Monday, January 17, 2011


My grandma's family was poor, but back then pretty much everyone was. Born in 1918, she was a triplet but the third of the three was stillborn. In addition to her twin, James, she had a half brother named Walter and two sisters named Amy and Vivian. They lived modestly with each girl owning just one dress. Grandma was raised to believe she was the Sensible One. In those days, a girl's worth in her family was often boiled down to one adjective, and so it was with my Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather, whose 3 daughters were: Smart, Sensible, and Pretty. If her so-called-Smart-One sister's dress was dirty, one of the other girls would forfeit her schooling for the week so the Smart One could borrow her clean dress. Laundry was done by hand only once a week, because more than that would use too much water.

During the Depression, her father was struggling like many others. One day, he came home from trying to find work in a new car, packed the family, and told them they were moving to California. The car, near as any of us can guess, was driven straight off the lot and to their home without actually being purchased.

She says she married my Grandfather because she was 'getting up there in years' and she 'didn't have many options left and no one was knocking on the door'. I say he got lucky. I also don't see her how she sees herself: plain, short, bland, and sensible. I saw her as beautiful with hips that carried strong babies and eyes that saw pain and suffering less often than they saw love and beauty. I saw her hands, which now showcase paper-thin skin, as strong and capable but also as soft and kind as she rubbed my back for hours on end. She wasn't One anything: she was everything.

This weekend, my mom drove me and the kids to L.A. in a just-under-48-hour whirlwind to celebrate my Grandma's 93rd birthday. My mom often laments her mother's memory loss and refusal to wear her hearing aids and stubborness, but I don't see those things. In my eyes, my grandma is a strong, loving matriarch to our family. She is funny, remembers things that most 93 year olds would have long ago forgotten, and loves her family with a fierceness. It was a tiring trip with hours of boring, dark roads and two different hotel rooms where each of us shared a bed with a kid and didn't get much quality sleep. I ate like crap because I had no other options. But it was worth every second of coordinating and driving and in-transit kid entertaining. It was worth it to celebrate her, and to give my kids the opportunity to spend time with her.

Luca with her Grandma. Someday, I will be listening to her wax poetic about how amazing her Grandma is.

Luca showing Baby Rainbow Love something out the hotel window.

Rohan is a bit wary of my Grandma, but Luca loves giving her hugs.

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