MamaBlogger365 – Holiday Memories: “Kitty” and Grandmothers by Donna Scrima-Black

Excerpt from MommyBest: 13 Inspirational Lessons… Lesson + Memoir + Reader Reflection = Ways to be your MommyBest!

Very rapidly, mothers ripen into glorious grandmothers who leave indelible imprints on both their children’s and their grandchildren’s lives.

I gleefully watch from the sidelines, letting “Granny Lynn” become mere putty in my children’s tiny, adoring hands. As she spoils my sons. I often tease and question why I didn’t get this “VIP treatment” while I was growing-up?

I believe one of Life’s great blessings is: A grandma who always has an extra stash of cookies she dotingly saves, eagerly awaiting her grandchildren’s visits. Be prepared to see your own mother transform into a grandmother and journey with your children in wondrous ways!

Holiday Memories

“Kitty” and Grandmothers

My mother, now in her sixties, loves being a grandma. After hundreds of requests from my children, she recently agreed to stay overnight. My toddler sons were so excited to have their “Grandma Lynn” to themselves so she could play with them, and especially, read a bedtime story. They heartily laughed when my mother was unable to decipher some of the words without her reading glasses on. Both boys eagerly found her spectacles after digging like dogs through her immense and cluttered purse.

But, the biggest hysteria came when they saw their grandma clad in her brightly colored, ruffled pajamas—accented by my father’s black socks. After lots more giggling and snuggling, Grandma tucked them in with a promise of “more fun tomorrow.”

I was awakened very early the next morning by the sounds of scurrying footsteps and loud whispers — which are my spirited children’s attempts to be “quiet.” I went to see what all the commotion was and found my two sons hanging over our guest bed, their heads downward, pressed very close to my mother’s face. Their hands were covering their mouths, in an attempt to contain their laughter. Grandma Lynn was making a good amount of noise snoring, although she calls it “heavy breathing.” Her eyes were half-open—until she jolted up when I joined my sons in their amusement.

“The kids were in here earlier this morning. I must have dozed off again,” my mom groggily shared. It was 6:30 a.m. by the time I arrived, so I reprimanded my sons for going into what had now be called, “grandma’s room.” Both boys explained they had come back for a second visit because they were very interested in seeing “Grandma’s teeth again.” My mother was mortified when she learned my two son’s return to her guest room was in response to their discovery of her false teeth, sitting in a glass of water beside the bed. My mother is old-fashioned and very private about what she considers “personal,” and her teeth or lack thereof falls into this category. Thankfully, after seeing and hearing our laughter, Grandma joined in, now jokingly sliding her teeth in and out of her mouth in a rhythmic pace.

The jesting continued as my sons observed and dissected the contents in the glass as if they were investigating a science experiment. The direct and innocent questions about “where did her real teeth go,” “how did she get her teeth out of her mouth if they were glued inside?” were wondrous. My younger, mathematically-inclined son wanted to know if the entire set of teeth cost “more than $100” or did Grandma have to “buy one at a time.” The scenario ended with my mother joyfully smiling while hugging my sons — sporting a full set of gums.

I’m often able to use Grandma’s teeth to further instruct my children on the importance of taking care of their pearly whites when they complain, as they sometimes do, I make them brush their teeth too much. As I watched from the “sidelines,” I saw my two boys wondrously playing games starting with “Go Fish” before dragging Grandma outside, tossing a moving basketball to her before returning for a snack inside. Each boy vied for her attention and she didn’t disappoint them, bouncing from one activity to the next… until I reminded them Grandma Lynn needed a rest. I could tell my mom was exhausted, yet enamored by all the attention my sons showered her with.

While I continued to watch my boys snuggle with my mom, I knew “Grandma Lynn” would be one of the most important people in their lives; I began to reminisce about my own grandma’s visits as a child and how special those moments were, and continue to be, for me.

“Kitty” was a nickname we teasingly called my grandmother as a shortened version of her name: Catherine. The nickname was very fitting because she was playful and youthful like a kitten. She and my grandfather, a New York City Police Officer, had six children. My grandfather died early, at the age of fifty, leaving my grandmother with some very challenging times ahead of her. One of her first challenges, which she enlisted the help of my father, was learning to drive.

It wasn’t long before she was on the road, now able to commute to her new job as a secretary in a religious high school, as well as visit her family scattered throughout the Northeast. Sometimes when Grandma came, we’d be playing out side with friends as her car passed by. All of us raced home to greet her and taste one of the many delectable cakes and cookies she always brought fresh from, as my mother would say, “the best bakeries in the Bronx.”

My friends, upon meeting her, often thought she was an aunt because she didn’t look old enough to be a grandma. She probably would attribute her youthful glow to her meticulous hygiene rituals. Whenever Grandma slept over, she would systematically wake early by 5:30a.m., dutifully cleanse her face with a handful of cold cream and rinse it off. Next, she would turn her head downside and frantically tease her jet-black hair, before swooping and pinning it into a high and tight twist.

