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Updated: Jul 23, 2023

"Rain Grandma" had one of those 1970 oil lamps that looked like rain. However, what I remember most was her smile.

Her smile made me feel safe with unconditional love. When we visited grandma, I sat on her cozy pink couch. At dinner with pizza and cookies for dessert, Rain Grandma asked my brother and I about our lives with genuine interest.

During the holidays, her Christmas tree was filled with red poinsettia lights. In her bay window, a warm blue house stood on top of a cloth of “snow”. Santa was inside the house with his elves. If I looked far enough, I could see the light bulb that illuminated the decoration.

Towards the end of her life and after I grew up, she suffered from dementia. The last time I saw her, she asked if I wanted to borrow one of her sweaters and insisted I try it on. I turned towards her to show the mint green shirt and there it was. Her smile. Even in dementia, that smile never disappeared. She always will be a beautiful memory in my childhood.

I try to smile at my kids every day to honor my grandma’s legacy. I actually find smiling increases my feelings of happiness and joy in the moment. In 1872, Charles Darwin wrote The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. He noted more pleasant emotions with a smile and increased negative emotions with a frown. Research also shows it may be helpful for children with anxiety to be taught scanning faces for individuals who have smiles as opposed to frowns (Waters et al).

For my family, I find the benefits of a smile. When I force myself to be in a good mood and act silly, I do feel better. When I greet them happily in the morning or pick up from school the smile is contagious. The kids like to call it “happy face."

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