It seems kind of strange on Father’s Day weekend that I would be honoring my mother’s mother, but since last week I shared two poems about my father’s mother, I decided to do this. A while back I wrote a little narrative about time spent with my grandma. Toward the end of her life, I spent a few weekends with her, along with a lot of visits with my Mom. It’s ironic that my grandma was a cleaning lady and now I’m a custodian for a school and a church. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. My grandma and I had similar tastes even though we were very different. She loved science fiction and animals. Best of all, she grew to love Jesus and I’m thankful that someday I will see her in Heaven.
So here’s the little memorial I wrote about her:
Woolworth’s department store was such a pleasant memory for me as a little girl. It was Woolworth’s and Rotisserie chicken. Although I don’t think we called it that back then. It was just delicious chicken barbecue, wrapped in tin-foil, brown and crispy. In those days, I could eat the skin, and I did in all its plentiful goodness.
I remember walking the streets of Lancaster, PA, hand in hand with her, my mother’s mother, my grandmother. At that time I hadn’t known her so long or so well, and yet I warmed to her graciousness, kindness and love that I could feel exuding from her hands and to my fingers as I clasped them tightly.
Lancaster was not my home. It seemed like a big city to me, who was usually entrenched in small town life. I was a scared child, but with her I felt safe. I can still see her; black hair, maybe a little graying, tall, thin, cat-eyed glasses and plenty of no nonsense persona. She was a cleaning lady most of her life and she was exact and thorough at it as she was in everything she did. There was no hint of earlier days when she led a raucous lifestyle and drank too much. My mother used to say that she loved parties and people. I was never anything like her , and yet she warmed to me.
I know she loved animals like me because she fed squirrels peanuts from her kitchen window. They came right up to her and took them from her hand. She wasn’t even daunted by one that bit her finger in its eagerness for quick sustenance, and she never blamed the squirrel. So I love squirrels, also, naming the ones in our yard all the same. They are Snip and although I wouldn’t dare to trespass my boundaries by hand feeding, I love to sit out a dish of sunflower seeds for them and watch them satisfyingly from my window.
Grandma took me to the downtown movies. Now I am so baffled by her choice, Planet of the Apes, one of the series, I don’t remember which one. I only know that it doesn’t seem like a grandmother’s choice, more like Casablanca or Fiddler on the Roof. Yet she took me to see it. I remember her falling asleep half way through, but she had to have honest interest because we stayed through the next showing to see the parts she missed. Back then you could. Nobody shooed you out with buckets and brooms as soon as the credits came on.
At night we watched Dr. Shock Theater, campy old horror films, hosted by a comic Dracula. I remember loving them in all their fake scariness. She loved them, too, not just for me, but for herself, as well. That’s how I saw it.
She had a very old and much used stuffed leopard on her bed. She must have loved it once, but she so willingly parted with it to give it to me, as if extending the baton to the next generation, imparting her love with it. I wish I still had it, but more than that, I wish I could walk those streets again, eat chicken barbecue, sit through a matinee, and once more spend the night quivering through Dr. Shock Theater with my grandma. She couldn’t have known then what it means to me now.