Sunday, May 13, 2012

Grandma Mary stories

In my heart, I am brimming with stories.  So much so, that if I do not write, I may have to take up an acting career to live out these events again, and that would be highly inconvenient.. I mean.. being famous and all...

So, I'll put off writing about very important things like my dear daughter's graduation (today), the many funny things said in and out of the home,  and the very important topic of my mid-life crisis shoes, otherwise known as MLCS.  I may end up doing an entire series on the MLCS, but that remains to be seen.

Because.. today... and all of this week I am brimming with thoughts of my Grandma Mary.  And I realize this is a public blog, but I am just going to be selfish and do some stream of consciousness reminiscing in little anecdotal bites.

So, where to start?

Well, I'll start at the end.  At noon yesterday, May 12, Grandma finished her final journey on earth.

And for some odd reason, I haven't found it necessary to be sad about it.  Not that I'm looking for a reason to be sad, but I hope it doesn't seem irreverent not to be..

From my earliest memories of Grandma Mary, there was never a reason to be sad in her presence or away from it.  If you even tried to be sad, she made you sit on her lap and fed you a little cheese and crackers.

She and Grandpa Al had a modest home in Negaunee, MI.  My favorite meal to eat in that home was chicken and risotto.  Actually, it wasn't until recently that I realized that it was risotto.  I grew up calling it "rissut" rhymes with "foot".  I imagine that she learned to cook that dish from Grandpa Al's sister, Auntie Mary.   Now it is very cool to cook "risotto" and to think I've been making it for a long time, and eating it for even longer.  And we just called it whatever the Italian relatives called it and pronounced it (probably the way the real Italians do) they way Auntie Mary did.

My Dad's youngest brother, Rick was still in college and working at "Hardees" when I was a little tyke.  Uncle "Gee" as we used to call him, would grab my brother Tony and I on the big rocking chair in the livingroom and play wild rough house games with a stuffed frog.  And he thought it was great fun to see me scream my head off by producing some scary mask from the basement.  Bad boy.  And then Grandma would have to hold and rock me for the next three hours.  I think it was all a plan so Grandma could cuddle me more.

I was the oldest of all of her grandchildren.  And I was totally spoiled.  My mother said that Grandma took a job at the local department store "Levines" and spent her entire paycheck primping me up with fancy clothes.  She was that type.  She would doll up her kids and grandkids and be content to wear Grandpa's old underwear, rather than buy herself a new pair.  

That is, until my mother got wind of it.  My mother would spend her paycheck buying nice things for her mother-in-law.  Hardly a holiday or an event has gone by in the last decade that my mother did not hand pick out the outfit that Grandma was wearing on that day.  It was usually some form of  a sparkly sweatshirt, complete with matching earrings, necklace, makeup, fresh hairdo, the works.

And so, we grew up.  Grandma and Grandpa, living in Negaunee and our family in Gwinn.  My mother's parents (gone for 10 and seven years at the time of this writing) lived in Ishpeming.  So, I grew up with my grandparents in attendance at every major event and often not so major events.

One thing that is very unique about my childhood is this: not only did I have a close proximity and a relationship with each set of grandparents but there was also a friendship and a congeniality between both sets of grandparents.

Even though both sets of grandparents had cottages, the cottage on Spruce Lake in Michigamme owned by Ishpeming grandparents was larger and more accommodating for family gatherings.  I can hardly think of a holiday that was hosted at the Spruce Lake cottage that did not include BOTH sets of grandparents.  That's just the way it was.  In fact, my cousins (on my mom's side) looked forward to "Grandma Mary" being at the family gatherings, just as if she were their grandma also.  It had nothing to do with the pasties.  O.K. maybe a little..

O.K. maybe a lot.  The pasties of Grandma Mary were the best pasties in the U.P.  I just feel sorry for people who have to go to the shops and buy them.  I realize it has to be done, especially if you don't have a Grandma Mary or Grandma Shirley (a friend's grandma), but still...  I can hardly think of those food items as pasties..  Grandma's pasties are the best, and that's just the final word.  Sorry for drooling on the page.

Speaking of drooling, are any of you old enough to remember the days of drop-in hospitality?  I grew up with it.  The old yooper culture (Upper Peninsula of Michigan), which is a study all of its own, produced a friendliness and openness amongst friends and family alike.  Drop-in guests were more like a way of life than the exception to the rule.  It wouldn't be an unusual thing to have a neighbor cut a path through his backyard to yours with his snowblower and stop in for a coffee afterwards.

And I always remember stopping in on Grandma's house.  She always laid out a plate of cheese and crackers for these impromptu visits.  This was before cell phones and texting and email.  I have no recollection of my Dad "calling ahead" before we dropped in on Gram.  Her house was always spotless, and her fridge was always full.

She worked as a lunch lady at the school and had surplus food to share.  Nobody could make the processed cheese and unsalted crackers come alive like Gram.  I think she spunked it up with some summer sausage and stinky cheese every so often.  Yes, I grew up liking all of the weird cheeses.  I have no idea what they were.  We just referred to them as "stinky cheese".  It was all a plot to keep us kids away from their stashes.  Nice try.  Utter failure.

I ended up liking all of the weird foods my Dad likes.  Sure.  I went from drooling over pasties to craving the midnight olive, cheese and sausage snack.  It's all about food.

And I'm not done writing about food or Gram.  In fact, I am just getting started.  I am just going to keep writing about my Gram until I run out of things to say.  But I'll continue it a little later.  I think the desire for cheese and crackers has overtaken me.


Barefoot Hippie Girl said...

So glad you have wonderful memories of your grandma. SHe sounds terrific. Enjoy your cheese and crackers.=)

sara said...

Lovely memorial. I'm sorry for your loss.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Oh Jean, I'm sure you'll miss her, but how wonderful to have so many fun and joyful memories of a full, rich life!


Mrs. Parunak said...

What sweet, fun memories. It was delightful to get to share them and to see a little of where you came from. I look forward to hearing more about your wonderful Grandma Mary.

Runescape Gold said...

Cute account. Makes me personally wish to be far better. Thanks for discussing. You are great.