Sunday, March 16, 2008
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.
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.