Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Homage to the Deceased Matriarch or Roast the Ghost

In honor of my deceased grandmother's recent 90th birthday, I'd thought I'd share some of her words of wisdom.

Meme 'isms' (truisms is stretching it a bit, besides stealing from Jenny Holzer. However I admit to believing ALL of her isms as a child)
1. If you stick your tongue out, a crow will come and PECK it off
2. Children should be seen and NOT heard
3. It's just as easy to marry a rich man as a poor man
4. The proper china and silver pattern will determine future happiness
5. It's important to decorate your home for every holiday (apparently your husband will respect and love you more)
6. That's not mold, it's penicillin. It's good for you. 

Those that know me, know that I stick out my tongue at every opportune moment as well as speak my mind, even when it gets me into trouble. As a teenager, I adopted the retort--I don't have to  marry rich, I'm going to BE rich. (Which I had to later recant when getting a job in academia-ha ha) I did get married, but didn't have a wedding, so was spared the agony of choosing a china and silver pattern, much to the profound dismay of my grandmother. My motto--if it can't go into the dishwasher, I don't want it. The only holiday I decorate for is Halloween--the creepier, the better. 

It would be improper to speak ill of the deceased, especially the family matriarch. (She might send a crow to peck out my tongue) So think of this not as a ghost roast, but sharing a few 'vivid' memories from my childhood and beyond. 

1. My grandmother was a product of the Depression, so learned to be frugal and saved everything. a.k.a packrat. One summer, my cousin and I had the pleasure of riding in the car with my grandparents from Dallas, Texas to the Florida Panhandle and back. The station wagon was packed floor to ceiling (and roof) with suitcases and assorted essentials, such as her sewing machine, which always dangled precariously from the roof. My cousin and I were wedged in the backseat with no room to move, suitcase separating us. Air conditioning must not have been invented yet. Ever the practical one, my grandmother spared us from eating in restaurants, instead serving us such delectable delights as vienna sausages and pimento cheese sandwiches, washed down with a swig of TANG. (When I made a face, she said that TANG was what astronauts drank). When we were bored, she made us sing bible and camp songs. The way home was especially fun, because we had to share the already crowded backseat with all the decaying 'sea creatures' my grandmother had collected at the beach. Horseshoe crabs, sanddollars, starfish and conch shells. Imagine trying to eat pimento cheese with the odiferous stench of death and exhaust permeating the entire car.

2. Meme's most creative drink concoction--grape juice and milk. 

3. My grandmother's house was an assemblage artist's wet dream. She saved EVERYTHING. Did you know that you can re-use the same teabag for at least a month? 50 years of newspapers were stacked floor to ceiling. I could always count on finding candy in every room, but it was a trick to find some that wouldn't break your teeth. She had closets full of flowered bathing caps, colorful polyester dresses and furs with the animal heads still attached. The refrigerator was always filled with the most colorful penicillin I've ever seen. Unfortunately, I was not yet evolved into my postmodern artistic sensibility, thus was unable to appreciate the abundant treasure trove. 

4. My favorite story involves resourcefulness and death. I think Meme was in her early 70's when she discovered a possum (texas spelling) eating her garden. Now most people would call animal control and have the possum removed. Not my grandmother. She built a cage to trap the possum. After she trapped it, she devised a ingenious plan for its demise. She did not shoot it or poison it. Nor did she want to risk it returning to her garden. She attached a garden hose to her car's tail pipe and pumped the possum full of carbon monoxide. My sweet little 'ol bird-loving grandmother GASSED it to death. 

5. Later in life, afflicted with severe dementia, she was convinced that everyone was stealing everything from her. It didn't matter that her accusations were unfounded or ridiculous. This behavior did not endear her to the staff at her nursing home. My favorite story was when she accused my brother-in-law of stealing her underwear. She threatened to disown him if he didn't return it. Meme--why would anyone want to steal your used, old lady underwear? Reasoning was useless. She went to her grave convinced that my brother-in-law was a no good underwear-stealing thief. 

1 comment:

  1. Good old Grandma. Funny how attached people are to stuff - underwear- that is one I did not hear. Thankfully she knows better now and surely hopes we all keep our sense of humor. I ran over (with my car) mice caught in my attic. They were on the sticky sheets and I did not want them starving to death. Chocolate milk? Grape milk? That is a good one. Mind if I market it? Your last car ride seems preferable that the one to Fla. with Grandma and Grandpa. I feel sick just thinking about what you had to eat. Halloween is great. When we moved to Jax we got rid of a lot, but look forward to getting new exciting stuff in a house and decorating. Amazing all the good stuff available for the holiday these days. Thanks for sharing.