“To Thine Own Self Be True,” says Polonius to Hamlet. Those words have been spoken millions of times to many.
My mother-in-law Lisa was not my favorite person but she was a wonderful grandmother to my daughter Paula. She was known to her grandchildren as “GM” because when my daughter, who was the first grandchild, was a baby, Lisa wanted her to say “Grandmother Dear.” Paula tried but as a two-year-old, it came out garbled, something like “gwrm”, which became affectionately “GM” and caught on with all of the grandchildren. Lisa became “GM” and my father-in-law, her grandfather Paul, simply “GF” – you get the picture.
Lisa was from an upscale English family. She was more formal and parochial in her ways than my parents. She spent a great deal of time with her three granddaughters, my daughter Paula the first, followed in two years by the twins, Cheryl and Lynn.
Lisa was especially known for being a very good cook, something she learned to do after she married my father-in-law Paul. As it was told to me she didn’t know how to cook but rather learned to after marriage in order to feed “Paul Z.”, he was a priest and she was his wife, which meant she had a very distinct role and cooking was paramount. He was also a very large and handsome man with a big appetite.
Lisa spent hours in the kitchen cooking for Paul Z, and when she was not cooking for Paul Z specifically, she was cooking for the family, Whenever the three granddaughters were with her, she would prepare meals while the three little girls sat in their high chairs at the kitchen table. Lisa would be preparing something, the whole time talking to the three girls, teaching them about life, love, and family. Whatever the lessons, they always had a great time. As I said she was a wonderful grandmother.
On this particular afternoon, Lisa was baking a cake, a four-tiered cake, “perhaps it was someone’s birthday.” It was big and fluffy and the three toe-headed blondes were excited to be dipping their little fingers into the bowls of cake dough and frosting.
Carrying on an appropriate conversation with the three little girls – the twins aged 2 and Paula at age 4 – Lisa decided to talk about love and then asked each of them who they loved. She started by example “GM loves Paula and GM loves Cheryl, and GM loves Lynn, and GM loves GF” and so forth.
Lisa then prompted Cheryl who was always a very bubbly, happy child. Cheryl went down her list “Cheryl loves mommy and daddy, and Cheryl loves GM and GF, and Cheryl loves Hennessy” (Hennessy was GM and GF’s dog). “Cheryl loves Lynn and Cheryl loves Paula.”
Lisa then went on to Lynn, who was like Cheryl an easy-going child, and Lynn went down her list. “Lynn loves GM and GF. Lynn loves mommy and daddy. Lynn loves Cheryl and Lynn loves Paula.” Lisa was so encouraging “Wonderful Lynn!” she said, and turned to my daughter and her first born, Paula Jonelle.
Paula, more intense, pensive and introspective than the other two, gave the question real thought, and then very decidedly gave her answer: “Paula loves Paula!”
And there it was.
Laughing out loud, Lisa said, “Oh, of course, and who else does Paula love?” Paula answered. “Paula loves Paula.”
Lisa relayed this to the family and forever at family holidays and dinners it was known as the “Paula loves Paula” story, told over and over again, always garnering laughs and giggles. And to this day, as Paula’s mother, I can say unequivocally that nothing has changed. My daughter takes care of herself first. It is for this reason that she is so well equipped to take care of me.