Pictured above, Paola's great aunt Anna, who partially inspired the essay; she never married, but raised may children nonetheless. She often prepared pasta with sweet Italian green peppers and garlic, but the kids she fed remember her for making french fries almost every day. The second picture reminded Paola of grandmothers buying ice-cream. Both pictures were taken in Lanciano, Abruzzo.
Being a grandmother doesn’t just have to do with having grandkids, but with a way of living life. If I’m right, there should be honorary nonnas and self-appointed nonnas.
The simple definition of a grandmother is a woman whose children have children of their own. I would venture to say that a woman gathers an incredible amount of experience and knowledge if she takes on the responsibility of raising her children well enough that they can lead productive lives and go on to have kids of their own. Experience and knowledge are what makes a grandmother. Experience and knowledge turned into wisdom is what makes a super grandmother.
In our contemporary world, many women might not have had children of their own, but they might have acquired that same incredible amount of experience and knowledge through other means—teaching, running farms or businesses, or helping to raise other people’s kids. To me, this qualifies them to be grandmothers. Anyway, what would you want to call an old wise woman?
I am not surprised that a benevolent archetype like “grandmother” has absorbed negative connotations in our society. The best of grandmothers give pause to a culture that values and sells youth and beauty and, in so doing, defeat patriarchy and consumerism. So, like feminism, grandmotherism is a movement that truly questions an established structure of power. The powers-that-be will try to make people weary of these “countertrends.”
There are women in the world who, if you are in need, are willing to help you find your way. Their houses are welcoming, their sentiments clear, their certainties strong. These women are grandmothers: the keepers of good knowledge, good food, and solid homes. Be one if you can.