86/100, An Epiblogue & Thank You

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Last night, after viewing the Louise Brooks/Josephine Baker video, my mom called me to remind me that 'Bye Bye Blackbird' was my grandparents' song. Song as in, song.

I knew this, somewhere in my frazzled excuse for a brain, but had apparently forgotten which is insane considering one of my favorite life moments was the evening I spent with my Nana in Florence, drinking vodkas and talking about love. I had just been dumped by a boy I adored and had spent the first half of our trip together writing love letters on European postcards, tearing them up, throwing them to the wind (Not really. That would be littering. But it sounded much more romantic than throwing them in the recycle bin trash). It was my first time in Europe and everywhere we turned in Paris, Rome, Venice, there stood/sat/humped another gorgeous couple making out in the shadows of marble statues, serenading their beloved on Vespas, prancing around fountains in linen pants...

I confessed to my Nana that I was lonely and lovesick and wanted to come back here with a boy... I was nineteen then, crying over someone I had dated five-months (Woe! Spite! I'll never love again!) thinking little of the fact that my Nana, at seventy-one, was mourning the death of her husband for forty-five years, my grandfather, love of her life.

Not that she would ever discount my angst. I may have been ridiculous and self-centered and nineteen, but I meant well, even if I sounded like a fool.

"The last time I was here at this restaurant, I was with him," she explained.

She had taken me there on what would have been their 49th wedding anniversary. It was their favorite restaurant in Firenze, a beautifully romantic place with a view of the Ponte Vecchio and surrounding cityscape.

When our Bellinis arrived we toasted to Grandpa, to her beloved Lou.

"To love," my nana said.

"To love."

Moments later, the pianist, who had been on break, sat down and started playing a song. This song. Nana burst into tears. I didn't know what was happening. Why she was crying. Why she suddenly stood to her feet to sing along to the music, dancing in the middle of the restaurant.
...Pack up all my care and woe,
Here I go singing low
Bye bye blackbird
Where somebody waits for me,
Sugar's sweet so is he
Bye bye blackbird
No one here can love and understand me
Oh what hard luck stories they all hand me
Make my bed and light the light,
I'll arrive late tonight
Blackbird bye bye...

It wasn't until she sat down that she explained to me that the song the pianist had just played was their song. That Grandpa used to sing it to her and that she KNEW he was singing it to her right then, there, in their restaurant on their wedding anniversary. And so I cried. And she cried again. And we cried together and for the first time on our trip together I actually LISTENED for once. Listened to Nana tell me her love story. One of the greatest of all time.

Truly an unforgettable experience. Even if the soundtrack slipped my mind.

***

Last night I spoke to my other grandmother as well. My father's mother, Betty. She had seen Josephine Baker perform in Chicago, she told me. It was the early 50's and her and my grandfather were just married. She had gone with friends.

"I don't remember much except that she was a daring performer with an incredible body."

I hung up the phone with her and proceeded to study up on Josephine Baker - past her wiki page, explore who she was. I imagined my grandma in the audience, young twenty-something newlywed out on the town with girlfriends.

All of this from a song I posted casually, inspired by Fable's hair.

...Ah, but Blackbird was about SO much more than a tribute to a darling 'do! And so. I felt the need to include, here, a little homage to my grandmothers as well, both of whom are undoubtedly grand.

***

Speaking of undoubtedly grand... Nana wrote a guest post I'll be posting here in the next few days, complete with informative gardening videos that will change your life. (A follow-up to this post.) Stay tuned.

***

Also wanted to take a moment to thank those of you who nominated me for a Lifetime (holy shit!) Achievement Bloggy. I'm one of five finalists and am beyond honored to be nominated alongside Maggie and Alice who are two of the finest voices in this space. I feel like I've been blogging for a thousand years and apparently so do you! Ha! Seriously, though. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the love. I'm blown away.

