When I was younger, my paternal grandmother was my sisters’, my cousins’ and my regular babysitter. Grandma Estelle’s house was always fun. Her house became our regular meeting place. She had a candy dish that was always full on arrival, which we would always make sure was empty before we left. She’d allow us to walk to the ice cream parlor or the corner market by ourselves (as long as we stuck together). She’s allow us all her clothes, smocks, and assorted colors of handkerchiefs to play dress-up in. She even bought us matching hats and purses for Easter, which is a big deal for a 7 year old. At grandma’s house, we learned that a little burned crust on a pie does not ruin it. We learned that Velveeta cheese makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches. We learned that if you leave an old fashioned curling iron (that was heated on the stove) too long in your hair, the curl would come OFF your head (meaning you’d burnt your hair off!). Grandma would let us use up all her Jean Nat’e, roller skate in the house, and paint with oil paints. Grandma would encourage us to balance on the top post of the playground, the one that would give our mother’s heart attacks if they saw us. Grandma would let us know we went too far with her generosity by yelling at us or giving us a swat, but was always quick to give us moist kisses and lots of “I love you’s”. When we got a little older, Grandma let us practice driving her car with her as passenger, even when we were nowhere old enough to even have a permit. It was only around the block, but it still felt dangerous and exciting. Us kids would give her a hell of a time! She wondered why all the music we listened to was so angry. She said it sounded like they were all screaming, not at all like the music she listened to. She’d constantly be humming songs like “Moon River” or “Pennies From Heaven”. She also had tons of rhymes that she would repeat. If we told her to tell us a story, she’d sing:
Tell me a story, tell me a story,
tell me a story, before I go to bed.
Tell me about the birds and bees,
and how you make the chicken sneeze (achoo!).
Tell me a story, before I go to bed.
(Ouch, my seats all red!)
And another rhyme she had sounded like an old advertisement, and I always pictured a baby popping out of a tea canister. To this day, I think of it whenever I see that Anne Geddes picture of a rose and a baby in it.
This is the day we give babies away
With a half a pound of tea
You just open the lid, and out pops the kid
With a twelve month guarantee.
My grandma’s not doing so well now. She is in the emergency room right now having tests run on her to see if she had a stroke. She isn’t opening her eyes, won’t respond to anyone, she won’t wake up. Her health has been declining rapidly for months, and she’s gone really downhill this past month. I expect this is her last week here on earth, and I don’t think I’m going to be able to see her before she passes. She lives about 4 hours away in Sonora. I’m greatful that I got to see her last month, and was able to kiss her goodbye. She told me she loved me, even though I don’t think she knew who I was. I’m going to miss her, but I have some very wonderful memories of my Grandma Estelle.