Sunday, March 16, 2008

Childhood Memories


Last fall, Patricia hosted a Good Granny Bad Granny contest. She is the talented illustrator of a fabulous book of the same title.

I was reluctant to enter. With my “granny” history, I wasn’t able to write anything that fit in either category. However, with Patricia’s encouragement and despite my reservations, I wrote a piece. I’m glad I did.

Here is an edited version. I think (tentatively) it is worth sharing.

Good Granny/Bad Granny

My grandmother (“Gama”) fit the definition of WASP to a “T” and was a snob of epic proportions. She could be cruel in her dismissal of others.

She was a terrible racist and intolerant of all religions but her own.

She was blatant in her favourtism regarding her children and her grandchildren. I was not one of her favourites.

She was wealthy, reveled in it and had no sense of how others lived. When I married, she offered this advice. “Live off the interest – do not touch your capital.” (Who possessed capital when newly married??)

There are more bad memories, but nothing to be gained by recounting them.

And yet….

My Gama showed me where the fairies lived in the forest by the cabin she and my grandfather owned. I believed her for I was able to see all the clues they’d left behind. What an enchanting place for a child of six.

She sat with me on the slippery, smooth rocks in the freezing cold stream by this forest – and taught me to delight in the sensations of cold, of water rushing by. And to imagine what wondrous places the water was rushing to…

When “doing lunch” with her at Simpson’s Arcadian Court at the age of seven (dressed in my black patent shoes and smocked dress) I somehow managed to twist my legs behind and through the opening at the back of the chair. I was stuck. Gama calmly raised a hand to summon a waiter to rectify the situation. Not a word was said as to my unseemly behaviour. I was grateful.

She clapped in delight when her granddaughters performed lip sync and dance routines. A gracious nod of encouragement was given if one of us happened to trip and fall. (Which I was known to do.)

She taught me to love the works of William Shakespeare.

And she was a breast cancer survivor. Which I never knew until I was an adult.


How does a child reconcile the bad with the good? They really don’t. Confusion and misunderstanding result from the mixed signals. You are taught to love your grandmother and you do, but you just don’t understand this person. And you are a little bit afraid of her.

Thank God my parents taught me what is good – taught me kindness, consideration, compassion, tolerance and how to love in a healthy manner.

Ultimately, the lesson learned is this - the world is a place of contradiction. Good and evil co-exist. And while it is imperative to recognize the difference between the two, you can love the goodness in a person despite the bad.

So Gama, in many ways you were a “Good Granny.”

And for all those wonderful memories, I thank you.

28 comments:

Attila The Mom said...

Lovely post. :-)

The Guy Who Writes This said...

Very nice post. I only got to know one of my grand parents, and she was too old to share any joy.

The Guy Who Writes This said...

While I have you here, can you share any impressions of Canadian writer Douglas Coupland?

traveler one said...

Wow... that's a very important post. I love it! You've made me think about my own grandmothers today.

Simpsons... awww yes... I also remember it well!

Cheri said...

You are someone who sees the entire glass with a clear eye, and then proclaims it half full! Brava!

Beth said...

attila:
Thanks. It was an interesting experience writing that piece.

guy:
Re: Douglas Coupland. See my post of October 17 '07 for a review of his book "The Gum Thief." I loved it! Have also read (and enjoyed) "All Families Are Psychotic" and "jPod" is on my "to read" list. I love his humour and take on life.

traveler one:
The Arcadian Court - what a treat that was! (But what possessed me to wiggle around in the chair like that?)

cheri:
What a lovely comment. So well put - and it gave me even more perspective on that relationship.

patricia said...

It was (and still is) a beautiful piece of writing. I'm very glad you wrote it.

And that photo! Priceless.

Eileen said...

Beth,
This is beautiful. It blew me away! It touched me deeply. You have made me think about my
grandmothers, especially my nana. Thank you for that. Thank you for sharing this. I love the photo.
XOXOX

oreneta said...

Ohh, I am glad you wrote that too. Strange about the recipies...I've gotten a bunch. Maybe 15? Hmmm

Mamma said...

Beth this post really spoke to me. My grandmother both loved me and yet didn't know how to at the same time. Your view helps me to reconsider my own.

Beth said...

patricia:
I'm glad you gave me the opportunity to write it - and encouraged me to do so.
(I love those crazy wiggly toes of mine!)

eileen:
Happy to share and glad the "story" touched you. (You share so much that touches me.)

oreneta:
You have 15 recipes!!?? I still have none! It must be my bad karma (or something) when it comes to cooking - I was never meant to participate in something like that. Drat.

mamma:
Writing this helped me understand my grandmother - the contradiction she was, why she frightened me when I was a child... I'm so glad if it can help you, too.

Chelsea Talks Smack said...

I loved this post and it made me really appreciate and think of all the little details about my own grandmothers.

La La said...

I love this post, too. My grandmother was a walking contradiction, and it was hard to find a place for her in my brain, much less my heart.

Love the photo of you!

Beth said...

chelsea:
I hope all those "details" were good ones.

la la:
You summarize the dilemma so well - being able to find a place in the heart and mind for those memories and feelings.

Lyn Cash said...

OOh, Beth - I love this! Great post!

Beth said...

lyn:
Thanks - I loved your most recent post, too. You have a great sense of humour! (Don't wear loose fitting pj's next time...)

Sherry ~ Cherie ~ ms. herbes de provence said...

Beautifully written Beth. And your insight, as always, is incredible. This is life at it's best and it's worst -- and finding our balance between the two.

Please don't hit me when I say you haven't changed a bit -- physically or spiritually!

Simpson's Arcadian Court -- oh my!! Memories!!!

Trish said...

Beautiful story - you have kept the lessons and memories that are good and happy, recognized the rest and let them go.

Beth said...

sherry:
I LOVE you for saying I haven't changed a bit. But we both know the blonde hair was natural back then and it ain't now.

trish:
Had I not written that piece, I probably would have held on to all those bad memories and not taken the time to remember the good.
(Lesson learned? Perhaps...)

charlotta-love said...

Aww, now I'm thinking of my grandmas. I have started writing them on a regular basis. I've kept all their responses since I don't know how long I still have with them. I think I need to write them again. Great post!

Gary said...

Very nice. And yes, we're complex creatures aren't we?

Beth said...

charlotta-love:
I'm assuming you actually write those letters - the good old fashioned way. It's becoming such a lost art (and pleasure).

gary:
Yes, we are. Very much so.

Shari said...

That was a terrific post!!

For me, one Grandma just made me uncomfortable. I felt like she didn't like me. My mom said that she believed in one child per family. She doted on my oldest brother, but just "tolerated" the rest of us (there was six of us). She even "tolerated" my mom after the second child; it was her fault for having more than one kid, even though both my mom and dad wanted at least four kids. But my mother's mom, Gramma, made up for it. She was fun. So, for me, I just had one grandma who loved us all unconditionally and one who didn't. I didn't even think about Grandma as much as I have about Gramma. Many memories are flooding through my head.

Thanks. XOXO

not the fav just the first said...

She loved you, Bethie. Thank you for this post. It made me cry. Someday we will be the Grandma. I KNOW your grandchildren will say wonderful things about you!
From one of the other performers (the bossy one, with the "fishwife" voice - as she constantly reminded me!)

Beth said...

shari:
One child per family? That is very strange. You're very lucky to have had one grandmother who loved you unconditionally. Enjoy those memories.

not the fav...:
Excuse me....???
Never mind all that fav/not fav stuff. Sorry you ended up crying. Was it one of those good kinds?
And I don't remember her telling you that you had a fishwife voice - whatever that is!

Anonymous said...

Ok, I've lurked, read and reviewed your blog since the day you started; known you for 23 years and never once taken the time to figure out how to post on your blog but THIS item compelled me. Grandmothers are wonderful people but like us, just people; full of foibles but basically wanting love (to give it and to receive it). May I never leave my children and grandchildren wondering if I loved them. May they know that if I spent time with them as individuals I loved them immeasurably.

Your blog was wonderful Beth and you should thank your grandmother for helping to make you into the wonderful woman/friend/mother/sister/whatever that you are.

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Beth said...

anonymous:
Thank you for your kind, wonderful words.
And, hey, Anon., you and I are going to be kick-a** grandmothers!