On mothers, grandmothers, and role models…

mothers and grandmothers

In Finland the second Sunday of May is Mother’s Day

And that’s why I wanted to pay tribute to the two women who were my biggest role models when I was growing up : my (paternal) grandmother and my mother.

Neither of them are with us anymore:  next Christmas will mark the 20th anniversary of my mother’s passing, and my grandmother died 8 years ago in her early 90’s.

But I don’t want to dwell on the loss and sadness today. Instead, I want to celebrate what they gave me, and what I learned from them.

mother and grandmother

Do I look like them?

Looking at these pictures I can see myself in both their faces. I have my mother’s cheekbones and lips. and I have my grandmother’s watercolour eyes (hers were blue; mine are more green-grey) and curly hair. Yes, I can blame her genes for that obstinate curl on my forehead…

mother-daughter style

I got my sense of style from my mother

I may be more extravagant, but I still adhere to her casual chic, minimalist aesthetics as the basis of my own style. And even though I like bolder colours and patterns, I wear them in that understated, classic style that was her trademark. Oh, and like me, she also loved navy and white stripes…

But style is just about the only thing we had in common; as far as everything else was concerned, we could have been from different planets…

Seriously, we had very little to talk about. She was into all sorts of esoteric, New Age BS, and I tried my best biting my tongue whenever this came up. And I would crack a joke, and she would either take it seriously or not get it at all. Yes, communication was challenging, to say the least.

Yet, I never doubted her love for me. She may not have tried hard to understand my thoughts, dreams or plans, but she didn’t try to talk me out of them, either. In fact, she used to say that it doesn’t matter what anyone says to me because in the end I would do exactly what I wanted no matter what…

Elegance Revisited

And my grandmother, then?

She was a woman who was always right. Even when she wasn’t. And she wasn’t afraid to express her opinions, never mind how politically incorrect they might be. No, let’s revise that: if she had been aware of the concept of political correctness, she would have rolled her eyes and labeled it stupid nonsense by crazy people and then proceeded to ignore it. I have to admit that there are moments when I’m tempted to do the same…

Actually, I wish I had her self confidence. For her, there was always just one way of doing things and looking at the world: hers. I can always see at least a dozen different, equally valid points-of-view in any situation or argument, and it makes life much more difficult (or that’s what I believe, anyway).

Yes, my grandmother was certainly not very diplomatic or accommodating, but she could command attention like no one else. This tiny (150 cm / 4 feet 9 inches) woman was in charge of the room the moment she stepped in. Maybe this is something she had learned over the years, working with men. You see, she used to run a car dismantler and had half a dozen men working for her. This was in the 60’s, and back then it was certainly an unusual occupation for a woman. Yet, unlike most working women at the time, she was respected by most men she came into contact with. Except the local police officer; their arguments were legendary…

What I learned from her is that you can’t show fear or lack of self-confidence at work. You go there and own the room, and let everyone know you’re the boss. Yes, I can do that, too, in my professional role…

And  there is something else I share with my late grandmother: like her, I hate speaking on the phone. A phone call with her would last about 15 seconds max, and invariably consist of phrases such as ‘what time will you be coming over?‘  or ‘I got you X, come and get it‘.  Hmm… Whenever my husband calls, I tend to answer the phone with ‘what do you want?’ or ‘I’m in the middle of something…

No wonder my husband thinks I’m getting more and more like my grandmother the older I get. He fears that when I get old and start losing my marbles (like she did), I will simply walk him to the closet and lock him in when I get tired of listening to him (yes, she did this…).


In loving memory of Helle (1917-2008) and Ritva (1942-1996)

What are / were your mother and grandmothers like?


PS: I’ve been playing with Photoshop again:
there’s a brand new Dilettante Artist post, all soft watercolour effects…

Linking up with:

Not Dead Yet StyleElegantly Dressed and StylishGaray TreasuresHigh Latitude StyleSydney Fashion HunterThe Pleated PoppyStyle ElixirGet Your Pretty OnHappiness at Mid-LifeA Labour of LifeDoused in PinkCurly Crafty MomFashion Should Be FunRachel the HatSincerely Jenna MarieMore Pieces of MeColor and GraceThe Wardrobe StylistNot Dressed As LambStyle NudgeCoco et La Vie en RoseFashionably Employed,The Fabulous JourneyLiving on Cloud NineA Well Styled LifeElegance and MommyhoodPosh Classy MomNancy’s Fashion Style,


  1. Coco
    6 May 2016 / 11:00 am

    How sweet and moving… Happy Mother's Day :-) Baci, Valeria – Coco et La vie en rose NEW POST

    • Tiina L
      7 May 2016 / 8:24 am

      Thank you, Valeria.

