My grandma was my favorite person in the world. She really was. She wore pearls to the grocery store, and drank Vodka Gimlets on a daily basis. (But never EVER to the point of anything that would of caused her to become drunk. Because the theme of her life? Was control.) Grandma went to Cornell during a time when women went to school for their MRS degree. In fact, her own mother gave her a name to correspond with the initials of MRS, so that she would (hopefully) feel the pressure to get married and get married well as soon as possible.
The minute she would, she dropped her middle name and made her maiden name her middle, thus wrecking her mother’s carefully schemed monogram.
I was lucky. I got to spend a lot of time with my grandma. After my grandfather died, she visited us at least three times a year, and I had no problems flying across country to see her. The Thanksgiving before she died, D. and I went to the Midwest to spend a few days with her. The first night we were there, she decided to have her usual drink–a Vodka Gimlet–paired with her heart medicines. She got a little (read: a lot) woozy, and I remember watching her push her walker out of the nice restaurant we were at. D. asked her if she needed help, and she snapped, “I can do it myself”. The ice was thick, and I was praying to Gd that she would be okay. She suddenly turned around and flashed that killer smile of hers to him. “Does the gentlemen care to escort a lady to the car?” Even now, I can hear her laugh.
When she died, we all (we being her children and grandkids) went a little nuts. In addition to gaining ten pounds in two weeks and crying in the grocery store upon the sight of anything that could remind me of her, I had the hardest time parting with her clothes. You see, she had several “wardrobes”. There were her “work” clothes, for when she volunteered at the senator’s office. She was always in a suit, as gorgeous as the day she met my grandfather. She had her “inside” clothes, which was her robe that she wore over her pajamas (she always referred to the kitchen, where she would make us our bedtime snacks as inside”), and finally her “kids” clothes. Until she died when I was 27, she had her everyday clothes from places like Talbots that were meant to be “rough and tough”. She could put them on with her little tennis shoes and we could go for a walk, or to the grocery store, or to the mall. When she was wearing them, it meant business. It meant that she was in GRANDMA mode, and she was going to spend her time on you, and no one else. When someone is still the head of 4 organizations at 82, that means a lot. I can remember being at restaurants and people coming up, and hugging her, and thanking her for things. She would be gracious, but then when they would walk away, I would say, “Who is that?” to which she would reply through gritted teeth “I have no idea”.
I couldn’t part with her “kids” clothes. They just reminded me too much of the times when she would take us to the zoo, or when she would realize that as “divorced” kids, we would need help buying a Mother’s Day gift, or something, so we would go on secret missions. I have been sitting with the shirts for 2 and a half years, not sure what to do. I know if I tried to sew something, the results would be DISASTROUS.
A few weeks ago, I asked my friend Leslie to help me with a quilt. And she agreed! So I have been driving around with a box of shirts in my car. Like a homeless person, my car is stuffed to the brim with wedding gifts, unopened mail, dog food in bags…it is not pretty. Today, I finally got to FedEx. In line, I was holding a few of the shirts, and crying a little. I know I will get them back, it was just having something of hers in my hand and feeling nostalgic. As I was labelling the box, the lady said, “The date is July 29th”. I smiled, paid for the shipping, and went outside.
It is her birthday. And I realized…I just got to go on another mission in her “kid” clothes.