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The Black Grandma

January 27, 2010 by EDubya


It was my way of distinguishing between my two grandmothers. Simple ways, like who was the mother to which of my parents were way too hard for me to keep track of, so I went with color. I’m not actually biracial, unless you count agnostic and Catholic, and I’m sure some people would. The White Grandma had blond hair. The Black Grandma had black.

I spent a lot more time with the Black Grandma compared to the White one. The Black Grandma was my mom’s mom, and she lived close by. When my mom wanted to go hang out with family and the house was empty at home, that’s where we hung out. My mom, an aunt or two and my grandma would sit around the kitchen table drinking coffee. My mom didn’t smoke, but my aunt and grandma did, so being the curious type, there was at least one occasion I remember where I reached my toddler finger out to touch the cherry red tip of one of those cigarettes. That’s when I learned that smoking sucks.

Paul and Rose
I remember a lot of other stuff.

My first memory ever is of the white shag rug in the Black Grandma’s living room that I became intimately familiar with while I was learning to crawl.

When my parents went on vacation far away, I stayed with my grandma while my older siblings stayed at home. My parents would send me mail “par avion” (FANCY!) and leave little treats for me, one for each day they were gone, which she would dole out to me while we whiled away the days.

Maybe TMI, but she had survived breast cancer in the 1960′s, and had a partial mastectomy as a result. Have you any idea how FASCINATING it is to a four or five year old that their grandmother keeps an extra prosthetic breast in their night table drawer? I assure you…FASCINATING. I would sneak in her room, slide open the drawer, poke it, then run back out. I’m sure she knew. She had to have known. So ridiculous.

I loved her pool. I didn’t love to swim in it, but I loved to hang out at the ladder and pick the teeny tiny tiles off the cement, a naughtiness for which I was inexplicably never punished.

Her back deck was always stained red, and when I walked around on it barefoot, it stained my feet too.

She always had ice cream bars in her stand alone freezer in the laundry room. That same room was connected to the garage by a door that had a doggie door just big enough that I was sent through it a handful of times when we were otherwise locked out.

She loved to garden. Her garden was in her back yard, and when I was small I remember the treacherous climb in and out of that garden. The slope was so steep I could barely make it. I went and found it in the yard several years ago and couldn’t believe how skewed my memory of that place was. It was so much closer to the house than I remembered and the slope…well…I’ve seen steeper handicapped ramps.

All over the house were needle points she had completed and hung. If she wasn’t doing needle point, she was doing cross word puzzles. The easy ones were way too easy for her, so I got to make a huge mess of them with my elementary school vocabulary.

She loved listening to KGO radio in her car and on the little radio she kept in her kitchen, specifically Jim Eason, and she loved Upstairs, Downstairs and M*A*S*H.

A few times, she took me with her to the commissary at Moffett Field to do her shopping, just the two of us. I never understood why she wanted to drive so far to get groceries, but she did it all the time.

Until I got my driver’s license, she would pick me up from high school, and I would spend the afternoons napping on her couch and watching TV until my mom could swing by to grab me on her way home from work. Some days it was a long wait. Those years I gave her a mother’s day card along with one for my mom.

One of the times she picked me up, I saw she had a pack of cigarettes in her car, surprising since she had quit many years before. Unsurprisingly, she had only bought them because she had a coupon. Even she thought it was funny. She smoked them like a sneaky high schooler, and I never saw her do it again.

She had no pretence, at least not to me. It makes me laugh to think about stuff like how she would back up to a corner of a book case and rub her back on it to scratch an itch, or how we would come over to her house to discover that she had single-handedly rearranged all the furniture in her living room just for fun.

She *did* keep her apples in the fridge, which rendered them inedible, but this we shall let pass.

I loved how she and my grandpa always referred to me as “the baby” long after I stopped being a baby to anyone, and how
I grew up wearing her Sicilian skin. Four days into every summer, I can take one look at Large and know that he wears it too.

I hadn’t seen much of her at all the last few years, though I did get to see her on Friday. She was sleeping, but I’m sure she knew, just like she knew about the poking the fake boob thing. On Sunday, she was gone. I hadn’t thought about or remembered all the absurd and fun stuff we did together in a LONG time. I’m so glad I remember now.

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6 Comments »

  1. Paul Heran says:

    Now I know where all those tiles went! I always wondered about that. The Drumsticks in the freezer were always my fav! :)

  2. EDubya says:

    Hahahaha!! It was totally me! You’ll be happy to know we have continued the “always have ice cream bars in the freezer” tradition at our house too.

  3. Arlo Rose says:

    I’m so sorry. :-(

    This was a nice way to remember her.

  4. kellydna says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. Grandmas are pretty special, and a lot of what you said reminded me of my grandmas, especially the parts about staying with her while your parents were traveling.

  5. SV says:

    The details are different but the magic of grandmas is the same. Thank you for making me think of mine.

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