Once her grooming was complete we would find her, usually with eyes half-closed, sitting on the living room couch waiting for everyone else to wake-up. She’d often stay a few days doing our favorite things—shopping, talking and eating — before she returned to her own home. After years of living in the four-bedroom Colonial in Mount Vernon, Westchester, with her youngest daughter (my aunt), they were confronted by robbers one evening after returning home from work. Boldly and brazenly, Grandma ran after them as they took fleet!

Worried about Grandma’s safety, my mother had invited her to live with us, as did some of her other children. But, she confided in me she wanted to be independent and not become a burden to her children. Instead, Grandma decided to sell her house and downsize to an apartment. I was sad when the house that represented some of my earliest Christmas memories was sold. Grandma’s house sat high above an incline with an entourage of trees; ironically, most were Christmas evergreen. I vaguely recall an enclosed porch with tiny glass windows. It was on this porch I sat in front of an organ, slamming its keyboard, pretending to be on-stage.

I can still sense the aroma of home cooking from visits I had, and I especially remember eating the best homemade macaroni and cheese I have ever tasted. As a child, I was scared of the cellar that housed the infamous “cat of nine tails” my grandmother teasingly threatened she would have to take out if we didn’t behave well.

Also scary to me as a youngster was a recurring dream I had about roller skating at an uncontrollably fast pace down the house’s precipitous driveway, into oncoming traffic and ultimately down under into a sewer drain gate. On my way down, deeper into darkness, I would abruptly wake-up with heart-racing palpitations.

But the most lasting impressions that still remain with me are those from one Christmas gathering I recall: All Grandma’s children and grandchildren were scattered throughout the living room laughing, munching and eagerly awaiting Grandma’s cue to sit down for present opening. Grandma enthusiastically put her glasses on before selecting one from many piles of gifts. Once each name on the gift tag was read, the recipient raced to the front of the room and back to his/her place before tearing open their prize.

Every gift I received from my grandmother was wonderful because I felt — even as young as I was — she had spent much time and consideration in her selection, personalizing each present. Her gifts became even more meaningful as I grew older and appreciated their sentimental value.

It was during this one Christmas celebration when Grandma gave me a ceramic figurine of “Snow White” with a matching watch clasped at the bottom of its dress; I was enthralled! I wore the watch around my wrist and carefully took it off when I showered and slept. I put the “Snow White” statuette atop a shelf across from my bed so I could see her before I went to sleep each night.

Following Christmas that year, Grandma moved to a quaint, one-bedroom apartment in Park Chester, NY. It was then when different Christmas traditions started and my grandmother earned a new nickname: “Rudolph.” Each Christmas season, she traveled to her six children’s homes. Her car was the sleigh she maneuvered across the Northeast.

Like the Christmases we celebrated at her home, we continued to eat lots of food and desserts; we started our own tradition: each child in our family took a turn sitting in a designated chair to open presents while we all watched in anticipation. It was as much fun to give as it was to receive.

Like a little kid, Grandma’s eyes widened as each gift was opened.

During one visit, there was an “Elvis Presley” marathon of movies on television. My grandmother and I, both adoring fans, watched in delight. As the evening progressed, I noticed my grandmother sitting on the couch, eyes closed with head slightly tilted. I could hear her breathing heavily (as my mother does when she sleeps). “Go to bed, Grandma,” I called across the room. When she didn’t answer, I giggled and repeated, “Go to bed, Grandma, you’ve been up since 5:30 this morning. “NOOOoo,”Grandma wailed, as she flung her head upright and lifted her feet from the floor, vertically moving her legs in a scissor-like motion: “I want to watch Elvis,” she demanded!

I could not argue with—nor could I ever forget — the endearing and child-like protests she made! My grandmother died the following year, on December 7, 1980, two and a half weeks before Christmas. My family was deeply saddened by her sudden death.

We longed for a holiday visit from her.

To our surprise, my aunt delivered presents Grandma had purchased before her death. I felt as if Grandma was watching me as I opened them. Her spirit was with us that year and remains with us—especially during the holiday season. I often feel as if she is bestowing gifts upon us and guiding our way with her light. Sometimes, when I wake up in the early morning — when it’s still dark out — I feel as if she is sitting on my sofa, waiting for my family to wake-up. “Snow White” continues to sit high, atop a shelf overlooking my bedroom. The figurine, with its jet-black hair (the color of my grandmas’) has aged: some of its smoother surfaces scratched; some of its vibrant color faded.

Yet, like my grandmother, she has matured with dignity and grace, while possessing a beauty that transcends time. Both Grandma and Snow White represent magical figures in my life and cherished moments from my childhood moments that become dearer with each visit and every holiday my children share with their “Grandma Lynn.”

Reader Reflection

• What’s your most powerful memory of your grandmother?
• How has your relationship with your own mother changed now that she’s a grandmother?
• What’s her relationship with your children like, and what do you cherish about it?

Bio: “MommyBest is my way of sharing 13 inspirational lessons I learned during the first five years as the CEO of our family. Following each lesson is a poignant memoir, along with a reflection page, inviting each of you to respond and ultimately create your own family memoir to treasure…always. We’re all trying to achieve our MommyBest and will by following our unique path, ultimately making choices that reflect who we really are at any given moment in our lives.” For more information, visit http://mommybestbook.com/.

 

 

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