Thursday, July 18, 2013

Little Coincidences: Happy Birthday Granny!

Today would have been my grandmother's 102nd birthday. Granny (Mary Elizabeth Trevillian Andrews) made it to 100 and passed away in April of 2012, which is still taking time to process. Granny was my paternal grandmother, the one I was named for and the same one who's cake toppers and accompanying note were on display at our wedding.

Here's a shot from her 100th birthday celebration two summers ago:

The black and white image of her above was shot on Monument Avenue here in Richmond, just blocks from the home she grew up in and coincidentally ours too. Today I wanted to share the story of the one time she was able to visit our home before she passed — it's one of those fun memories I've been wanting to put down on the blog and with today being her birthday, I thought it would finally be fitting.

Tim and I had just announced our engagement over Christmas and were excited to share the news with Granny. We headed over to my dad's house Christmas night to let everyone know in his family, and when we were able to sit down and speak with her, we weren't sure if she was able to process the news with all the celebrating going on. My dad is one of 8, so it's always a huge gathering at his house over the holidays, which as you can imagine, can be overwhelming — especially for someone who is 100 years old!

Not only had we announced our engagement, but we'd just closed and began to move into our current house — it was a whirlwind to say the least! There was a lot of excitement in our family surrounding our new home, because it turns out Granny grew up on the same street — just a block away. It was also where she met my grandfather, who also lived on the same street. It was one of those things I knew in the back of my head somewhere but had completely forgotten about when we were looking at homes in this area. At one point, we all wondered and laughed at the possibility that the house might even have been the one she grew up in. The world works in these mysterious ways, doesn't it.

Because of all this excitement and speculation, Dad was able to bring Granny down to the house the week after Christmas with several of our relatives to see the house and also see if she would be able to point out her old house to us. This was a big outing for Granny, and it was a rainy day, so there was a little bit of confusion, but you could tell she wanted to be there. We all wheeled her down the sidewalk with an umbrella and her blue slippers, asking if she knew which home had been hers:

We stopped in front of a few and my aunt, uncle and dad were trying to recall which one it had been — Granny enjoyed pointing out the different homes, trying to recall the neighbors that had lived there:

Then we stopped in front of the one they thought it was and Granny started talking about her family and memories there, along with how she'd gone back to visit about 15 years ago and it had been converted into a duplex. We later confirmed that this was indeed the house she grew up in when looking up the records down the street at the Virginia Historical Society. It literally blew my mind that Tim and I had bought a house barely a block away from where she grew up and didn't know about it.

Since it was raining, we wheeled her back down the sidewalk and brought her into our house for the first and only time she'd see it. We'd barely gotten any furniture in and were so excited to be starting out on this new adventure together.

There was some confusion on her part — I think she thought we'd wheeled her into the house she'd grown up in since we'd just been by it and she thought Tim and I had bought that house and redone it to live in ourselves. This was really interesting and actually really meaningful in that as we took her through our home, she toured it as if it had been her own and was telling us how much she loved all the updates we made. She went room by room, telling us how it had looked when she lived there, down to where the piano was in the front hall, the types of light fixtures she remembered, how there had been a covered porch out front and how the kitchen had been in the back of the home instead of the center (which all would have been true since all the homes down here were built in the same railroad style). We were also able to sit down and quietly share our engagement news with her again, which brought a huge smile to her face and an immediate blessing — she looked at Tim wanted to know where her diamond ring was after seeing the one on my finger, ha! Always cracking jokes.

Hearing her memories and sharp recollection of the layout was so touching to me in that now, whenever I pass through or glance at the little areas she pointed out as being updated from what she remembered or pieces of furniture they had in different spots, I think of her and what it might have been like. Since her passing, I was able to bring a few different pieces of her furniture and lots of little treasures of hers we've mentioned here on the blog over to the house — we like to think they've come full circle. You might remember how we were able to incorporate one of the glass insulators from her home into the DIY coat rack we made for ours.

Now that she's passed, I find comfort in knowing she grew up 100 years ago just a block away. Every time we walk Basil down the street, I look up at her old house and wonder what it was like back then. I think about all the times she may have passed by our house as a little girl and maybe knew one of the children or family that lived here.

Dear Granny, we're celebrating with you today and find so many reminders of your joyous life surrounding us everywhere we look!


  1. Very touching...brought tears to my eyes. My mom lived to be 89 (she died in 2004) and loved to reminisce about the "old days". We had many moments like this that I treasure...I'm so glad you had this with your "Granny".

  2. Thank you so much for sharing. How I would love to sit with her on your (her :) porch and hear her stories of 'back then'. I was just explaining to a neighbor yesterday about my grandmother's life with 11 children, a wringer washer, a smokehouse for meats, a yard full of chickens and gardens full of vegetables and coffee cans full of beautiful flowers and on top of it all, she was always happy and an absolute, patient saint.

    She was a beautiful lady, Mary. What a sweet blessing you were to her, I'm sure.

    1. Yes times were a little different back then and funny how we are trying to live a little more simpler now a days!

  3. Mary and Tim, you were certainly meant to live exactly where you are. Thanks for sharing the story, I'm sure the memories of your grandma are ever present in your home.

  4. such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. And clearly, your home was 'meant to be'!

  5. Betty was a truly amazing woman and an inspiration to all of us. It was honor to have known her. I hope you both treasure her memory and that your proximity to where she grew up enriches your lives.
    - Ashby