7 mins read
Dot holding 3 year old Hannah both smiling and looking at each other

Human connections are not always easy. The roadblocks that exist comfortably between us can feel so natural that when a connection does happen, it can bring up all sorts of emotions. For me, no matter how big or small the circumstance may seem, a beautiful story will wet my eyes as easily if not easier than a sad one. What’s more human than the complexity, joy, and stickiness of family? In this story, we’ll explore the theme of family and connection. We’ll hear about an intergenerational relationship between a Granddaughter and Grandmother that leaves the barriers that often keep people apart, in the dust.


“As a kid, I remember driving home to Las Cruces from Juarez on I-10 one very hot afternoon, when one of the tires on my grandmother’s van blew out. My dad was driving and quickly swerved to the side of the highway. It was just my dad, his mom (my grandma Dot), and me in the van, everyone else had been in another car. This was before cell phones so I remember my dad walking away, hopping over the guard rail and over a dusty hill to go find a phone to call a tow truck. While Dot and I waited, I whined and cried in the heavy heat of the desert in summertime. Dramatically, I thought we’d be stuck forever, rationing our water on the side of the road. Dot didn’t tell me not to cry but asked me to come for a walk with her by the side of the road. We looked for ants and bugs and interesting rocks. She told me, “this is just an adventure” And that’s what that story became in my mind, an adventure. 

Dot showing a rock to toddler aged Hannah while visiting petroglyphs near Radium Springs NM
Dot and Hannah visiting petroglyphs near Radium Springs, NM. (1992)

That outlook on life, that when things don’t work out the way we may have planned or expected, they’re still just an experience, something else that just becomes a part of our lives and our story. Dot, never the kind of grandparent to just spoil me with toys or things, always shared experiences – Telling stories about the joys and struggles of her family and life, giving my sister and me foot rubs on the couch like she used to do for my grandpa Jack, teaching us to weave rag rugs on the floor loom that belonged to her mother, or hunting for fossils and eating tomato sandwiches with chocolate milk. She taught me to be attentive to and cherish the things that happen to me, the many different moments and events of my life. Whether they seem good or bad, monumental or mundane, they are what create the story of my life. 

Dot holding her hand up to her childhood handprint in concrete outside childhood home
Dot putting her hand up to her childhood handprint outside the barn at her childhood home and farm in Accident, MD. (2014)

She likes to tell me that when I was little I told her that she wasn’t my grandma, she was my friend. And that’s definitely still true.

Dot doing a keg stand as Hannah assists holding up Dots legs
Snapchat image of Hannah holding Dots legs for a keg stand at a neighborhood party, saying goodbye to Hannah’s childhood home in upstate New York. (2017)

She’s my favorite person to cry with when I’m upset because she lets my feelings be what they are without trying to help them change. Sharing our fears, hopes, observations and joys with one another is something I am incredibly grateful for, particularly now when it seems that the social and political climate is drawing or revealing lines between family members. 

Getting lost on the long drive between upstate NY and western Maryland where she would take us to visit the farm she grew up on and all of our cousins who live there now. Stories about her life – the people in it, the events that shaped it. Never a single career but different roles and jobs throughout her life that together gave her an appreciation for the experiences of all different kinds of people. Her stories about the women’s shelter she worked at in Denver after my grandfather died and the different people she got to know there, how she would save particular clothes that she knew certain women would like or look good in. 

She always describes being “tickled” by things – such an easy appreciation for things that doesn’t put too much weight into them. 

a smirking teenaged Dot with an ice pack oh her forehead at the kitchen table. sick with an internal reaction to inhaling burned poison ivy
Dot (age 16) sick with an internal reaction to burned poison ivy
Dot as a young women with long dark hair sitting facing away from the camera eyes gazing down
Dot in her late 20’s

Right now, as we’re collectively going through a pandemic, an unexpected hurdle and dramatic changes to our daily life, Dot’s perspective helps me remember that it’s just an adventure and all I can do is respond as gracefully as possible.  Resourcefulness, attentiveness, and care”

dot laughing while Hannah holds and  points at her with a confused and smiling expression.
Hannah and Dot joking around at a family event (2018 )

A big thank you to Hannah Quaintance for sharing her story!

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you Hannah for sharing your life experiences with us. Now that I have reached the ripe old age of eighty I find myself reminiscing about my life and realize the truth that it is often the most insignificant events that stay imprinted on the mind and impart the most joy. Each life is unique and everyone’s story should be cherished as such.

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