By Sophia Botello
La versión en español está disponible al final de este documento.
In the U.S., Grandparents Day is celebrated the second Sunday of September. Grandparents Day is not as widely known or acknowledged as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, but it is an important day nonetheless. I was a first-grade Sunday school teacher when I really discovered this holiday. I downloaded coloring pages of superhero-clad grandparents for the children to color and give to their grandparents. The children really enjoyed it, so from then on, I made it a point, every year on Grandparents Day, to do an activity that would connect the children to their grandparents. And if they did not have a grandparent, I had them do the activity for an older person they knew.
Recently, I ran into one of those grandparents at the grocery store and he told me he still had that picture his granddaughter gifted to him ten years ago. He said he proudly displays this picture on his refrigerator, and that he makes it a point to spend time with all his grandchildren on this day.
I was so moved by this story that I had all of my own grandparents on my mind for the rest of that day. Specifically, I had my mother’s mother on my mind. My grandmother spent some time in an orphanage in Corpus Christi – her childhood unstable, at best. At age 16, she married my grandfather and started a family. They became farm workers who worked where they could find work and lived where shelter could be provided. They did everything: from hoeing weeds in the cotton fields of Texas to picking cherries in Colorado.
During this time, my grandmother had 10 children. My mother and aunts and uncles were born and raised in this migratory life, with my grandmother working hard every day to raise her family. My mother recalls this instance as a young girl: she saw my grandmother in the kitchen making the usual large stacks of tortillas, tears streaming down her face. My mother’s memory has become embedded in my own mind. How many women have cried by the stove or within the traditional domestic space of the kitchen? And who knows why she was crying? Stress? Depression? Fear? One thing was for sure – my grandmother had no access to health or wellness programs, and even if she did, she didn’t even know how to drive a vehicle to go to the places where these services were offered.
Despite this difficult life, my grandmother had faith in Jesus. She would gather all her children and read to them from the Bible; she brought Jesus into their lives. My grandmother was a woman who had a dear love for Jesus, and I’m sure He gave her hope through many tough times.
My grandmother died unexpectedly in a car accident when I was twelve. I was very close to her, but she, herself, never told me about her life – I was too young. My mother and other family members have relayed my family history to me, and, as an adult, I have gained so much simply by knowing about her life and her experiences. Imagine how much I could learn and grow if she was here in person to share her experiences with me! I am in my forties now and she has been gone for many years, but I still long for her hugs, her laugh, her wisdom…
Grandparents Day functions as a day where younger generations can connect to and learn from older family generations. The same is true for the older generations – they can learn from younger generations. And I know every family is unique. Some people do not know their biological family, or they are children who are adopted, or families are mixed with stepparents and stepchildren. But at the heart of Grandparents’ Day is intergenerational communication that fosters an overall love and respect for one another.
I encourage readers – whether you are a grandparent or a grandchild – to reach out and bridge generational gaps. Share experiences, stories, and struggles; relay values; learn cultural heritages and traditions. And because I believe in the power of writing – write down what you learn and keep a written record for future generations.
My grandmother never had any musical education, but she composed a song based off of John 15: 13: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” She would hum the tune and sing the words as she went about her housework. I have written down and printed the lyrics she penned and I have them displayed in the writing center at Baptist University of the Américas, where I work as the writing center director. It is not lost on me that my grandmother only had an eighth-grade education, yet her words welcome undergraduate students to an academic space at a university whose mission is the formation of cross-cultural Christian leaders.
It is comforting for me to see her words every time I walk into the writing center. They help me to remember my family history and serve as a reminder of the hardships my family has endured; they make me appreciate all the blessings God has bestowed upon me and my family. I have access to healthcare, I work in an air-conditioned building, and I can easily go to the store to buy tortillas. Her spirit and memory give me a heart of gratitude and encourage me to be my best. I love to see her words in the writing center – like the grandparent who proudly displays their grandchild’s artwork on the refrigerator.
Sophia Botello is Instructor of English and Director of the Writing Center at Baptist University of the Américas in San Antonio, Texas.
La versión en español está disponible aquí.