once again, i wish all the mothers out there a special and warm, heart-felt, sincere
no matter what the circumstances of it is for you personally,
i know we all have issues.
and i still wish you the best.
my maternal grandmother hannah,
was considered the most self-involved woman to ever exist.
i say, she just did not suffer uninteresting people well.
to me, she was the best and most favorite of all of my 4 living grandmothers.
yes, i had a large number of grandmothers.
she was well educated, in a single sex college.
she graduated from a women's college (Hunter College)
to attain a secondary degree in Music.
she took her masters degree and taught her music to kids in Harlem
in the earlier part of the 20th century.
at some time she split her time between teaching and later sewing.
the family story is that she made dolls to entice me into their charms.
it did not work in the manner desired.
i was to fall in love with the little high-end, hand-crafted, hand stuffed dolls.
these little 18 inch long gals with blonde hair, black hair, red hair and brown...
were to entice me into the joys of conventional girlie type of playing.
what they did instead was teach me to be ultra precise as both a seamstress
and an embroiderer.
yep, i was seduced not by the play intended, but by the joy of embroidery.
hannah would be encouraged to entertain me over my school breaks by my mom.
i went to her with more joy than i went to any other grandmother.
she had a house that was filled with stuff i could not get enough of.
not the musical stuff, but the fabrics.
and the trims.
and the eaves of her home,
which adjoined her bedroom replete with t.v. and fainting couch
as well as her miraculously busy fabric filled sewing room.
i am so worried these days.
at least one time a week, i have a deeply detailed dream that incorporates her home
and vacations spent with her and my grandfather, Bumpy.
i am still so many years later,
able to draw the floor plan of all the rooms in her home.
i spent hours there.
playing on the landing under a large dormer on a space off of the stairs.
her closet was built under another dormer.
it was filled with magical fabrics that could entice
ali baba and the forty thieves.
i loved it there.
not everything needed to be utilized.
simply stroking rolls of silks that were shot with metallic threads.
an indian princess would be thrilled to visit and create from these.
instead, i got to admire them with clean hands.
it was truly magical.
yes, i was trained to sew on the machines when i was in 6th grade.
my grandmother and mom shared the cost of a brand new singer sewing machine for me.
i still use it today.
not as faithfully of course,
but we understand one another.
i spent many hours threading my own fabrics through her presser foot and
have created many things for both home and body.
still hannah had her issues.
no one in her family thought that she was at all kind or generous
... and she was unfailingly so.
i learned a lot from her.
and miss her so very often these days.
she was my mother's mother.
it was thorny and weird.
i am glad i got the benefits of what redemptive mothering she picked up along the way.
she was a crap mother to her own kids.
and as those things go,
they were seeds that returned the favors in kind.
this is water under the bridge.
i keep telling myself this.
someday, it will not be of any matter anymore.
i have my fingers crossed.
my other grandmothers are
really striking women in all of their own ways.
Helen was my mother's father's second wife.
the one after he and hannah divorced.
she was treated as an outsider grandmother.
we never let her particularly near.
it must have seared her heart.
she of course in that chicken and egg ironic relationship, was rather bitchy.
after a while she and hannah could eat thanksgiving dinner together and
introduce themselves to other guests as friends.
my mother spent time gasping and hiccuping the first time this happened.
it was so peculiar to see them in different light after decades of
back-biting and in-fighting.
helen was a second time bride, for my grandfather(poppy).
she had served in WWII as a WAK(i think??).
she worked in a NYC hospital, as a professional dietician for decades.
she had the same haircut always, made fashionable by a pair of cuticle scissors.
these were always on hand... just to keep from spending a buck she didn't need to.
educated, surviving the BIG depression, funny, snarly, set into her ways,
and charming in ways i never appreciated.
at least until it became late.
was one of the women my eldest daughter was named for.
she was a baker by profession.
i tried to do a mapping for an elementary school project with her help.
a really long time ago.
i needed to find out as many family ties and places of origin as i could.
nobody knew where she really came from.
she and her husband, Sam had emigrated from europe.
we are jewish stock and the religious component may change,
but over wartimes and other issues of geo-politics, borders changed all the time.
emma was my father's grandmother.
like i said, she came from europe with her husband whom i only lightly remember.
she bought a bakery when she was 65, just when folks would be retiring.
she ran it for a few years and sold it.
it was in Flushing, NY... Queens that is.
