What are your favorite memories of your grandma?
This question is also from my niece. She’s so inquisitive!
I always felt I had only one grandparent, my father’s mother. My mother’s parents both died when I was very young, so of course I have no memory of them. My father’s parents divorced, possibly before I was born, and his mother remarried, so I never met my paternal grandfather either. That left me with one grandma, Isabella, and her second husband, Tom, who I swear was 95 years old every time we visited. I don’t recall having much interaction with him, only his presence in Grandma’s house and me sitting at the kitchen table watching him sprinkle vinegar on everything he ate. I guess it’s the only way he could taste his food? I don’t know. Grandpa Tom died when I was between 5 and 7 years old, maybe. I remember going to his funeral. Now, at that young age, I knew that people died, so I understood what was going on there. What I didn’t know was that when you go to a funeral, there is a dead body there and you get to look at it. When I caught a glimplse Grandpa Tom’s body lying in that casket, I froze in my tracks. I don’t remember anything else until after the funeral, back at Grandma’s house. I could see the sadness in her eyes and I said, “You miss him…don’t you?” She said, “No,” as tears soaked her cheeks.
My favorite memories of my Grandma are plentiful. She was a short and semi-round little Scottish woman, with long gray hair that almost reached the floor and she kept in a braided bun on the back of her head. She always wore a thin house dress and an apron which she kept damp by drying her hands on it. She lived in an old two-story, green house in a neighborhood very near railroad tracks, which were plentiful in Lima, Ohio. I remember it with all of my senses. The smell of her gas furnace as we entered the house along with the popping sound it made and the heat on my face when I stood close to it. The crackling of the old green linoleum when it was walked upon. The stairway in the middle of the house which seemed to ascend into darkness. I didn’t spend much time up there, there never seemed to be any lights on. The screened back door with the wooden frame that would smack the house any time we went through it. The arbor in the yard where grapes grew. The taste of her cabbage ham and potatoes dinners which I thought was the best stuff ever. I loved it when that was our dinner when we’d visit. Come to think of it, I don’t recall any other meals she prepared. I’m sure there were others, but I suppose we hold onto our favorite memories through the decades. Oh, how I miss that meal still today. Grandma died in 1976, the winter before my 15th birthday, and I still haven’t had cabbage, ham and potatoes. One person made it for me back in the 1980’s, and it tasted good (not like Grandma’s though), and for some reason, it came back up later that evening. I guess Grandma didn’t like me eating anyone else’s cooking but hers and I have not tried that again. The smell and warmth of her freshly baked scones. Truthfully, I wasn’t the biggest fan of those because they weren’t sweet enough for me. Though I wanted them to taste more like cookies or donuts and they were more like bread, I still ate them. Hearing the train whistles throughout the day and on special nights when we could stay a day or two. Sweet memories.
Grandma always had Tootsie pops in the bottom cabinets of her china hutch. I remember one time that I was upset with her — could’ve been because she wouldn’t give me a Tootsie pop before dinner. I have no idea now. But, I ran to the huge back room which was a bedroom and bathroom combined and always smelled of Dove face soap, then climbed up on the bed to sulk and feel sorry for myself. It wasn’t long before Grandma came to check on me, Tootsie pop in hand. She was a softy and gave in to my tantrum. She handed me that sucker and I felt so guilty for manipulating her with my spoiled brat behavior.
Grandma would just light up when we’d come to visit her and the first thing I would do when we’d get to her house was run inside and hug her tight. Then we would compare our heights to see how much I’d grown. I remember vividly the day that I finally exceeded her 4’10” stature, which didn’t take that much time, and I felt like a giant. I was probably ten or eleven years old.
In that tiny package was also a mighty temper. Grandma always sat in a wooden, black rocking chair which sits in our living room today. One summer, I got to spend a few weeks with her and my aunt. Grandma got really pissed off about something they were discussing and she was fuming, brows furrowed and cheeks bright red! I’d never seen her angry. Grandma was flat out done talking to my aunt and to prove it she gripped each of her rocking chair’s arm rests, lifted that chair up close to her bum and spun around like a top, effectively closing out my aunt with the back of her chair. It was a little bit frightening and hilarious at the same time.
Oh, a funny memory of Grandma comes to mind! She had a little patch of whiskers on each side of her mouth. On one of our visits, she was standing in the dining room with an electric razor, happily shaving those patches. It was so funny, and she thought it was the coolest invention ever. I can still see that big smile and her contorting her lips all around the razor to make sure she was thoroughly removing those pesky whiskers.
Like clockwork, when our visits came to a close and it was time for the 2-hour ride back home, Grandma would stand in the doorway of her house waving goodbye, tears streaming down her face, and wouldn’t stop waving until our car was out of her view. I would watch her every time, until I could see her no more. I felt so sad seeing her like that and hoped it wouldn’t be too long til we could go see her again.
My Grandma was like my own personal, human divining rod. No, she didn’t lead me to water, but she did lead me away from doing naughty things. When I would think about doing something bad, I would immediately think how it would make Grandma feel, and not wanting to disappoint her in any way, I wouldn’t do the bad thing I had been tempted to execute. I felt a great loss when she died that winter of 1976, and when I turned 15 that summer, all hell broke loose. It was like I had no one to be a good girl for any more. The very shy and quiet little me was a full-out rebellious unruly teenager — from hell. Yeah, I’m not going into all that in this post. It’s in my book.
It’s been 44 years, yet every time I hear train whistles, I’m transported back in time to Grandma’s house and for a moment, I’m filled with a warm sense of peace and love as though she’s hugging me from Heaven. I love that sound. I miss her hugs.