I'll Only Ever Have One 'Gigi'

I'll Only Ever Have One 'Gigi'

Some things you can only learn from a grandma.

I was fortunate enough to grow up right down the street from my grandmother, who I have called "Gigi" since I was old enough to talk. Now many of her friends have adopted the new, hip grandma name as well, but my Gigi is the original and best one. Lucky for me, growing up so close to her gave me the opportunity to spend time and learn from her in ways that not everyone is able to do with their grandparent.

(Pa, if you're reading this, don't get too jealous, I haven't forgotten about you, your article is coming).

Grandmothers are supposed to be the older, wiser, version of a mother and Gigi is all that and more. She is the center of the Brita family, beautiful physically and in the mind, the best cook in the New England area, and has helped mold me into the person I am today.

Many people impact our lives in different ways, yet Gigi has taught me more unique tips, tricks, and lessons that can never be replaced or duplicated by another person. I can only hope I give back to my grandkids as much as she has. Whether its comparing college stories in different centuries, listening to my latest rant and crazy life adventures, debating the style of the latest HGTV show we've watched, or being down to get ice cream cones before dinner — I can always count on Gigi.

After thinking long and hard, I've compiled a list of 7 things that I will forever remember and know how to do in my lifetime, because of her.

1. Salads

Now you may think a salad is simple and basic, yet you've probably never tried my Gigi's salad. She makes the dressing in a way that no one else in my family is able to replicate, no matter how many times we try. Gigi can make even the greatest vegetable hater in the world want to eat her salad.

2. My HGTV obsession

When I was little, I'd roll my eyes at the thought of watching an HGTV marathon all night, yet here I am 10 years later bummed out if I miss the latest episode of Fixer Upper. Gigi planted that little HGTV seed in me at a young age and boy am I thankful because that is all I watch now and then when we talk on the phone we can gossip about how we can't believe the California couple went with house #3, instead of #2 because that's the one we would have picked.

3. How to shop for good, quality clothes

Growing up a millennial, it was the social norm to buy clothes from cheap clothing stores like Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe. Gigi always reminds me what a good stitch looks like in an article of clothing and what will last the longest, instead of the $8 shirt I could buy from Forever 21 that might not make it through the wash. I used to giggle at the fact when we shopped together she would turn each clothing item inside out to check the stitching, yet now I catch myself doing the same thing. Thank you, Gigi, for teaching me how to pick out modest, stylish, and quality clothing.

4. Table manners

And not just minding your manners while at the dinner table, Gigi had me practicing to set the table when I was 5 and 6 years old. I've always known how to fold the napkins and what side the fork and knife go on thanks to her.

5. Her green thumb is like no other

Have you seen this lady's gardens?! Her entire yard looks like it came out of a Home and Garden magazine, not to mention she has all of Key West's Garden club looking fabulous in the winter months. If I'm ever unsure of the name of a flower, shrub, tree, or anything that grows from the ground for that matter, Gigi can name it off in seconds.

6. She keeps my Grandpa's stomach happy

Not just his stomach happy, but anybody who is lucky enough to be a recipient of her meals. I mentioned before about her being a good cook, well that's an understatement. Homemade sauce, meatballs, roasts, salads- you name it and she will have your mouth watering. This is especially convenient as she is married to my grandfather, who gets the privilege of enjoying all of her phenomenal cooking. Every night, you can guarantee there's a homemade meal on the table. My love and appreciation for food definitely came from their side of the family.

7. She's always in the know

Keeping track of an extended family including children, in-laws, grandchildren and great-grandchildren is no easy task, yet Gigi does it better than any other grandma I know. We all live states apart and live incredibly busy lives, yet Gigi truly cares and makes sure to keep up to date tabs on everyone under her in the family tree; and ALWAYS answers the phone if you call (she's even become text savvy after a few iPhone lessons — go, Gigi!).

I know I don't say it enough, but thank you, Gigi. You are the heart of our family and have truly made an impact on my life. Some things you just can't learn from anyone but a grandmother!

Cover Image Credit: Livia Chandler

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An Open Letter To My Unexpected Best Friend

You came out of nowhere and changed my life for the better.

“It's so amazing when someone comes to your life and you expect nothing out of it, but suddenly, there right in front of you is everything you ever need."


