood I hope my daughter will grow up and look back on with happy memories of playing outside and spending time with family and friends. I realize I could have held her hand on every outside adventure, assuring she wouldn’t fall and shielding her from ever getting hurt. I could have kept my daughter in a bubble but instead I gave her the freedom to explore the world around her.

So instead of grimacing when I notice the small scars and scrapes I will be reminded of the fun she had in getting those imperfections. I will never forget the huge smile she had on her face the day she got the scar by her nose. She had just discovered the birdhouse in Nana and Pops front yard and was giggling and grinning from ear to ear.

She probably got the bug bite when she was splashing outside in her water table or when she spied the neighbors’ playground set and excitedly ran into their yard so she could be pushed on the baby swing.

 Or she could have gotten the bite when she ran over to the fence on the side of our house to greet the neighbors’ dogs.

I will look back on the day she got her first scraped knee and smile at the little girl who was dancing around Maw Maw and Paw Paw’s deck at the lake house catching bubbles on a summer day.

Although I will do everything in my power to protect my daughter from harm, I know that she is growing and as she grows it will become more and more difficult to shield her from all of the uncomfortable inconviences in life. (especially acne and bug bites) She is no longer the helpless infant, with the perfect skin, who used to sleep in my arms and depend on me for everything. She is now an active toddler with imperfections, a strong will and a mind of her own. She will always be my baby and I will love her with all of her imperfections because to me she is perfect, perfect in every way!