My grandma looks like the Queen of England. Short white hair, thick framed glasses.
I remember her sternness, her attention to propriety and politeness.
Drink all the milk in your cereal bowl, there are starving children in Africa.
I remember her generosity. I stayed with Grandma and Grandpa ‘B’ (as opposed to Grandma and Grandpa ‘C’) for a week the summer I was 10. A week with grandma and grandpa. I remember dinner on TV trays in the den watching Jeopardy. I remember Grandma putting my suitcase in Uncle David’s old room. The room where everything matched. The bedding matched the curtains, which matched the arm chair (an arm chair in a bedroom!), which matched the pads of paper on the twin built-in desks flanking the window. That was Alissa and my favorite spot. We wished we had a room like that at our house. A room so big it contained twin beds, twin dressers, twin desks and still had room for an arm chair. And everything matched.
I liked the room, but I didn’t want to stay there. I remember screwing up my courage. Can I stay in Aunt Anne’s room? Aunt Anne’s room was blue and white and full of light. There was a trunk full of dolls I knew I couldn’t touch. There was a desk and a chair and a big white bed. Grandma said I could sleep there instead.
I remember she asked me if I’d had a “BM” and I said no because I didn’t know what it meant. She called my mom to inform her I wasn’t well, Mom told her I probably didn’t know what BM meant.
I remember her sitting next to me on the bed, holding a gold locket with two pictures inside - herself and my Uncle David. This is for you, she told me; it was given to me by my mother (in-law?). The locket was slightly larger than a quarter. The engraved heart and scrollwork drew me in, my ten-year-old self loved hearts. This is for you, she said.
Grandma informed me we were going shopping when she found out that not only did I not bring a bathrobe, but I did not own one. I don’t remember what department store we went to, it seemed fancy to me. We rarely shopped at department stores at home. The clothes were new, and beautiful. We didn’t find a suitable bathrobe (I would get a blue, zip-up one for Christmas the following year), but while walking through the racks of beautiful clothes, I couldn’t resist touching. (I do it now when I shop, fingering the cloth, tracing embroidery, even on a garment I don’t like.) Grandma stopped. Do you like that skirt? she asked. Oh boy, did I like it? How could I not have liked it. It was a twirly skirt. I could tell on the hanger. The kind if you twirled around it would spin in a circle until you stopped. Tiered fabric of black and white check and pink roses alternated. It was so ‘90s. It was so beautiful. Do you like the skirt? she asked again. Yes, I managed, it’s pretty. Okay, we’ll get it.
Just like that. She picked it up. We’ll need a shirt too, what about this one?
She picked up a white peasant shirt with an elastic neck and blousey 3/4 sleeves. Oh my. My ten-year-old heart melted.
Yes. My grandma was very generous.