Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Slice of Lime-The Grammies


I was blessed enough not only to have all four of my grandparents until I was 12, I also had to great grandmothers until I was 9.  These are my two great grandmothers, both known as Grammy.  Grammy G is on the right.  In the past I've written about her and her special grammy magic and about her donut making.  I have many memories of her.  Grammy O is on the left.  I have fewer memories of her since she lived much farther away.  Also, Grammy O developed Alzheimer's so the last several years of her life she was not herself.

Since Grammy O lived a long way away, visits to her house were always a big deal.  Her house was quite different too.  Grammy G lived in a little apartment over my grandparents' house.  Grammy O still had her own little house.  The furniture all seemed fancy and antique. The decorations seemed strange and fragile. I was afraid to sit and I dared not go upstairs.  The kitchen was different though.  It was an immaculate eat in kitchen which still felt cozy and where I was welcomed with little snacks and drinks.  I could sit at the table with Grammy O and feel somewhat close to her.  In the living room I felt stiff and she sat across the room from me.  She was very hard of hearing so I had to shout to be heard and I felt very rude shouting at an old person.  At the kitchen table we sat next to each other and she leaned in.  She could hear me much better and I could relax over cookies and normal conversation.

It was at Grammy O's where I first noticed family resemblances.  I noticed how much my grandmother looked like her and how my mother looked like her own mother.  On one visit all the grownups wound up taking a nap before the long drive back.  I tiptoed from room to room peeking at each one of them.  In the sleeping faces I saw the strongest resemblance.  I also noticed how each one relaxed into the same position and wore the same look.  I don't know why that made such a strong impression on me but it did.  I do know it was one of the last visits before Grammy O descended into the darkness of dementia.  During the visits after that she often failed to recognize  my brother or me and she frequently confused my mother and grandmother with each other as she scolded them for some imagined misbehavior.

I have so few memories of her as lucid but I remember finding the above picture and thinking it illustrated perfectly the personalities I recall of each of my grammies.  Grammy G didn't concern herself with being fancy.  She was more concerned with being warm and welcoming and making sure visitors were well fed.  She always had a smile, if not the latest fashion.  Grammy O somehow seemed more proper and precisely groomed, attired, and somewhat less approachable, though also inclined to make sure you were fed.  I remember mentioning this perception to my grandmother.  She found it amusing.  Yes, Grammy O was all that but Nana also enjoyed letting me know her mother was well known in their town for "being able to work as hard as any man."  I was curious as to what exactly that meant.  Nana explained that her parents owned a produce market.  Her mother did as much picking and hauling as the men and was often challenged by the field workers to see what kind of weight she could bear.  She frequently out-lifted several of the fellows.  Then Nana started to laugh and asked me if she had ever told me if I knew who her older brother was named for.  I told her I did not.  Nana giggled uncontrollably and told me he was named for her mother's boyfriend from before she met her husband.  Nana howled as my jaw hit the floor.

The strength of men and a bit of scandal...You just never know what pearls, a lovely hairdo, and a demure dress may hide.

16 comments:

Beach Bum said...

Nana giggled uncontrollably and told me he was named for her mother's boyfriend from before she met her husband.

Funny you should mention that because my mom did me the same way. I've known about it for years but never really wanted to open any can of worms.

G-Man said...

Grandma's Galore!!
Love your Granny posts!

~Tim said...

You're very lucky to have known them. Both of my grandfathers died well before I was born and we lived several hundred miles from both grandmothers so I saw them only a few times.

Cricket said...

Two grandparents were my lot, well... I had the standard four but you know what I mean. Great post.

My grandmother taught me early on it never pays to underestimate what old folks know. They know more than they let on most of the time. Funny how young folks think they have some privileged knowledge on partying or sex or whatnot. How do they think they got here in the first place ;-)

Cocotte said...

What wonderful memeories! My two grandmothers were like night and day. We lost them in 1978 and 1983, so it seems like forever.

Craig said...

Well, you understand that I've had a bit of a 'counting problem' with parents, grandparents, et al. As far as I knew, I never met any of my great-grandparents, altho I found out after the fact that a couple of them (however they were counted at the time) lived past my birthday. . .

Once my family arrived in its more-or-less stable configuration in the mid-60s, we quickly lost both of my grandfathers (one of whom I'd known 'forever', the other I'd just met before my parents married), a week either side of Christmas '66. One grandmother lived long enough to see our two oldest children. One of my sisters, I think, initiated the tradition of having the kids call her Gigi ('G-G' for 'great-grandma'). . .

My birth-mother's mother was the only one of my 'biological' grandparents who lived long enough for me to meet her (altho if I'd searched ten years sooner, I'd have met them all. . .)

And yeah, there are some amusing and 'mildly scandalous' stories like that lurking behind the scenes in lots of families, methinks. . .

Ananda girl said...

Ha. Its funny how we view our grandparents. I love family stories like that. Somehow it makes them more human and dearer.

Hey, my comment word is "granifil". Ha! This post is!

Eric Alder said...

I was also lucky enough to know both of my grandmothers while I was young. They only lived a few blocks from each other, and only a20 minute drive from our house, so we visited them both often.

Thanks for sharing your memories - and bringing some of my own back!

Jocelyn said...

Imagining you tiptoeing around, looking at faces, is about my favorite thing.

I know how you feel about kiddie lit and such, so if you can ever get your hands on the Katie Morag books, you'll LOVE them--especially because she has exactly your two great-grandmas as her grandmothers in the series.

moondustwriter said...

They have that special place in our hearts don't they???

Nice post Lime

secret agent woman said...

Cool memories. I only had one grandmother who was alive when I was a kid, but she and I were very close. But I was lucky to also have a great-aunt (my grandfather's twin) who functioned as a grandmother and a couple of wonderful step grandmothers.

Hilary said...

I love how you've brought your two great grandmothers back to life this way. Thank you for introducing them to us. I'm also very impressed that a 9 year old (or possibly younger) would be so observant and notice strong family resemblances. You're going to be a super sharp Grammy one day.

Dave said...

I loved this story Michelle. Very heart-warming and rich in family memories. Thanks for sharing - Dave

gaelikaa said...

Great you knew your parents and great grandparents. I wish I'd known mine.....

Michelle, congratulations on your POTW nomination...

Cricket said...

Just stopping back by to congratulate you on your potw. Well-deserved.

Land of shimp said...

That was absolutely delightful, a little bit poignant and a little bit funny at the end. Congratulations on the POTW mention, by the way, well deserved!

I'm not close to my remaining family, and it's a small one, so I'm always a bit fascinated by the stories of family. I always wonder when people tell stories of Aunts, Uncles, cousins etc. "Gosh, I wonder what that feels like?" It's just kind of an alien concept to me, but your post actually conveyed the feelings quite well.

A very touching post.

As a complete aside, and it's funny that blogs make me think of this series of books so often (makes sense though, as they were memoirs) but in James Herriot's books he tells a story of being surprised when he moved to the Yorkshire Dales that the highest compliment to be paid was being deemed a hard-worker as a woman.