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September 11, 2022

Make Yaya Smile Day

If you’re lucky enough to still have a grandmother (or if you’re Greek–a yaya) don’t miss out on the opportunity to celebrate the first annual Make Your Grandmother Smile Day with her on September 11! So many of my most cherished memories growing up revolve around my yaya, who was also an important source of inspiration for my book, Yaya’s Big Black Purse: Drama of a Greek Mama. In honor of this special day, and as a tribute to all the grand ladies who deserve our gratitude, I’ve created this helpful list.

How To Make Your Yaya Smile:

Make her a yaya.  This requires absolutely no effort except being born.  Nothing makes a woman happier than holding her first (or second, or third) grandchild for the first time.  This holds true for great-grandchildren, as well.  I used to be the apple of my yaya’s eye—until I gave birth to my son.  From that point on, she’d wait on her porch for us to arrive for a visit, run up to my car as soon as I slowed in the driveway, and snatch him from his car seat before I could even say hello.  No longer her favorite, I consoled myself that I had free babysitting for life.

Allow her to be one of the girls.  My yaya loved nothing more than chauffeuring me and my girlfriends around town in her maroon Oldsmobile.  She acted like she couldn’t hear us in the backseat giggling and talking about boys, but if we asked her opinion, she couldn’t wait to get in on the conversation.  She didn’t hesitate to tell us exactly who she thought was handsome (Magnum P.I.) and made sure she was available to take us where we could meet cute boys of our own—church and GOYA dances!

Ask her for something—anything.  My yaya loved this game and came to the rescue whenever a crisis arose.  Bad day?  Bad breath?  Bad smell?  Yaya waved her hand over her magical big, black purse and pulled out a tissue, breath mints, perfume.  Hungry?  Here’s a slice of leftover Cici’s pizza wrapped in a soggy napkin.

Go to church with her.  Yaya believed in the power of prayer, and as matriarch of our big, extended family, she had lots to pray about.  Growing up, I was the only one who woke up early enough on a Sunday morning to go to church with her, mostly because I wanted to see my friends in Sunday school.  I knew it made her happy to see me in the pew beside her—as long as I didn’t embarrass her by chewing gum or crossing my legs.

Ask her to babysit.  Between my mother and my grandmother, I never had to pay for babysitting.  In fact, the two fought over who would hold my precious children, and competed over who could give them the most decadent treats.  My mother spoon fed my son Hunt’s Snack Pack Pudding and Betty Crocker vanilla frosting straight from the can.  Yaya stocked the pantry with Teddy Grahams and Goldfish.

Feed her—or let her feed you.  Food is love and my yaya loved to eat. Dessert put a huge smile on her face.  So did the frozen margaritas I’d slip her when no one was looking.  Mostly, she loved cooking for us.  I still remember the delicious way the house smelled holiday mornings when her pastitsio was in the oven, and how special it made me feel to have her cook all my favorite meals when I’d come home from college.

Introduce her to your “friend.”  I wasn’t allowed to have boyfriends growing up, or even acknowledge boys existed.  But yaya, who was a huge flirt, always seemed to know who I liked, and gave her stamp of approval.  She thought my husband looked like Sylvester Stallone, who competed with Tom Selleck as one of her favorite celebrity crushes.

Visit her.  No matter what condition my yaya was in, or where she was, her face would light up whenever we’d visit.  She loved the McDonald happy meals I’d take her when she had to stay in a nursing home for a short while.  I’d wheel her out onto the patio and dine al fresco with her, watching her enjoy her Coke and fries.  Towards the end, when she was weak and had stopped eating for anyone else, I’ll never forget how happy she was when I spoon fed her a Wendy’s frosty.  She may never have said she loved us in words—she wasn’t brought up that way— but the smile on her face said it all.  She loved us, and she knew we loved her.

So no matter what you call your grandmother, call your grandmother. It’ll be sure to make her smile. And if you want to make her laugh, give her a copy of my book, Yaya’s Big Black Purse: Drama of a Greek Mama, available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Target.

And have a happy Grandparent’s Day, too!

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