St Francis Bay freelance journalist Beth Cooper Howell takes a look at the other side of life in Woman on Top, her weekly lifestyle column for The Herald.
My gran was a stop and smell the roses gal. Not in the figurative sense – she actually paused to sniff at flowers.
When those genetically- modified or hybrid varieties appeared in shops, she was annoyed that they looked blooming gorgeous but had no smell.
“Still,” she used to say, “at least the world still grows them!” I have lots of those little memories of my gran.
Like a series of quick sketches, lined up to make a sweeping portrait of a life well-lived.
It’s these small details about her that stick; not so much her material, domestic or social success.
My gran had a great attitude. She appreciated the tiniest gestures of kindness and valued the most minor events.
To her, a friendly five- minute chat was as life-affirming and meaningful as the queen’s speech. It’d keep her going for days – and she remembered every detail long after you’d forgotten what you’d said.
That wasn’t because she was elderly, or lonely; she had spunk and good health for an 80-something widow and lived with her family – not shut away in her head, inside a frail care centre.
Rather, it was because she bypassed our modern trend for living large, in luxury and excess.
Her generation had little so they learned the art of appreciation. And with that, comes an understanding of where the real heartbeat of living lies: it’s in the little things.
I once had a tough weekend. A family illness, a no-naps-thanks toddler and a complex birthday bash for an army of small people all happened at once. This was not going to begin or end well. I also had a pimple, by-the-by.
Now, in retrospect, it all went well and my general organisational skills were rocking, as usual, together with my foot- long to-do list. My hair behaved and so did my peeps. It was a Highly Successful weekend all round, despite the glitches.
But what I remember most clearly – and which still gives me an emotional high, more than anything else – is what my friends and family did for me to make that weekend work.
Jen and Leila pitched to put together décor for the birthday party, taking care of all those little things you just can’t remember when you’re tough weekending.
My dad cut and then tied the curly ribbon to every single balloon in the hall; Thandi expended Olympian energy distracting a grumpy two- year-old from his mother by being bounced on, climbed up and made to jump on the trampoline again and again, just to give me a moment’s peace.
And the following week, I know that I wrote a great feature for someone and probably lost a few kilos after trying hard. But the details are fuzzy.
What I remember most about that week though, was Rox sending me a random poem about what makes great people tick – and how I tick most of the boxes.
It didn’t cost much to send – barely a fart on a cell phone bill – but it kept me thrilled for days.
It’s the little things. Like Dom, a few years back, deciding that I needed to unwind.
They lived in a tiny place back then, but she turned her bathroom into a spa – candles, bubbles, snacks – and took care of supper and the kids while I soaked.
I’ve bathed in some swanky international hotels, but that’s the one I loved the best.
You’ve got to try this, sometime. This “getting” the little things.
My gran would say it’s like appreciating bricks, rather than just the finished house.
A brick may seem a lowly thing in the grand scheme of construction, but you ain’t building your palace without it.