  2. Shybiker
    6 May 2016 / 12:40 pm

    I love this post. This is why blogging should exist: so we can share our thoughts on subjects of such deep importance. Nobody plays a bigger role in forming us than our parents and grandparents.It's interesting to see how we are similar to our mothers and how we differ from them. We start out utterly dependent on them and, in later separating from them, define our individuality. I can hear that in your description of how you differ from your mom.Your grandmother was a trip! I love women like this. My mom, from roughly the same generation as your grandma, was also short (4'11") and extremely powerful. My mother commanded obedience and grown men quivered at her approach. You never got Barbara Jo mad — she'd bite your leg and not let go until you surrendered. My mom ran our entire extended family with an iron fist. I used to joke that she was tougher than Josef Stalin.Excellent post. I'm gonna mention it on Twitter.

    • Tiina L
      7 May 2016 / 8:31 am

      I agree: our parents play an important role in making us who we are. But they don't determine who we will become, fortunately…Oh, my grandmother was one of a kind, for sure… not an easy person, though, but wonderful in small(ish) doses. Like your mom, she also ran the entire family as she saw fit and not really consulting anybody else. Being the family CEO has it's drawbacks, though, and a dictatorship is still a dictatorship, however benevolent… I loved her dearly, and I think I managed to keep some boundaries, too, when it came to my life. And She always made me feel that she respected me much more than her own son (if her meddling or lack of it is any indication…)

    • Tiina L
      7 May 2016 / 8:39 am

      Of course, we all go through turbulent times. But it's often also a matter of different personalities, as with me and my mother. But that's what makes life interesting: people look at the world in different ways.

  3. Sheela Goh
    7 May 2016 / 4:39 pm

    My immediate response was that no, I am nothing like my mother nor either of my grandmothers. Then I stopped. Because physical attributes aside, because I truly do not resemble any of them at all, we share many common traits. Maternal grandmother – immense love for fabrics and for clothes and accessories, never ever leaves the house without being immaculately coiffed. Something which my mother practices to this day, and which has been firmly indoctrinated in me. Thank the lord.Paternal grandmother – I never liked her, and she made it a point that all her grand-daughters never learned to love her. You see, Lily was very old school. Sons rule, daughters were, well, non existent. Never mind the fact that she was a female. Anyway, feelings aside, she was an excellent seamstress, determined as hell (brought up 6 children on her own), a fighter. I get all those from her. Save the seamstress bit, I'm not excellent but I occasionally whip up a top or skirt with minimal bloodshed.My mother – writer/editor/working mother/fitness enthusiast. 100% me :)You look SO much like your grandmother, Tiina, with your mother's colouring. How lovely is that. And how lovely is the story you shared. Thank you for that. Have an amazing weekend xoxo

    • Tiina L
      8 May 2016 / 12:07 pm

      Thanks, Sheela. It's amazing how much we learn from our parents, and how their attitudes and values (whether we share them or not) shape us. But at least now, when we are older, we can cherry-pick the best of the life lessons they have to offer (like love of style and fabrics) and ignore the bits that do us no good (like your paternal grandmother's preference for sons).It's funny, both my grandmother and my mother made a lot of their own clothes and were very skilled. I have neither the skill nor the patience for this, even though I actually studied dressmaking!

  4. nancy baten
    7 May 2016 / 7:16 pm

    What a lovely story.it's great that you share it with us.I saw the same mouth ha ha!You're mother died very young. I hadn't learned anything from my mother, I havn't seen her for 25 years now. I had one grandmother and she said to me when I was a young girl: always have polished nails and don't come home with a boy who has dirty shoes! Ha ha. I loved her..

    • Tiina L
      8 May 2016 / 12:10 pm

      Yes, my mother died a week before her 55th birthday, and she was only a few years older than I am now. It does put things into perspective…So sad you haven't seen your mother, but it seems you had a wonderful grandmother to look up to.

  5. Patti
    8 May 2016 / 12:16 pm

    Thanks for this, Tiina – a very moving and personal account – I feel like we were just talking over a cup of coffee. You do resemble moth your mother and grandmother, and are yet a unique and fascinating woman of your own. xox-Pattihttp://notdeadyetstyle.com

    • Tiina L
      10 May 2016 / 7:42 am

      Thanks, Patti, what a sweet thing to say.

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