I was fortunate to know both of my grandmothers as I was growing up. But one, my maternal grandmother, was very special and left an indelible mark on me. She lived on “The Grand Concourse,” two bus rides away, and I saw her at least once a week. We went shopping together, took walks together, and just had some warm and wonderful times together.
She lived in an apartment, always inviting and comfortable. The wooden kitchen table was never empty. By day it was floured and ready for noodle and pie making. By night it was our dinner table, laden with all the homemade Polish and Russian delicacies she created. The kitchen windowsill brimmed over with seedlings and plants she grew from the seeds of the fruit we consumed. Nothing was wasted in Grandma’s house.
Friday was bill paying day. I took her checkbook to each establishment and write the checks, which she signed in her fashion. She spoke English beautifully, but with an accent. She could read multiple European languages, but having arrived in the U.S. in her min-teens, never mastered the art of reading or writing English. “Oh Leslie, I forgot my glasses,” she would exclaim, as I wrote out each check. The charade would fool no one, but maintained her own sense of dignity.
When I slept over, I joined my grandparents in bed. There was nowhere else to sleep, and this was the European, or peasant, way of doing things; always room for one more. I loved it.
Every summer Grandma “beat the law” a bit: she grew morning glories, glorious morning glories, on her fire escape. This occasioned a visit from members of the local fire department, who informed her that this was dangerous and illegal. She would bring the plants in, as ordered, and as soon as the left, put them out again. They never returned; the annual “requisite” visit and warning having been made. What good would have come to pursuing a harmless old lady beautifying her life and those of others?!
And so, now I am a grandmother. Unfortunately, geography and health have kept me at a distance from my grandchildren. I nevertheless – or all the more – relish their phone calls and anticipate their visits. And, undoubtedly, someday, just someday, they too will enjoy the glories of grandparenthood.