Dear Unexpected Best Friend,

You were the person I never thought I would speak to and now you are my very best friend. You came out of nowhere and changed my life for the better. I can't thank you enough for everything you have done to shape me into the person I am today. You've taught me what it means to be selfless, caring, patient, and, more importantly, adventurous.

You don't realize how much better my life has become and all because you came out of nowhere. I didn't see you coming. I just saw you on occasion, and now I can't see my life without you in it. It's funny how life works itself out like that. Our unexpected friendship filled a hole in my life that I didn't know existed.

I don't even remember what life was like before you came along; it most likely had a lot less laughter and spontaneity than it does today. I can call you about anything and you would drop whatever you're doing to help me in any situation. You know when I need encouragement. You know when I am at my best and when I am at my worst. You always know exactly what to say.

SEE ALSO: 8 Tiny Lies Every Young Woman Has Told Their Best Friend

I couldn't have found a better friend than you if I tried. We balance each other out in the best way possible. You are most definitely the yin to my yang, and I don't care how cliché that sounds. Because of you, I've learned to stop caring what people think and to do my own thing regardless of any backlash I might receive. You are my very favorite part of what makes me who I am to this day.

It's as if I wished up a best friend, and poof — you appeared right in front of me. I am so beyond blessed to have you and I wouldn't trade the world for all our memories. Thanks for coming out of nowhere.

Love you forever and a day.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Medders

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For Camille, With Love

To my godmother, my second mom, my rooted confidence, my support


First grade, March. It was my first birthday without my mom. You through a huge party for me, a sleepover with friends from school. It included dress up games and making pizza and Disney trivia. You, along with help from my grandma, threw me the best birthday party a 7-year-old could possibly want.

During elementary school, I carpooled with you and a few of the neighborhood kids. I was always the last one to be dropped off, sometimes you would sneak a donut for me. Living next door to you was a blessing. You helped me with everything. In second grade, you helped me rehearse lines for history day so I could get extra credit. In 4th grade, you helped me build my California mission.

You and your sister came out to my 6th grade "graduation". You bought me balloons and made me feel as if moving onto middle school was the coolest thing in the entire world.

While you moved away from next door, you were a constant in my life. Going to Ruby's Diner for my birthday, seeing movies at the Irvine Spectrum and just hanging out, I saw you all the time. During these times, you told me about all of the silly things you did with my mom and dad, how my mom was your best friend. I couldn't have had a greater godmother.

In middle school, you pushed me to do my best and to enroll in honors. You helped me through puberty and the awkward stages of being a woman.

Every single time I saw you, it would light up my entire day, my week. You were more than my godmother, you were my second mom. You understood things that my grandma didn't.

When you married John, you included me in your wedding. I still have that picture of you, Jessica, Aaron and myself on my wall at college. I was so happy for you.

Freshmen year of high school, you told me to do my best. I did my best because of you. When my grandma passed away that year, your shoulder was the one I wanted to cry on.

You were there when I needed to escape home. You understood me when I thought no one would. You helped me learn to drive, letting me drive all the way from San Clemente to Orange.

When I was applying to colleges, you encouraged me to spread my wings and fly. You told me I should explore, get out of California. I wanted to study in London, you told me to do it. That's why, when I study abroad this Spring in London, I will do it for you.

When I had gotten into UWT, you told me to go there. I did and here I am, succeeding and living my best in Tacoma. I do it for you, because of you.

When I graduated high school and I was able to deliver a speech during our baccalaureate, you cheered me on. You recorded it for me, so I could show people who weren't able to make it to the ceremony. You were one of the few people able to come to my actual graduation. You helped me celebrate the accomplishments and awards from my hard work.

When your cancer came back, I was so worried. I was afraid for you, I was afraid of what I would do without the support you had always given me. When I was in Rome, I went to the Vatican and had gotten a Cross with a purple gem in the middle blessed by the Pope to help you with your treatments. It was something from me and a little bit of my mom in the necklace, the gem.

Now, sitting so far from you away at college just like you wanted me to. I miss you. I wish I was there to say goodbye.

I'll travel the world for you, write lots of stories and books for you, I will live life to the fullest for you.

You are another angel taken too early in life. Please say hello to my parents and grandma in Heaven for me.

Lots of love,


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