my grandmother found the new owners ran her prize business so poorly,
that she bought it back from them.
i think she must have been in her 70's around then.
she ran this business until she was in her mid-80's.
by the point of her retirement, my own parents had divorced by then.
she was kind enough and foolish to trust me with silver boxes wrapped with baker's twine.
inside of these were her butter cookies.
spritz cookies to be exact.
they melted in your mouth and were heavenly.
dragees, minced candies, sprinkles...
so much buttery goodness.
they never got shared with my mother whom i was supposed to be returning them to.
i still have some guilt about that... but not enough to truly confess to my mom about.
emma was a straight shooter.
even if my own father, her only grandson, was an utter boob... she would not forget my mother.
my greed for her great skills and tender cookies probably screwed things up a lot.
i am sorry for this.
still you would not fault me one whit if you had tasted any of her food.
over the years folks have asked me how i got to be such a good cook.
i know it was a myriad of dna crashing together in epic fights...
allowing me to be her god-given heiress to the love of butter and
fingers to treat flour with tender care as it required.
i learned what a real strudel should look like...
and i was able to read a newspaper through the stretched dough as the family always bragged about when describing her skills with it.
my actually making it, came out of my explorations within the pages of early
JOY OF COOKING
how could you doubt one's skill,
when you could read the recipe,
compose the dough,
stretch it as thinly as grandma did,
fill it with tasty sliced and spiced apples on top of a freshly laundered tablecloth...
then tip the cloth to let the dough slowly roll up on itself and into a log shape?
how could it be that anyone who had this gene bloc
could miss out on this culinary thrill and not revere the woman
who gifted it to you?
you just could not.
as a side note, she also kept big carp in her bathtub on fridays...
preparing them for saturday's big meal.
it always featured gefilte fish and a little fishy aspic.
this took me a very long time to accept.
i never could eat anything that shook... except jello.
as a small concession to her aging and preparing meals to feed a small army
(eating guests numbered into the teens),
eventually the gefilte and horseradish came from jars.
still she was 85 then.
the final of the 4 grandmothers was MAGGIE, aka Margaret.
she was a lot like Marge Simpson.
her hair was high, and her voice low and gravelly.
she was the prima donna of all family festivals.
she had her hair all dolled up, sporting the special coif of the age.
her nails were done.
she had lipstick to match the nails .
she seemed to have what i now think of as disposable income.
her particular thing was her husband was a professional musician.
grandpa benny played coronet in the NBC Toscannini Orchestra.
i say this as if i should know something more about it.
never have i held the remotest interest.
(maybe i will google it tonight?)
maggie traveled with her husband and left her two kids to the charges of many nannies.
thus explaining a little about how they too became what we now call
maggie was emma's daughter.
she was my father's mother.
it all comes into focus... like vaseline on jelly jar glasses.
it was a clash of DNA titans when all this stuff tried to settle down.
needless to say, it was also in my blood by this time.
so i was reared not only by my very screwy parents, but their parents also.
each of them weighed in somehow.
there were really great parts of all of their contributions.
i have glossed over them briefly.
thank the heavens,
that i have a sense of humor to accompany
my bitter disappointments,
and many quirk-filled life experiences.
it is with this stringy quagmire, i come to mother my own brood.
so many lessons before me, so many to share with my kids and husband.
it has been a significantly different time for these 3 wily precious critters.
they have had no grandmotherly experience to contend with.
i assure them that it is for the best.
their father's family is also not part of our little unit.
so we stumble along...
happily enough in each other's company.
en masse, it is a real laugh riot.
and it is what a family can be.
i do love it.
just thought i should share that.
some days, i consider that perhaps, i breast fed those manimals for too long.
they are smarter than i am and harder to keep an edge on...
after all that great brain growing stuff from the breast milk.
i have been out of my depth since day one...
but i am gonna keep at it until i can't any longer.
motherhood is a job you really have to fuck up to not stay in it.
i still feel pretty good about it all.
that can change with the winds of course.
or as i like to think of it now,
graham's second year at college.
today, i wanted to see if i could make a lot of bracelets.
i tried. i made 10.
there were enough distractions.
i got hungry.
i needed coffee.
my neighbor's house needed a window boarded up.
i needed a nap.
you get the picture.
slightly that of a cranky toddler just getting a second wind.
here you go:
i fade therefore i am... so farewell for tonight. xoxo.w.