I know that my grandmother was born and, as she puts it, “came over on the boat” to America. She came from a big family, with lots of struggles, and plenty of stories, most of which I think we should write a book about, because surely I’m the only one with a great uncle who lived in a pig sty.
When she passed away yesterday, gone is almost a century of an amazing life led by a woman who was a legend in my book. I have lived in Texas my entire life, and only saw my grandmother a few dozen times. That said, there are characteristics I have in my genetic makeup because of her, and I’m proud to know that even if she’s gone, I have that spirit inside me.
She was a hard worker, something that I value very highly in my own life. When asked about her favorite job, she really doesn’t pick one, despite having been a myriad of things – including my own dream job, a baker. She was also a quality checker at the Anchor Hocking glass factory. What she explains is that you just do a good job, and “they” (I suppose “the boss”) likes you, and that’s that. I envy that attitude – in today’s business world it doesn’t take “just doing a good job” anymore – politics and caste systems and so many other dimensions come into play. I’m glad she found success in what she did, it took her no-nonsense way of doing things, and provided what she could for her family.
She did what she could to host those in her home. Burnt into my memory is an Easter dinner that I visited for. I arrived there Good Friday to find a houseful of family, and Mayor perched in his recliner. All I heard was , “Pinky, I’m hungry” coming from his mouth. What I witnessed next is a dining room that filled with dishes that seemed to materialize out of thin air. Fried chicken, pasta salad, green salad, green beans, pierogi, and it continued. She knew how to fill her home, fill the table and fill bellies. She loved to host and feed people, something I think we could all do more often to spread the wealth.
My aunt quipped once, in her thick Yankee accent and accompanying sarcasm, that she spoke to Gram, telling her, “You have 50 pictures of yourself in the living room Mommy, and none of me.” She knew that she was beautiful. And she was, I remember thinking as a kid that my mom had framed photos of a true Hollywood star in her living room. That was Grandma, at her wedding, perfect pin curls and features that gave her fire and femininity in one package. I could probably learn to love myself that way, most of the women I know could…to know we are beautiful, just as we are.
She rebelled against the era she was born into, she wore red leather pants. Tanned on the front lawn in a gold bikini. By the way, did I mention she was in her 60s when she did? And at my parent’s wedding in the mid-70s, she wore a stunning blue floor length beaded dress with a coat that included feathered cuffs. She took chances in days and ages that things were faux pas and was fearless to let the person she was inside, out.
After one husband who gave her four children, she departed a tumultuous marriage and found the love of her life. My grandpa Mayor loved my grandmother…gosh did he. She used to roll it all into one statement…”He bought me a house.” While I know how that sounds, I think she knew he made a whole life for her. He put a roof over her head and smiles on her face. I cannot wait to find someone who smiles about me the way he would chuckle when he thought about her.
One thing she was very certain about, she was not a Republican. In fact, a devout Democrat so much so that she doesn’t mention much about my Catholic-raised mother marrying a Protestant. However, she definitely put a lot of passion into telling me that she wasn’t so happy that Mom married a Republican. She explains in a way that I can’t argue with either – when FDR was in office, she had shoes. When Hoover was in office, they were too poor for shoes. And it’s best you just agree with her. It’s what I love about her – she knew who she was, and she stayed true to that.
I’d like to think that she’s arrived to Heaven’s red carpet in something floor length in a leopard print, leg slit and sequins, with a great pair of high heels that she had to give up when she had the first stroke. I can only imagine Mayor is overwhelmed that dinner will “finally” be good tonight since Grandma has arrived, and he’s invited the neighborhood over to join in. She will undoubtedly be in all of her glory, doing all the things she loves to do again – without the limits she fought so hard to overcome.
All my love Grandma, I’m happy you finally made it to the place that can give you everything you want.