It seemed appropriate to write about the mothers in my life on Mother’s Day. If you’ve read my dating series, “Mis-Matched to Miss Matched,” you’ve already met my mom. She’s a great woman who only wants the best for me. Today, I would like to introduce my grandmothers—Victorine and Jacqueline.
My dad’s mom, Victorine, was from Defiance, Ohio. Defiance—that explains a lot! She was a feisty woman. I know I inherited my feistiness from her.
For instance, she disapproved of the way my name was spelled. She insisted on spelling it, “Susanne.” So every birthday card, Christmas card and the numerous letters she wrote to me while I was away at college were all addressed to “Susanne.”
I guess turnabout was fair play, because she wanted me to call her, “Gram.” I called her “Grandma Vickie.”
And, boy oh boy, was she determined. When she wanted something done, by God, it got done. For example, when my dad was 6 years old, she wanted to enlarge the living room by knocking out a bedroom wall. My grandfather said, “No.”
So, she waited until he left for work. She handed hammers to my father and one of my uncles (8 years old) and told them to take down the wall. The wall was plaster and wood lath.
I can only imagine the jubilant young boys tearing down the wall and my grandmother’s sense of satisfaction, sharply contrasted with my grandfather’s reaction when he got home. The boys were using the claw end of the hammer to rip out the wood lath when he walked in.
“Geez, Vic! What the hell are you doing?!?”
She was getting her bigger living room. Good thing it wasn’t a load-bearing wall!
My wanderlust and sense of adventure come from her. She loved to travel and experience new places, people and things. Based on pictures, you could tell she was the life of every party.
I inherited her penchant for lining up people for pictures. Luckily, I did not inherit her picture-taking issues. The tallest people in her pictures usually ended up with at least part of their heads chopped off.
Grandma Vickie was a deeply religious woman and was proud of me because I sang in church for thirteen years. She gave me a statue of The Infant Jesus of Prague, complete with a set of vestments I was supposed to change based on the church calendar. I dutifully changed them for years. But the statue’s eyes seemed to follow me. I know I’ll probably go to Hell for this, but those eyes gave me the creeps. I still have the statue and the vestments, but they’re in a drawer, for safe keeping.
She taught me to play dominos and some card games. And I learned how to play all sorts of other games with my older cousins when we got together for holidays. Holidays there were really great. I’m sure the adults thought it was total chaos, but for us kids, it was grand.
I just wish I had spent more time listening to her stories.
My mom’s mom, Jacqueline, cooked dinner for the family every single Sunday. As I child, I thought this was wonderful. There was so much laughter and happiness. Who wouldn’t love it? As an adult, I miss it.
She was strong and feisty too, just more subtle in her ways. I learned quickly that, “We’ll see,” was a tactful way of saying, “No.”
She was a born nurturer. That applied to everyone and everything. At times, I felt more like her daughter than her granddaughter. I was the first grandchild, so I guess it was natural.
The bedtime prayer she recited with me every night I stayed with her included, “Dear Lord, help me to be good and kind.” Those words stuck with me. Be good. Be kind.
Grandma Jackie loved nature. She so loved nature that she wouldn’t kill spiders in the house. Instead, she would capture them in a dust cloth and release them outside. Sorry, but I didn’t inherit her appreciation of spiders. I use my “smack and smear” method when I find them in my house.
She taught me how to care for indoor and outdoor flowers. She loved African violets and had a multi-tiered flower stand packed with the colorful, velvet-leafed beauties. Outside, she loved geraniums, begonias and impatiens.
She could cook and bake like no one I’ve ever met. Her fried chicken and lasagna were to die for. As was her pasta sauce. And her lemon meringue pie. And the Clams Casino that she served on real clam shells. And her chocolate cake with homemade chocolate frosting that she always made for my birthday.
But her most famous masterpiece was party toast. At my grandparents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary Party, all of the cousins sat together at a table. One cousin asked, “What’s the deal with party toast?”
I smiled. When I was two years old, I didn’t like to eat much for breakfast. So, Grandma came up with the idea of cutting up my toast into squares. She made a big production over it and called it “party toast.” Apparently, I gobbled it right up, thinking it was a special treat of some sort. Clever woman!
Even when I was college age, when I would stay with her, she insisted on making party toast for me. Logically, it was ridiculous, I could make my own toast, and I didn’t need it to be in squares. But it made her happy. And, truthfully, it made me happy too. It was party toast!
I often joke that I come from a long line of lingerers. Because it’s true! My people live a long time. Grandma stressed the importance of looking your best no matter what. One day, I could tell she wasn’t feeling well. I complimented her on how good she looked, despite feeling otherwise. She said, “Honey, in our family, we might feel lousy, but at least we look good.” Yes, yes, we do. Thank God for little favors.
I chose these different traits to highlight for each of my grandmothers because I believe these characteristics helped mold me into the woman I am today. They were both loving, caring, strong, confident women who raised three incredible children each and doted on their grandchildren.
I miss them both, but know that they are in a better place now. I can not thank them enough for the joy they brought to my life, and the memories that I have to remind me how lucky I was to be loved by them.
Wishing you all a very Happy Mother’s Day!
Copyright © 2014 by Suzanne Purewal