300.000 lights for Vixxie’s grandmother 

Today, on the 14th of November, I celebrate the first memorial of my sweet Marainne’s passing. My grandmother who was also my godmother and who I truly loved with all of my heart. And yes, I wrote celebrate. I’m aware that for some people this may come across as a very ‘specific’ choice of words, or even be insulting, but grieving for months did nothing for me so I am trying a more life-affirming joyful remembrance of a life well lived.
A tribute to the decades full of love and beautiful memories. 

And memories, I have a lot.

Coming home every Wednesday after school for a spaghetti with meatballs only my grandma knew how to make, with big decadent soft chunks of sweet onion and a tomato sauce so much thickened with Maizena it resembled more to a pudding. And a couple of pasta strings with crystallized sugar for dessert. In secret, of course, because mama-dear would probably have lifted off in a hissy-fit is she knew I was being fed sugar. Ewww, sugar. Big bad meanie in Vixxie’s young life. But man, maaaaaaaaaan, I would kill to have that spaghetti one more time. And her signature Christmas dish that taught me how to love cow tongue in Madeira sauce when I should have probably still been on solid baby fruit porridge 🙂 

My grandma, she was something else. The biggest heart you can possibly imagine. For children. For stray animals. For anyone who needed a big hug and a listening ear. She had such a beautiful, gentle soul and no problem sharing that with anyone who showed her kindness. So much life’s wisdom bottled in that fragile, aging body of hers. Because even though I remember my grandma as an optimistic, always smiling person that would just not be affected by the serial ‘minor’ setbacks that came across her path, she did see way more than her fair share of misery. A husband that had a car accident and was bed-ridden with a broken back for the majority of a year, not to mention the revalidation and the lifetime of back-ache he still has to cope with today. 4 children to raise and a grandchild (me!) just when she got her own kids kicked out of the house 🙂 I lived with my grandparents until I was 12, a weird choice perhaps. Parents with a career and a demanding job that required early hours and late night dinners. Well, that is the polished version anyway. Diabetes, a series of heart attacks from 50y old and onward, a pace-maker, blood thinners, hypertension, in and out of the hospital. Dialysis three times a week because of failing kidney functions as well, the last couple of years. But no struggle was too big for her. Doctors and surgeons have more than once told us that the Marrainne’s body  was completely used up but then she recovered against all odds, and off she went, for another couple of years. I never saw my grandma cave in, not a single time. If Freddy Mercury ever wrote the song “the show must go on” for anyone else than himself, I’m sure he pictured my grandma’s portrait in the bottom of his empty earl gray tea cup. 

Playing in the gym hall next to the school’s kitchen (where she cooked and cleaned), taking out the trampoline and the super thick gym mat on Wednesday afternoons, when all the kids had already left the building. SO much fun to be had. Rollerblading in the enormous school’s cantina and slipping, knocking my lip face first down on the edge of a table, resulting in a swollen face two days before my yearly class recital which required me to solo a song… yeah… that went so incredibly well.  

And her books. Oh my god, my grandma had library shelves full of steamy love novels avant la lettre. She always hid them far back behind ‘The Thornbirds’, the adventures of Scarlett and Brett in ‘Gone with the wind’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and the dozen of family drama’s she owned written by Virginia Andrews. If my memory serves me right, Marrainne’s bookshelf even featured Doctor Zhivago and Jane Eyre. There were a lot of Stephen King books from my auntie as well and an impeccable collection of Britannica Encyclopaedias. You know, in a world without Google, I actually used those a lot for school back in the days!  Anyway, I know you stopped reading after the word steamy love novel so I’ll tell you more about those. In all honesty they were nothing more than romantic airport novels, but when I was around 10 years old and had not the smallest inkling what a vagina was for, those were sooooo much more interesting than the books of Little House on the Prairie I pretended to be reading. So at night, when Marrainne wasn’t looking, I snuck one of the books from the back shelf and hooked myself up with a big flashlight under the cover of my duvet. Wondering what the hell a yoni and a lingam was in this Indian inspired love story. Yeah, it didn’t have the pictures like the Kamasutra had but in the eyes of an 11 year old, it may as well have been 🙂 I don’t think anyone ever found out about me reading stuff I was absolutely not supposed to, haha. 

You know what else I remember. The toys. Oh my goodness, I was such a spoilt brat. My grandpa made me a wooden stable with minty green doors for My Little Ponies and I bugged my grandma relentlessly for combing their manes and tails. The hours we spent together making Ministeck puzzles and later Puzz 3D’s from Ravensburger. Then there were barbies, and Barbie houses, and Barbie caravans, and JI Joes. There was also the phase in my young life where I turned Marrainne’s living room into a giant Domino Express parcours and a wharf full of Lego, or both at the same time. So much Lego it could have built a road all the way to Denmark (where Lego originated from). But what I remember most of all, are the hours and hours spent in her garage: making my own clay bricks, messing around with moulds and scaffolds and designing, drawing and scale-building the houses I would later build for my relatives when I made it as an architect, all grown up and stuff. Girls dream of being princesses and prima ballerina’s. Not vixxie. No, Vixxie always knew she wanted to be an architect. And then later found out she can’t count to save her life and hates physics with a passion. I did the second best thing, became a graphic designer lol. I never lost my passion for architecture, though! I remember the insane amount of hours designing home interiors with my mum later on, on one of her first PC computers and I still occasionally sketch up floor plans and 3d perspectives of my dream homes! 

