“My Royal Family,” April 6, 2021

When you were a child, who was the person you most looked up to, the one you hoped to be just like when you grew up?

For me, it wasn’t one person. It was a combination of two. Not just one or the other, but an odd sort of mixture of two distinctly different personalities. You won’t find their names in history books or on monuments or in lists of great achievement.

They weren’t rich or famous or powerful, at least not in a worldly sense. Their looks, by any standard, would leave much to be desired, though they didn’t seem to mind it at all. They were always unpretentious, never the sort to stand out in a crowd.

Yet they had all the things that I wanted in life—things I could never explain as a child, but have often tried, as an adult and a writer, to put into words.

What did they have that I wanted? In my eyes, and in my heart, they were the Queens. They had faith that propped them up in good times and bad. Families to love and feel loved by in return. Ears that listened and voices that were heard. Wealth to share, but none to flaunt. And a clear sense and full acceptance of who they were.

I wish you could have known them—my grandmothers.

One walked miles most every day on a mountain where she knew the song of every bird, the scent of every flower and the driver of any car that came growling up the gravel road.

The other kept watch over the main street of a small town where she knew the names of all the passersby, where they’d been, what they’d bought and how much they’d paid for it.

You would’ve liked them both. And they would surely like you. Provided, of course, that you liked me. And if you didn’t? Well, why wouldn’t you?

I remember the smiles they gave me, and how those smiles always lit me up. I promised myself, someday, when I had children and grandchildren, I’d smile at them that same way. I practiced it on my blind brother. He could feel it. He’d reach over grinning and pat my face.

It’s hard to explain how two women, whose lives were so different from each other’s, had such a similar impact on mine. Maybe it’s as simple as this: What I loved most about them was how much they loved me. Who doesn’t love being loved?

After college, I left my family in the South and moved to California, to marry and start a new family. I tried to keep in touch with phone calls, letters and occasional visits, but my new life left little room for the old life I’d left behind.

Over time, I lost most of the family I grew up in, including my grandmothers. But I never lost their love. People leave, but love remains. We don’t need to be in the same room to feel it.

Easter Sunday, for the first time in too long, my immediate family—those of us who live closeby—got together in my daughter’s yard to laugh and talk and eat too much and watch the kids hunt plastic eggs.

I wish you could’ve seen us.

I sat like a queen on a throne, while being served all manner of food, drink, two slices of cake, and a whole lot of sweaty hugs from grandkids running wild.

I kept looking from face to face giving each of them—children and adults alike—the smile that I give just to them, or to most anyone I truly like. And they, in turn, smiled back in a way that will always melt my heart.

I may never have the kind of strength and grace that God gave my grandmothers. But I am blessed with a great many gifts: A faith that props me up in good times and bad. A husband and family to love and feel loved by in return. Ears that listen and a voice that is sometimes heard. Wealth to share, but none to flaunt. And a clear sense, if not always full acceptance, of who I am.

It’s good to be the Queen.


  1. Marie Hartranft says

    Love this story. We both try to emulate the love given to us by our grandmothers. I only had one but my Aunt lived with my Grandmother from the time I was 5 until she passed away. Those two women gave me more love then one person deserves to have. We have been blessed.
    I never disagree with anything you ever say in your columns until now…….you ALREADY have the strength and grace that your grandmothers had! I can tell because your written word allows me to see your smile as you write about your family❤️

  2. Before you said who it was you looked up to growing up, I wondered who it could be. Then you said it was your grandmothers. Sounds like you were very blessed. I have no doubt you’ve passed on what you learned from them to your children and grandchildren. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. You ROYAL in many ways

  4. Sue Galucki says

    “People leave, but love remains.”
    So true.

  5. Katie Musgrave says

    Praise God for family, faith, and love! Happy Easter!

  6. Kate Sciacca says

    You’ve earned your throne… so enjoy it! Isn’t it good to see smiles? I miss them at Costco and Raley’s and the cleaners… I really do.

    The one I admired and wanted to imitate was my Aunt Louise. She was that one who always made me feel welcomed and safe… even when I scratched my fingernail into her pink wax carved dove candles. People were always more important than “things” – that’s what she taught me. The tattered Christmas tree potholders she sent as a simple gift 29 years ago still sit in the drawer next to the oven. So what if it’s Easter????

    Blessings to you and yours on this Easter Monday! Christ is Risen, truly He is Risen!

  7. Joy Dunne says

    Wonderful!! When you know you are loved unconditionally, you also love unconditionally.

  8. A great story again. I only had one Grandma growing up as my other passed away while my Mom was pregnant with me. But rhe one I had could cook and her and I would watch baseball games on her small TV together. I sure do miss her.

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