Grandma, your legs are beautiful.
I've been thinking about my Grandma Pitman a lot lately. This past weekend would have been her 97th birthday. It's been almost a year since she died.
As much as I love her and regularly sing her praises, my grandma wasn't the most body-positive person in the world. She would often comment on how tall each of her children/grandchildren were, how much we weighed, our acne (or lack thereof), etc. This was a source of endless frustration for many of us, and for some of us, substantial hurt. And as eating disorder research bears out, this cycle passed from generation to generation: my grandma suffered from body image issues, which she passed on to my mom and then to me.
A number of years ago, I made the decision that if I had children, I wanted the cycle to stop with me. I started calling out body negativity, telling my mom to watch her "language" (comments about her own body, mine, or others), and repeatedly sharing this article. I quickly frustrated many people, but I didn't care. This was important. I refused to pass on my own body issues to my child(ren).
But I had one major stumbling block: how on earth was I going to deal with my grandma who was already well into her nineties? This seemed like a losing battle that my personal call-out culture wouldn't fix. I decided I would just grin and bear my grandma's comments: it wasn't worth fighting a losing battle.
Then in 2014, knowing my opportunities to spend time with my grandma were dwindling, I decided to drive out to spend Christmas with her. My mom and brother were also headed there, so I decided to go out a day early to have some one-on-one time.
We had an incredible day, sharing stories (many I had heard over and over, but some were brand new), laughing hysterically only to find out we have the same laugh, and confiding in each other. I couldn't believe how well the day had gone. And then it happened. She looked jealously at my legs and said, "I'm so glad you inherited your Grandma Runnion's legs and not my stubby, chunky calves." I took a very deep breath, knowing what I had to do.
"Grandma, your legs are beautiful."
She glared at me and said, "That's not true."
I pressed on. "Grandma, your legs carried you through the Depression as a little girl. They walked lambs to and from school. Your legs stood at the kitchen table learning how to cook. Your legs took you to college before many women even dreamed of going. Your legs walked you down the aisle to marry Grandpa. Your legs bore and raised six children. They carried you around the world. Your legs held you up when you preached. They held more grandchildren than I can even count. Is there anything you needed your legs to do that they did not do for you? Your. Legs. Are. Beautiful."
With tears in her eyes, she stared down at her legs and said, "No one has ever said that to me before. Thank you."
My grandma lived an incredible life. But I wonder what her life would have been like if she had loved her body, if she had thanked her body for everything it had done for her, if she had learned all of the miraculous ways her body showed how much it loved her.