My grandparents have always been a huge part of the lives of my sister and I. They were there to comfort us, pick us up from school, buy us mint and chip ice cream, and teach us to knit (though only my sister was good at the crafty things).
Ever since I can remember, my memories of my grandmother, whom I call Mamanee, consist of her being very powerful. My cousins today remember her as a sweet woman, which later became my experience as well. But as a little girl, all I can remember is how tough she was. She didn’t take shit from anyone, not even my grandpa. At one point I recall her making it very clear to my grandfather that this is America and she can do whatever she wants! (But I’m assuming she did whatever she wanted in her home country of Iran as well.)
She was strict, controlling, and stubborn. Yet, she was still very nurturing in her own bossy way — always dishing up extra food that you absolutely had to finish. If anyone ever came to work on her home, they always left feeling nourished, because in true Persian fashion, they had to eat before or after they worked. As she got older and retired from her career, my grandmother would stand and watch the gardener, following him around, nodding her head. She would do the same with the housekeeper. She wasn’t being rude — she just liked to watch and make sure it was getting done right! I love remembering her micromanage because I knew it was almost like she was checking things off a list.
When I was little we had our moments where we clashed, the way a daughter and mother might. I remember so clearly this one memory: I was 5 years old, and Mamanee had just returned from visiting Iran. She wanted me to wear this particular outfit she had bought, and had asked my mother to dress me. But I hated it. My mother tried so hard, but I refused. When she went downstairs to tell Mamanee that she was unable to get me to wear it, my grandmother wasn’t happy. Of course, I was eavesdropping on their conversation and finally yelled down to both of them saying: “I AM NOT WEARING THE DRESS AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!” And just like that, she dropped it.
That was the first time I realized my power — this sense of speaking up for myself. Even though I knew she wasn’t happy with me, I like to believe she respected me for it.
It was in that moment that I realized I have a voice. I am so grateful that she allowed me to exercise my voice and subsequently empowered me to continue speaking my mind as I got older.
I think a lot about the hardships she went through. As a little girl with no parents, and as a mother losing several of her kids. I think about how hardworking she was, and how dedicated she was to her family.
A few days ago a friend of mine mentioned to me that each of us makes about 5-10 huge decisions that will impact the trajectory of our lives and subsequently will build the legacy that we leave behind. In order to create and design a life consciously, it’s important to go back and evaluate the same big decisions made by our grandparents and great grandparents that eventually lead to why we are living the lives we live today.
I’ve spent some time considering this. Originally, I thought I really only needed to go back to my dad’s decision to move to the US because that was a pivotal moment for our family. But I started thinking about how my great grandparents’ involuntary decisions led them to unfortunately not stay in this world long enough to raise my grandmother. That tragic situation ended up shaping my grandmother into the tough woman she grew to be — one that would gracefully endure more hardship once she became a mother herself.
Her whole world consisted of her family and her career. She was a hardworking businesswoman who also ran the household (something you didn’t see much of back in the day in Iran). She made a commitment to being the most dedicated mother, and it shows in all of her children. Her decision shaped my life directly by giving me the best dad, and showed me the beautiful relationship between a child and his mother. Her dedication will live on for generations, through each of us.
In reflecting on the tremendous impact my Mamanee had on me, I’ve come to realize that many of her traits live within me every day.
The best way to connect to our loved ones when they pass is through our memories. But even when our memories start to fade, we can let go, knowing we will continue to embody their spirit in ourselves.
Nikki Bostwick is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fullest.