Valentine's Day is an appropriate day to kick off remembrances of my grandmother. She loved romance, and gifts of red roses or "jewels" (even if it was just a trinket) from my grandfather delighted her to no end. If you were to meet my grandmother for the first time, she'd coerce you into sharing details of your love life before you knew what hit you. She loved surprising people with nosy questions or bold statements. Case in point:
In high school my cousin got married in Atlanta, and Grandma and I were getting ready together in a hotel room. I had an ugly rash on my chin and cheek, and was trying in vain to cover it up. Grandma stepped in to assist. She gently touched the rash, surveyed the area, and with a twinkle in her eye, she stepped back and pronounced, "Maggie, you and I both know that what you have on your face is a case of beard burn, and nothing we can do in this hotel room is going to cover that up. I hope you had fun getting it, because it's not going to be fun getting rid of it." She was right, of course. I'd been ruined by a boy's stubble. We laughed and laughed. All throughout the wedding, she'd make beard gestures at me from across the room, having a ball making me blush.
One story my grandmother loved telling me was from her early twenties, when she was a single gal in Edenton, NC. She was tall and she was very pretty, boasting long legs and gorgeous auburn hair, and considered quite a catch in town. Two men proposed marriage to her before she met my grandfather. "Do you know how I responded to their marriage proposals, Maggie?," she'd ask. "I laughed right in their faces."
"Grandma!" I'd protest. "That's so mean! Those poor guys!"
She wasn't having it. "They weren't the right men for me and they knew it, so they deserved to be laughed at."
Harsh but fair. It was her way.
From the first time I heard that story, I liked that my grandmother had other offers. I liked that she took her time and found the right match. I liked that she knew herself well enough to know what she wanted, and had enough confidence in herself to know that she didn't need to settle. I didn't get engaged until I was 30, but unlike all those other folks throughout my 20s who hinted that it was time for me to hurry up and get married already, my Grandma Miller never once suggested that I needed to settle. She loved the fun stories folks had from casual dating, but when it came to marriage she had only two questions: "Is he the right one?" and "Is he good to you?" He was, Grandma, and he is.
She and my grandfather were married 65 years ago last month, and were my grandma here to dispense Valentine's Day advice today, she'd keep it simple: be true to yourself, never settle, and make sure to have lots and lots of fun.
It certainly worked for her.