My grandmother was a very tough woman.
She buried three husbands and
two of them were just napping.
A quiet moment of thanks to commemorate the life of the woman who inspired the mission of Powerful Goddess Portraits: To celebrate every woman’s best by making the most of what she’s got. My grandmother passed last week at 92 surrounded by everyone who loved and was loved by her.
Corazon (Spanish for “heart”) was my first arbiter of style. Her busy extended household was the home of my childhood. A prudish Catholic upbringing failed to dampen her sense of humor, her love of retelling (saucy) jokes and collecting gag curios to make you blush. Her womb birthed 6 children, she raised many of 15 grandchildren and 13 more call her Great Grandmother today. Thinking about her signature dishes continues to have a Pavlovian effect on my mouth.
As the inveterate night owl, she fascinated me on many late school nights with her ingenuity, her hunched figure diligently presiding over the formal dining table filled with accoutrements for her project de la nuit. When my mom was crowned teen queen, she designed the very first quick change gown the town still talks about–no one had ever witnessed a gown transform into a completely different outfit in the blink of an eye! When my daughter was 6 and ready for the hula dances I learned at her age, guess who sent us matching handmade grass skirts? There was a time when Ikebana was the rage, bonsai plants took over the garage, her sewing machine a permanent fixture in the living room. Her house was a revolving door not only of creative projects, but also of pets from goldfish, turtles, chickens, birds, several breeds of dogs, way before the grandchildren joined the parade.
You didn’t have to leave her house to get a hair cut or perm because she could do that, too. “Let’s shape your eyebrows…” was my initiation to the wonders of makeup. You can’t buy my favorite summer purse on 5th Avenue–it’s an antique of timeless design from her closet. For my recent birthday, my kids were impressed by her sketch of animals kissing, elegant calligraphy lacing through the card decorated with her lipstick kiss marks–Who would guess that this artistic script in impeccable English is by someone who never made it to highschool nor to other countries much? She rarely steps out of the house these days, but when she does, lipstick has got to match the dress.
It was s sweet homecoming with the aunts, uncles, cousins I grew up with. How I wish my kids could enjoy the pleasures of being imposed on, sleeping through chaos, being loved by and required to love noisy and nosey relatives of countless degrees! I say personal space is overrated and Hillary is right about that village!
Laughter mixed with tears when we had to say “When might we see each other again?” goodbyes and I am forever grateful for a childhood around this doyen of talent and creativity. I am forever blessed with the strength of my self-defined style, compassion, a keen eye for design among the very many talents I have been so lucky to inherit from this Powerful Goddess. Daghang salamat, Ama Azon, for the treasures of your closet and the treasured memories and wisdom of a lifetime:
that happiness, like religion, has many faces and true faith means respecting each other’s choice for what best suits our needs
that marriage is not a reform institution. To make any relationship work, there can only be gratitude and the question “Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?”
that today is the day to enjoy what we’ve got and be present for the love and laughter of family and friends
I am grateful for all that I am because of you, Ama Azon!
You can swim the deepest ocean and never find a fish like this
These hands make countless memories and things out of nothing–
and yes, may you wear hip nails at 90, too!
My Birthday Card
Half a lifetime ago
And now a bit too big for Grandma’s lap
© Sharon Birke
201 697 1947
Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother