I wanted to share a few stories about my grandmother, my Nana. I’ve been thinking all week about what I should say … what would be the best way to describe the person she was to me. I spent so much of my childhood at her house, whether it was after school or for dinner, or just for fun.
I have so many memories. The smell of meatballs simmering in her homemade sugo. Helping her hang clothes and sheets on the clothesline in her backyard. Picking grapefruit with her from the many trees in the backyard. Then helping her squeeze the grapefruit into a bunch of juice. Juice that I never liked but she and my grandfather did. And so did my dad. She taught me clean bathrooms. I specifically remember her showing me how to clean a toilet. After doing it a few times I decided it really wasn’t that much fun. She had a process for everything, very meticulous in her work, whether it was cooking & cleaning, or knitting & crocheting. Her house was always in order. But it was also a very comfortable place – I always felt at home there. Because her house was my home away from home.
My grandparents lived a very frugal life. They grew up during the depression, so they were raised to be very cautious with money, and to save as much as they could. From an early age they started to teach me about the value of earning money. I remember being 7 or 8 years old when Nana taught me how to iron handkerchiefs and pillow cases. I earned 5 cents for each handkerchief and 10 cents for each pillow case. I saved up my nickels and dimes, and I remember going to Smitty’s with her to buy a Slip N Slide. $13 worth of nicely ironed handkerchiefs & pillow cases, with a few clean toilets for good measure.
She was also very generous. With her time, her home, her love. Some might say she and my grandfather spoiled me. But that’s a grandparent’s job, and she did it well. I remember wanting a pair of ballet shoes, toe shoes. Not because I had taken any sort of ballet class, but because I thought they would be fun to play with. She took me to a dance store, I tried on some pink toe shoes, and Nana bought them. I was so excited to play with them when I got back to her house. I tried them on & pranced around awkwardly for a few minutes. Then my mom found out. And that was the end of the toe shoes.
I remember telling people the story of when she was born. When I was a kid I would tell my friends, “She was so small at birth that her grandmother wrapped her up, put her in a shoebox and put her in the oven.” Apparently the details were lost in translation for my version of the story, and while my great-great grandmother DID wrap her up and put her in a shoebox, she put her NEXT to the oven, not in it. Nana was tiny, though. Small in stature but one of the strongest women I have known. She endured a life of multiple hardships. Growing up through the depression, experiencing a period in history when women had limited rights and were most certainly valued less then men. She worked hard, contributed financially to her family, earned a solid living. She married my grandfather in 1943, gave birth to my mother in 1948, and created a warm and loving home for her entire family throughout the years that followed. I am so thankful for the childhood she gave me. Grateful for the many things she taught me, and most certainly grateful for the love and devotion she shared with our family. Nana will always hold a special place in my heart, and I know that she is now at peace.