Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Grinch

We call my mom's mom "Grinchy" instead of "Grandma." She goes by "the Grinch" for short. She chose the nickname after my older brother was born, I suppose to distinguish herself from my other grandma. The Grinch turned 66 yesterday.

On most days, my brother and I left elementary school with Grinchy, who would watch us until my mom got done teaching for the day. Grinchy kind of spoiled us, but just enough, per the Great Grandmother Guidebook. She's the grandparent I'm closest to.

When we were really young, and my mom was waitressing at some snazzy restaurant by night and getting her Master's by day, Grinchy worked as a bartender at the same restaurant. Sometimes I got to sit at the bar and drink Shirley Temples.

Later, Grinchy started a business, selling these painted plaques, many of them Irish-themed. She goes around to craft fairs and Irish fests for much of the year. Example: this plaque I stole from my mom, about 10" x 14", featuring shamrocks and calligraphy-like text:

Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.

It's a Yeats quotation, I think, though I've seen it attributed to others, too.

Grinchy harbors no illusions about this art. She studied at Chicago's Art Institute for awhile. She'll tell you it's kitschy, and she wouldn't do it were she a millionaire. But it pays the bills. And at least she gets to paint.

Recently, she's gotten back into doing oils. Mostly of the Irish countryside, based on photos she's taken in her many trips to Ireland. She often says she'd like to take me with her on one of her trips. It hasn't happened yet, but there's still time.

Grinchy drinks a lot of coffee. At home, she uses a percolator and swears by it. The secret? She shakes a bit of salt in with the grounds right before brewing. Go figure.

She also insists on Scrabble at every family gathering. Last time, I won. She declared, "Fuck." (Grinchy rules.)

Once, about two years ago, she and I sat at a diner in Richmond, drinking coffee while she told me all these amazing stories about our family going back years and years. My favorite was one about some great-great-etc.-grandmother who had an affair with an Irish racecar driver. She ended up having a child with the racecar driver (the husband was away for more than a year), and then later covered it up, claiming adoption. I like these stories because Grinchy tells them without judgment. She just laughs and keeps on narrating. It's really, really great.

After that afternoon, I promised I'd get a voice recorder and record anecdotes from all four of my grandparents. I really should get on this one.


Blogger maiaoming said...

What a fun, charming profile. I really enjoyed this. I wish I had a Grinch in my life!

9/11/06 9:15 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Wow, all 4 of your grandparents are still alive? You're lucky.

9/11/06 9:42 AM  
Blogger t(h)om said...

if Grinchy was really Irish, she would have said "feck."

all my irish grandmother does is complain about being old. but she is 84 so i guess i should give the old gee a break. we've had a few good times with a bottle of tullymore dew on christmas eve, though.

all in all, great story, Stan!

9/11/06 11:00 AM  
Blogger Stanley said...

Thanks, everyone. And yes, Andrea, I'm very lucky, though in a turn of bad luck, the day after posting this, I found out my other grandma has been checked in to the hospital. Here's to hoping she's okay (haven't been able to reach her yet today, but my dad says it's probably not a huge deal).

10/11/06 10:56 AM  

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