Baba’s Red Nails and the Stuff We Remember

This picture showed up in the slideshow at my Grandmother’s funeral last week and I’m obsessed with it. I emailed my cousin Josh and said “Send me that picture, the one with her laughing over Dominos.” He did and I’ve spent the last week looking over it whenever I can.

I love everything about this picture. I love the way Bobo is staring at her adoringly. I love the way Aunt Pat is cracking up but still guarding her hand – these games were no joke. I love the thumb in the left side of the frame, marking the picture as undeniably pre-digital. Now we take 80 shots of everything and pick the best. Sometimes I miss the thumbs. I even love the Ranch Dressing behind them on the kitchen counter, reminding us, in case we doubted, that this is real life. No one’s leaving the Ranch dressing out for carefully staged pictures. It’s always the first to go.

I love the way Baba is laughing uncontrollably. I can hear that laugh. And when I look at that face all the years and the illness disappear and there she is. 

But my favorite part? Her hands. That gold jewelry – the bracelet, the watch, the wedding bands, and the left hand ring you can barely see with a gem for each child and grandchild. And her bright red, perfectly shaped, very long fingernails. Always painted, always manicured, always done herself. She did mine before proms but unless I wanted Bright Red, Hot Pink, or Even Brighter Red, I needed to bring my own polish.

We remember her nails. We all do. There was a flurry of red nails at the service in honor of her.

I’ve been thinking about those nails and the stuff we remember – how it’s never the stuff I spend my days stressing over.  I remember how  Baba sang a lot and danced all the time with maracas readily available on her living room bookcase. She had a vanity filled with Estee Lauder make up and Elizabeth Taylor perfume.  I remember borrowing her super cool black and turquoise Reebok sneakers in the fifth grade and riding beach cruisers with her around her neighborhood at dusk.

We remember the essence of what made someone unique, the million ways they lived out what they believed and how they made us feel. I’ve yet to attend a service celebrating  that someone  accomplished…being like everyone else.

As my life has felt increasingly overwhelming over the past months, I found myself going into manager mode. I’m transactional  – building my days around getting stuff done and organizing other people into getting stuff done. Spinning from task to task, I fall into bed exhausted – grieving of course over everything that did not get done.

The past week of celebration and family provided a poignant perspective.

Because in the end, the to-do lists are never mentioned. Instead, we celebrate the nuttiness of each other, the eccentricities, the ways we break the mold and the rules. We always remember how well someone loved and how much they shared. We remember what made them laugh and how they made us laugh and, for goodness sake, that we all took a break to laugh.  And in a world of tempting Essie neutral tones, we remember their unwavering commitment to  Bright Red Nails.