Can it be quick? A more than a century-long life story? Now looking back, I would say, yes… it looks like her long life was a quick shot. Now it is a quintessence of her role in my life and stories about her. Little clouds of memories that are still too immature to make a connected story.
My grandma, Elena Pavlovna Grekova, was second to last out of six kids. My grand grandpa, Pavel, was a poor aristocrat who married my grand grandma after she separated from her first husband. The first husband was a gambler and intended to sell my grand grandma to Eastern countries in order to pay his debts but the captain of the ship on which they were sailing, saved her.
With my grand grandpa, they already had four daughters, and wished for a son, when my grandma was born. It was a big disappointment for them, and for sometime they even called her with boys name. Later the last child, their son was born. The quiet family life was destroyed by a train accident and a tragic death of Pavel. There was no income and no food. Grand grandma had to clean the floor and work at the factory, but that was still not enough for living. My grandma was taken by another family: at least there was some food. I am not exactly sure why, but later she was returned back to her mother and at age of 6 she had to buy food for the whole entire household. With almost no money, she learned how to be very practical and this quality of character she carries through her all life.
Once she grows a little more, she moves to Sant – Petersburg, where during her college years, she meets my grandpa who also happen to study engineering. She later teaches engineering in military school. My grandma had two kids, the son and my mom. My mom was the youngest in the family.
First I remember my grandma in her apartment. Super clean, with food always cooked ( she was an excellent cook), there is always something she would discuss with me. Till the very end she loved learning something new and reading books. Because of her strong personality, we had had hard times, but as a little girl, I always liked being around her. Especially I remember her summerhouse, where she grew the best garden in the whole neighborhood! Everyone would like to see her flowers, fruit trees, and veggies. She had an amazing ability to combine plants in a small area and to keep them happy. I remember, she loved to talk to them. She would talk to greens like cilantro and parsley, perhaps, expressing her love that she never received in her childhood…. This was the first thing she did every time she arrives to summerhouse: check the garden and talk to her plants.
Endless conversations that I remember, and her ability to take care and heal some wounds were almost addictive. Many proverbs that she used to say still pop up in my head. If I will have to pick the most important things that she taught me, those will be: self respect, self sufficiency, motivation for development, love for esthetic things that can make your home cozy at any budget and circumstances. I take a good care of those beautiful pillows that she made for me and later for my daughter, her grand granddaughter. The same pillow was first made for my mom… My grandma was an artist, a stylist and a designer – all in one and in extreme conditions. Remembering few years ago, I came to visit her. I wore ripped jeans. Very stylish, I thought.
She took her glasses, looked at me and said: ” What are you wearing? Do you really think, this is pretty?”.
” Well, I am a student, and lots of time goes to study. And money are tight too, “- I said.
“After a second world war, we had no food, and no money and no shops, but I still went out with your grandpa in white silk dress. How now you tell me that you cannot take care of yourself?, – was her answer. I could not argue. It affected my life a lot. Now when anyone tells me that there is no time for taking care, I remember her words. Her style rules to dress up were: iron and clean clothes ( iron at her times was custom steel that only professional weight lifter can lift); basic wardrobe high quality items and tailored dresses. She made lots of clothes herself or asked a friend, who was a tailor. Once she was awake, she dressed up in house dress.
Her secrets to a long and healthy life? Not sure, it fits everyone.. The main rule, though, does: everything is in moderation. Food, activities, rest, stress, happiness, celebrations. She also had her daily schedule. She read and traveled a lot. Every summer they would spend a month in the car, often traveling as a group of few families. My grandma used to cook a lot and to grow her own food or to buy a good quality food. She was very practical, but never on cost of quality. She went through self-motivation for an education to building the family and raising kids, to spirituality later in life. Now I think, her spiritual development began even earlier than she ever admitted, when in her 50s she learned how to collect healing herbs and to use them. She avoided doctors as much as possible. Forget about checkups… no doctors for decades. For a few decades. If she was tired, she would take a rest. In fact, rest was a part of her daily routine. She would lay down quietly for an hour, listening to herself. In her life, she relied on herself only. She did lots of things and was proud of herself, but she was never a workhorse. This is a big difference between her lifestyle and the idea of working 24/7 for a career growth.
Our last meeting was less than two years ago. I took time off to fly and to meet her for several days. Although deep inside, I knew, that was a goodbye, I still do not believe that during past year, I found time to attend her funeral but not the time to see her alive. Really, what is more important? I felt like I was overwhelmed and super busy… well, I made a wrong choice.
During our meeting, she was holding my hand and smiled, while remembering times we were together. That was the time, she gave me her bag. The bag she used to go for dates with my grand pa ( even they were married, they would go out and travel a lot). This is the bag that I go out with my husband now. The personal vintage item that is much more than a style statement.
Goodbye, Grandma! The world is different without you….