Memories of My Grandmother

Sep 25, 2022 by

Memories of My Grandmother

by Cassie Davis

My grandmother was two parts traditional, one part original. She spent her days expertly caring for her family – meals made lovingly from scratch, laundry carefully cleaned, and every inch of the house clean and tidy. She was an incredibly practical and wise woman that taught me many lessons.

Don’t fall for the hype. My grandmother could make a dinner to fit a king using Spam, canned fruit, a packet of Jell-O and whatever she had in the cupboard. She made her own laundry soap and used “basic” ingredients to clean almost the entire house – turning her nose in disgust at those name-brand disposable products. Baking soda, lemons, vinegar, borax, and castile soap were the main requirements for any household cleaning.

Never let them see your hand. Despite all her practicality and contempt for nonsense, my grandmother was truly a card shark. From Bridge to gin rummy – my grandma could beat the socks off your grandma any day of the week. “Remind me again what game we are playing? My memory isn’t what it used to be.”, she would say to my grandfather. My grandfather would glare at her over the tops of his glasses, while his cigarette burned in the crystal ashtray. “We are playing 10-card gin. Just like we do every morning, woman.” A slight giggle was her only response and she would win the hand in short order. Then while my grandmother cooked breakfast (from scratch!), I would sit in her chair and play her hand, but I was unable to hold all 10 cards in my hand at once – my hands were just not big enough. I lost. Every. Single. Time. “Lesson number one,” my grandmother said, “If you show your opponent your cards, they’re going to look.”

You’re only young once. I have a distinct memory of my grandmother sitting at her dressing mirror, as I look over her shoulder behind her while she applies her makeup. It’s been decades since that moment, but I clearly remember what she said. “Sometimes it scares me when I look in the mirror and see an old lady staring back.” This was confusing to me because as a grandmother, it seemed natural for her to look like an “old lady”. She had rows of brightly colored lipsticks in her dressing table, a giant powder puff that smelled lovely, and delicately applied hair dye only to her temples where a few grey hairs shot out. This was how I defined “old lady” as a child – and none of it seemed negative in my eyes. She saw my puzzled face in the reflection and explained,

“Sweetheart”, she said, “getting old creeps up on you. One day you look in the mirror and there is an old person staring back.” The idea was mind-blowing to me and then she offered some advice that I hold dear to this day. “You’re never too old to do something new. You’re never too fat, or too young, or too busy, or too anything. Don’t make excuses to stop yourself from doing something you love.”

If you’re going to do something, do it right the first time. Every other afternoon after her “shows” were over, my grandmother would work on the floors. This meant she would sweep the entire house twice before mopping the entirety of the floors. The entire process felt redundant and unnecessarily difficult. I cannot express how frustrating this was – especially once I became old enough to help. Once, I decided to skip over the majority of the sweeping and proceeded directly to the mopping. I was convinced this would be a huge time-saver and I would be able to showcase the capability of modern, improved mops that didn’t require multiple pre-treatment sweepings. Instead I ended up smearing dirty water all over the floors and I had to re-clean the entire thing.

Never be afraid to let them see your underwear. This was actually a quote from Lucille Ball that my grandmother loved to recite. The point is to underline that we each have only one life to live – and that life should be enjoyed to it’s fullest. Don’t allow “boundaries” to box you in and prevent you from finding your joy. Whether it’s from your own inner monologue, from your family traditions, or from the narrow parameters of beauty and success dictated by society – it’s all superficial and arbitrary. Dance when you want to dance, sing when you feel like singing, and always eat the cake at the end of the party. As my grandmother would say, “Weight is just a number. Stop worrying about a stupid number and enjoy your cake. Don’t waste time thinking about the size of your butt.” C.D.