The one thing that will always stick with me most, are the plentiful evenings with Marainne binge watching series. Yep. We were binging The Flying Doctors, Dallas and The Young and The Restless two decades before ‘binging’ was even a thing. My grandma LOOOOOOOVED watching series. And so did I. Because I was that big potato couch child wielding a gameboy with Tetris in one hand, and the remote control from the video recorder in the other. There is one series we used to watch so often but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called. It was an oriental series about the life of a couple of girls, Chinese or Japanese. I’m not sure. I tried Googling it, but couldn’t find anything that triggered my memory. Ah well. We watched Flipper the Dolphin, and Lassie the smartass border collie. And countless hours of McGyver too! I think we both had somewhat of a crush on Richard Dean Anderson. Well I did. She may have liked Tom Selleck even more 🙂 Then there were the original Disney movies on video cassette. There were at least fifty of them and we would watch them often together! She would never tire. The patience of an angel, I swear. You know in retrospect, I’m not sure where those VHS cassettes ended up after her passing, but they could have been worth an absolute fortune on eBay.

All the times I got my ass handed to me by her because I came home with my body all scratched up from falling out of bushes. Or when I ripped my pants sliding off a brick slope wall a couple of times. Or when I ruined a beach house cabin because I made a steering mistake and sent the cart in a deep dive down the beach embankment. Awtch 🙂 When I got caught buying candy behind her back with some pocket money I got and I was not allowed any sweets…. not my best day ! But also the visits later on when I grew up, she still insisted on taking my hand and putting a little envelope with money in my palm, very secretively winking to make sure my grandpa wouldn’t find out. All the clothes she bought ‘too big’ for herself, but secretly knowing I would love them. Or how she and my auntie collected stamps from their magazines every year to save up for a free goodie box for my cats. My aunt, who is without a doubt, just as lovely as my grandma and my dad. She knew how to raise her kids, my Marrainne. I remember how decorating the Christmas tree was a very delicate art, with even more delicate ancient and very fragile balls and decorations. Hand picked, each and every single one of them. A cacophony of colours too, but she liked it just like that. 

I could continue for a couple of hours, but I figured out eventually that for every tear I shed after she departed from this world, I gained two more invaluable memories instead.

And you know what happens to also be going on today on 14th of November, on the other side of the globe? 

Diwali: The festival of lights

Marrainne loved candles (and fireworks), and collected all kinds of little decorations with lights in it. She had a glass cabinet full of Christmas houses decorated with lights. Ah that cabinet, her joy and pride, her own gallery of memories. There were still greeting cards in there from my first school holiday in Switzerland and sugar dragees from my day of birth. She loved me unconditionally, there is no doubt about that. 

She would have loved this colour festival of light. Maybe some day I’ll get the opportunity to visit India during the festival of Diwali and I know Marrainne will be there with me. 

If you want to learn more about Diwali, I recommend taking a look here.

So as hundred thousands of lights are being lit in India for Rama’s homecoming and in Bengal for goddess Kali, here at casa Vixxie, those  lights shining bright on the other side of the earth are for my Marrainne. For every memory of her that I will forever treasure, every year again, and celebrate the renewal of life with a heart full of her presence. 

While this candle burns, one that I made today especially for her (along with another one for my Ghana, who I also had to part with this year) and while these two songs play on the background that I chose for her, she will be looking down to me smiling like she always has. She never truly left.

Lyrics “Wat nog komen zou”:

I don’t think about what was still to come or how beautiful it all could have been. I prefer to remember, even though I still grieve, everything that was wonderfully sweet. I stopped wondering why fate had to cut these wounds so deep. I prefer to remember how beautiful life with you was, than all this searing pain. For unimaginably great sorrow, no cure will ever exist. Because we know but we don’t fully realize, how vulnerable we really are. 
Because magical words will never suffice and this fate burdens our hearts. Our sadness is inconsolable so we support each other. Even though the missing gets too rough, we remember every laugh. It stays with us through all of life and comforts us every day. For unimaginably great sorrow, no cure will ever exist. Because we know but we don’t fully realize, how vulnerable we really are.

Lyrics “Dat ik je mis”:

You kiss me, you soothe me, you embrace me, you put me at ease. You catch me, care for me, indefinitely, console me. You call for me, you hear me, you save and believe me. Steal from me, suffocate and numb me. You breathe and live me, quiver and tremble me. Trust me, consider me as a person and deter me from angry dreams that come up. The lonely questions of definite happiness. With your curls like night. The way you speak, the way you laugh, the way your voice so close softens like an angel in my dreams indefinite voids flow. You inhibit me, you tame me, you stir and move me. I miss you. I grab you, I snatch you, I want you and command you to stay with me in dark nights. To not long for you anymore. Let me go. I have to walk alone now but hold me when I need you. In thoughts I look for you in everything around me. But even though I sometimes think it’s better this way, I can’t help it that I sometimes miss you. Away to another place but I hear you, embrace you, warm you up. I see you and I feel you, I stroke you, I hug and cuddle you. You understand me, confused but always lead me. It scares me sometimes how much I resemble you now. My smile, my tears, my love for life. I’m sorry for everything, come help and free me. Let me go. I can walk by myself now but hold me when it’s necessary. I find you in everything around me. I kiss you, I soothe you, extinguish and I quench you. You stay very close to me but in my head you rest.