My grandmother passed away this week. She was 90 and hadn’t been well for a long time. While the wound is still very raw, I’m much more interested in celebrating her life and telling funny stories with my family than I am sitting around and weeping (though there has been some of that too).
Grandmothers are special people in our lives. I think that’s especially true for girls and my Oma was one of the most special. Leaving her family, her country and comfortable life behind, she immigrated to the United States from Germany with a toddler (my dad) to join my grandpa, who was already here working hard to create a better life for their growing family. She was a strong woman with a heart of gold and wicked sense of humor. She raised six successful children with strict rules and a house full of love and good food. As her oldest grandchild, she and I were cut from the same cloth, we resemble each other and have always had a special connection.
Even as I try to go about my day-to-day life this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about her and reminiscing to anyone who will listen. It’s been several years since she was healthy, but when I think of her, I see her smiling, standing over the sink at her house peeling potatoes, drinking a beer with lunch because she was “so thirsty” or waltzing with my Opa across the kitchen. And I didn’t realize it until recently, but she may have been the biggest influence in my life when it comes to conservation. She taught me a paper towel used to dry clean hands can be saved and reused, these things that look like shower caps keep food fresher than disposable plastic wrap, a collection of saved rubber bands on every window crank come in handy in a pinch and leftovers can be transformed into a whole new meal tomorrow. She was the one who gave my mom the gift of a cloth diaper service when I was born and the one who was so incredibly proud of her cloth diapered great-granddaughter.
So, as I celebrate everything she meant to me and how her hard work and sacrifice built a family, I am grateful that she was also my first exposure to reducing waste and reusing anything possible.
And while she never called it environmentalism, her legacy of conservation not only inspired me, but will live on in her great-grandchildren, especially this cute little tree-hugger.
Sarah is a mom of two and blogs about her adventures in motherhood, cloth diapering and everything in between. Catch her “Cloth Diapering Unwrapped” series on the FuzziBunz blog every Tuesday.