broadsideblog

Still Missing Granny

In family, life, love, women, politics on December 10, 2011 at 1:56 am
Granny (Looney Tunes)

Image via Wikipedia

Anyone who reads this blog knows my family is…let’s say, not terribly close.

Lots of drama and strife. For decades. But there’s one person I always miss.

My grandmother, my mom’s mother Aline, was born on December 10 and died in 1975. That’s a long time ago, but I still miss her.

She was decidedly not a conventional granny. She didn’t cook or bake cookies or crochet or do anything vaguely domestic. She was imperious, bossy, drank, cursed and forced me — even at 16 — to start figuring out my own opinions about things and defending them. Not a bad role model.

She inherited an insane amount of money and ran through most of it: jewels, gorgeous homes, great antiques, traveled only by limousine. Not a lifestyle I’ve ever seen up close since then, but fun to be around and gave me a great taste (God help me!) for elegance and luxury.

Nor did she bother to pay taxes to any government for decades, so most of her stuff got sold. Responsibility was clearly not her strong suit.

I still own, and treasure, a gold chain and charm she gave me when I was 15, as much because it came from her as because, when it comes to inheriting anything she owned…that’s it! One of her armoires is now in a Toronto museum, so I can visit a piece of her furniture.

She was hell on her own daughter, my mother, and married six (eight?) times, including twice to my Mom’s father. She packed my mother off to prep school, who then married at 17 to flee the madness of it all, moving north to Vancouver from New York with her Canadian husband, my father. (My mother did not enjoy being her mother’s child; like me, she was always much closer to her maternal grandmother than to her own mother.)

But, for me, Granny was kind, generous, reliably loving,  fun and funny. Christmas was a riot of presents and parties. We ate goose for Christmas dinner, which I loved. She had gay male friends, her jeweler and his partner, who taught me very early that stylish people come in all genders and sexual preferences.

She had little dogs — poodles or Yorkies. She used a gold-topped cane. She was (as I am — in her memory?) addicted to Jeopardy. She wore custom-made raw silk muumuus and turbans topped with enormous jeweled brooches. Grandes dames ‘r us!

She used to have me over on the weekends from my boarding school and dinner was usually a TV dinner I could eat in front of the television — both were luxuries unavailable at school. I used to fall asleep in my armchair, fed and loved, and felt comfort in that before returning to a week filled with bells and rules and strict, dull housemothers wielding lists.

I still miss her.

  1. Your family stories feel so familiar to me and while not identical to mine, they certainly share some common themes. I expect that your family, like mine, contain enough material to craft a drama of Shakespearian proportions.

  2. I recently read a wonderful memoir by Molly McCloskey called “Circles Around the Sun”. The story is woven around her brother’s schizophrenia and is absolutely beautifully told. But really there are so many fulcrums about which a family’s tale could be spun. I’d love to write my family’s story too, but it’s a piece of writing I would keep to myself, maybe to ‘ourselves’. It would feel strange to put them all between covers. You wrote beautifully about your grandmother.

  3. Thanks, Kate! It’s a very tricky thing to write about family, honestly. I included some anecdotes about my (still living, prickly) Dad in “Malled” and was quite nervous about how he’d take that exposure — which I did not warn him about. He was fine with it.

    To write the very real stories about our family (four kids, four women, to start with) will annoy and alienate some of them so I have to wait.

  4. I would have liked to have known her.

  5. Granny sounded like a lot of fun! I miss my paternal grandfather; I was closer to him than my paternal grandmother. My grandfather was very smart for only having an 11th grade education. When he spoke, I would strain my neck so I could hear and listen to what he had to say. My mom liked speaking with him as well. His birthday is December 16; he died in 1983.

    My favorite memory of him is my sixth-grade project that I had to do on one of my grandparents. It was a ‘family history’ type of project and I chose my grandfather. I remember him telling me to ask my grandmother; I don’t think he wanted to remember his childhood (not that great). He came through and my teacher was most impressed with my project. Thanks to grandpa, I got an A+!

    • I think our grandparents have some amazing stories to tell…it’s getting the time and place to hear them. It’s very cool that you interviewed him so well when you were so young.

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