My Grandma’s Rules for Happiness

Erin Britt mama's list

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“If nothing is going well, call your grandmother.” -Italian Proverb

I am swept away by whimsical charm of the children's book, In Grandma's Arm.

Katz says, “In grandma's arms, in our storybook chair, we can do anything, we can go anywhere … I can hear her sweet voice sing a soft lullaby—as I rock in her arms I can dream … I can fly.”

Until recently, I rocked my daughters at bedtime (they are 3 and 6), not to sleep but to a cozy, drowsy state. I stopped only because our chair broke. Literally. The frame shifted and the bolts fell out of our rocking chair. Try as he did, my husband could not fix it. The chair wasn't a piece of junk; really, we've just rocked that much.

I bowed my head. The time had come to bid adieu to our rocking days.

Still, bedtime is our special snuggle time. My oldest confides her secrets, her fears. We sing, give thanks, and say our prayers. My mind does loop-de-loos and I have to reel in my to-dos, reminding myself, “Now. Be present. You have enough time. Stay in the now.”

My daughter often prays for Grandmema, my maternal grandma, “Dear God, please take care of Grandmema.”

I always tear up, missing my Grandma. Every time.

She died three years ago. I was heartbroken, and not ready for her to leave this world. Are you ever really ready?

The last time we spoke, I was pregnant with my youngest. I called my grandma to tell her, “It's another girl.” She was in a nursing home suffering from a broken hip, and nearing the end. My moms says she smiled a huge grin.

She died the next day.

When my daughter asks about Grandmema, I tell her a simple story.

She was competitive. To no end.

Yet, she wanted you to win. She took me bowling (a lot) and I was pitiful! Mostly gutter balls. It took all of her will not to throw the ball for me. It drove me crazy.

She laughed. Her grin filled her face. She savored a good joke.

She listened, quietly observing.

She understood.

She understood me.

At her funeral, during peace, my mom embraced me and said, “You are so much like your grandmother.”

Wow. What an honor. I want to believe that.


Today, I call on her strength when I am alone with my own girls.

I stand taller because of her.

The beauty of life is that you get to design your own.

My grandma was a mere 59-years-old when my grandpa unexpectedly died of a brain aneurysm. He had a clean bill of health on a Monday; dead on a Tuesday. She wrote her “Rules for Happiness” in 1978. To herself. She never shared them. My mom found the list on a piece of scratch paper in my grandma's personal things.

I asked my mom for a copy, and she framed it for me. It hangs in our guest room.

Below is her manifesto:

  • Don't dwell on the past, and don't worry about the future.
  • Don't expect others to make you happy, and don't reach for something that does not exist.
  • Do what you want to do, and enjoy it.
  • Get in the habit of doing things alone.
  • Make friends with yourself.
  • Be strong, realistic and a little hard boiled.
  • Take care of your health.
  • Learn to cope with problems.
  • Sharpen your senses.
  • Always look forward to something.
  • Be interested in others, but find joy of your own.
  • Fix up your living quarter and get rid of everything ugly.
  • Count your blessings.
  • Don't sit with unhappiness.
  • Learn to roll with the punches.
  • Treat yourself to something.

She wrote her rules, and then began a hot streak of bowling, taking it up after her husband died. Throwing rocks, she could take you down. She beat my husband, straight up, when she was in her late '80s and he in his '20s.

My favorite keepsake from her:

Perfect for me, as I am oh so familiar with gutter balls.

Cheers grandma! Whenever the sky thunders, I imagine you throwing a strike.


About the Author

Erin Britt

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