GGC

25 comments:

avb | 7:35 PM

Bec! You know how much I love the stories from your European vacation with your grandmother, but I had to say it again ... LOVE! So beautiful. Tears in my eyes. Much love to you and your grandmothers. xo

Mammy P | 1:37 AM

Crying, crying, crying! What a beautiful story. Love never dies. x

Catherine | 5:22 AM

Weeping a little at my desk here, Rebecca. Such women.

The Because Show | 5:52 AM

Found you through Red Tricycle and glad I did! Congrats on Lifetime Blogger Nom!

Jenn - There's Your Karma | 5:55 AM

What an amazing, amazing story! (and your description of Florence made me super nostalgic.)

I recently got into Josephine Baker too after listening to a podcast on Stuff You Missed in History Class which you might like - http://castroller.com/podcasts/StuffYouMissed/1511192-Josephine%20Baker,%20The%20Toast%20of%20Paris

Katie Jane | 6:31 AM

This made me cry. Such a beautiful story. It also made me want to call my grandma. And go back to Florence. Lots of things swirling in my head now. :-)

Desi | 7:09 AM

Love this. Beautiful song, gorgeous story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Cave Momma | 9:28 AM

I love your blog, even if it does make me cry. Hell, that's probably the reason I love it. So much emotion is put into words. Thank you for sharing these beautiful stories and your wonderful famly.

Asha {Parent Hacks} | 9:46 AM

What a lovely story! You may have been 19 and a "fool" (as we all were) but even then I'm sure you had a bigger heart and capacity for wisdom than most.

Off to vote!

FreeRange Pamela | 10:11 AM

I love hearing about your relationship with your grandmother, especially because mine died when I was younger, and we didn't have that adult (or even teen) relationship. Beautiful story. Love!

Sydney | 10:42 AM

Voted!

Do you and Hal have 'a song'?

Sarah | 10:49 AM

There's something about your writing that often sticks with me. This piece is the perfect example of that.

Thank you...your writing is such a gift. It would be easy to click to the next thing in my feed reader, but I simply couldn't do that without stopping by to leave a little thank you note.

xoxo

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 11:01 AM

Thank you, Sarah. Truly. Thank you all, you wonderful women. And Sydney - yes. We do have a song. Will be posting it here, shortly. (Ahem, Valentines Day, Ahem!)

Dmarie | 11:32 AM

awww, thanks for sharing such a lovely love story!

colette | 11:36 AM

Beautiful post. Love always lives in your heart.

This is a special song to me as well.

I had to post my fiance's version:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62gIIWDixXQ

Alex | 12:34 PM

That story of your Nana & her husband was beautiful. Seriously...

Richelle Taylor Krzak | 5:55 PM

That's a really pretty post. You painted the picture and took us all with you. Thanks for sharing. P.S. Best of luck!

Cynthia | 6:06 AM

I let the tears fall onto my keyboard, then went over and voted for you.

I am a few years into reading you, and its because sometimes its like this. Just like real like, it has routines and boring bits. Just like real life, it has moments of stunning beauty.
Thanks Bec

lisa.melody@gmail.com | 10:29 AM

This was beautiful. Thanks for writing it.

mommymae | 11:31 AM

simply beautiful, bec. thanks for the share.

Georgette | 11:56 PM

Great story, reminded me of my first trip to Florence, sitting outside at Harry's Bar, gorgeous full moon over the Arno, and wondering why I was there with a girlfriend instead of the man who eventually became my husband. We've since traveled there 2x, we're heading back later this year and I am determined to schedule around a full moon - either in Firenze or in Venezia!

Mamalang | 11:03 AM

This is such a timely post for me read. My last grandparent passed away last week, and I realized I don't know anything about how she met my grandfather, or her youth. She never would tell me, and I'm sad about that loss.

And that song has always been one of my favorites. I'm dialing it up on my iPod right now.

Taryn | 11:08 PM

What a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing.

Arie | 11:04 PM

Becca - What a beautiful story. I can totally picture it. Thanks for sharing!

Ester Jean | 6:19 PM

My tears fell on my shirt :)

And I am so excited to see the winners, and so glad for you that you were a finalist!