When I became a teacher, I noticed, kids all call their grandmothers different names… I’ve heard Nana, Meme, Nonni, Granny, Mimi, MeMaw, GiGi, and probably a few others. At first, I found this strange… I always just called my grandmother – ‘grandma’ – plain and simple.
Funny thing was, there was nothing plain or simple about her. She was a born New Yorker… the museums, plays, all of it – she soaked it up. One of eight children, she grew up during The Great Depression and always told amazing stories about her childhood and early years with my grandfather. Come to think of it, I think I got my love of storytelling from my Grandma. In the last few years, with her health deteriorating, I sent her a strange gift… a microcassette player and a pack of tapes.
“Tell me your stories, all of them,” I directed.
After a few hiccups with the player, she finally sat down, and told her stories… hours and hours of them. I’ve yet to listen to them, but they are in a box in my house, stored safely like the treasure they are.
I have a few favorite stories of my own… stories from our summers together. From the time I was about six, I spent my summers with my grandparents. Grandpa (no fancy names for him either…) was still working, so my days were full of adventures with Grandma. To her friends and maybe even some of our other family members, I think my Grandma was thought of as a serious, intellectual woman… and she was… but she was much more too.
One kind of crazy thing my Grandma did was in the car… with me sitting in the front seat (back in the day, kids sat in the front), strapped in tightly with the seatbelt, Grandma would accelerate the car and then jam on the brakes… why, oh why would a woman do such a ludicrous thing? Because the seat belt snapping me in as the car jerked to a stop tickled the heck out of me… for some reason this was like a ride at an amusement park to me and I begged her to do it… naturally, she obliged.
Another funny story has to do with her hair… my Grandma was always a beautiful woman. In her twenties she was a model – she was stunning. Her hair was always her pride and joy – no matter the length. One summer, when she had a shorter cut, she bought some fake hair. Now this was before everyone wore fake hair… I don’t remember how or where she bought it, but she had this fake ponytail she would arrange to look real somehow. We would go out shopping and she and I would pretend she was my mother, or (gasp!) even my sister as opposed to my grandmother. Of course, she got more of a kick out of this than I did, but I remember us giggling about fooling folks. Silly, silly.
Yesterday, my dear Grandma passed away. At ninety, she had been married to my grandfather for seventy years. Seventy years. It’s almost unbelievable to think two people could be together for so long. When I called my Grandpa, all he wanted to know is if I was upset… my heart breaks for him.
I never called my grandmother anything but ‘Grandma’ – plain and simple… she was so special, she didn’t need a unique name. Oh and those tapes… I’m planning on listening to them soon… her stories need to be shared.