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A memoir: My Grandma

My grandma didn’t know how to do hair. She raised four sons, so it would’ve been silly for her to have known how to do the styles I would ask her for.

For many years of my life I was a really shy kid. I don’t remember having very many friends during the early years. My grandpa, her husband, was who I clung onto like a shadow, he was my friend. When he passed away I started clinging to her, she was my friend.

I memorized her number at a very young age and would ask her to come pick me up for sleepovers. It wasn’t always just me and her but when it was we would wake up and I’d ask her to help me do my hair. Throughout the day with her I would run around with two lopsided pigtails.

I’d go with her to church a lot on Sundays, and afterwards we’d get lunch with all her friends at a round table in a small restaurant in Columbiaville. A majority of the time it was both my cousin and I, and there was a big chance that my older sister and my older cousin would come along too. My one cousin and I would always talk her into taking us to the Dollar Tree for random toys that we absolutely had to have, and it was the best when she would take us to Walmart to fill the cart with junk food. Some mornings we would wake up and she’d take us to Sam’s Coney Island, she loved that place.

Anywhere you went she would know at least one person. She was friends with so many.

My grandma drove us around in a red minivan. When that minivan pulled up the driveway I would always get so excited because I knew I was about to have a fun time. She first lived in a house by a lake, and when we were there my sister and cousins and I would dress up in garbage bags, because that was the cool thing to do.

When we were only a little older she moved into an apartment. I know she lived on the 3rd floor. When you walked into her apartment you had basically walked into a small garden as well. She loved to garden. The balcony was full of plants and the inside of her apartment was too. I remember I burnt my finger on the stove one day and she ran to her room to grab a piece of aloe vera to help me. She also had very interesting decorations, many were of cardinals which was her favorite bird, or just random things she had accumulated throughout the years. One time when my grandma picked me up from my house, she told me to be careful walking in because her new kitten might run out. I was so excited to meet this kitten she had told me about. When I walked in, no kitten ran out the door and no kitten even ran over to me. When I asked her where it was, she pointed to a shelf and on the shelf was a fake stuffed cat. She was always hilarious.

Her tables in the apartment were filled with beads for crafts and her baskets were filled with knitting needles and crochet needles. The woman loved to make crafts. A lot of the time she would have her tables covered in puzzle pieces too. I would sit and help her and I owe all my puzzle making skills to her. She was the puzzle queen.

Somehow during the holidays she managed to squeeze 8 of her grandkids into her apartment so we could decorate sugar cookies on those tables. She tried very hard to have us make the cookies look good. Most of the time we ended up with some of the ugliest cookies you’d ever seen and frosting would be all over the place, I don’t think she ever really minded. She would end up bringing to the family party her own sugary creations that everyone really enjoyed, and usually our ugly cookies would be the ones that were eaten last.

When all my siblings and my cousins were at her apartment we usually ended up disturbing the peace. Running down the halls, running down the stairs, going up and down the elevator. We were a nuisance and I know that when the old ladies and old men saw us walking into that apartment building that they probably rolled their eyes. My grandma would tell us to quiet down but I know that she never really cared how loud we were.

In the summers she would load us up in the van and take us to Vacation Bible School. There weren’t even seats for all of us in the van, but we made it work.

We would unload and we would get down to all the songs that they would have us sing and fill ourselves up at snack time. I know she loved that we would go to that during the summers at her church, even if we maybe drove some of the people that helped put Vacation Bible School on insane.

She didn’t miss birthdays. I could count on a birthday card to be in the mailbox from her each year. I would go to the phone and dial the number I knew by heart to tell her thank you. I’m pretty sure she had a notebook filled with birthdays so that way she could get a card to them. She would pull cards out of her purse on Sunday mornings and have me put them in the church mailbox for whoever’s name was written on the envelope.

She didn’t miss dance performances or musical recitals either. Sometimes she might not have always been able to stay awake during them, but she would be there. You could always count on her to have a piece of gum to pass down to you during those types of things too. One of the funniest stories I have about her was at a dance performance I was doing while I was younger. She’d fallen asleep and I was about to come on stage and one of my parents woke her up. She woke up and yelled, “Yay Jilly!” and I hadn’t even come on stage to perform yet.

These memories keep coming back to me, they’re some of the best memories I have. I don’t know if she knew at the time how much it meant to all of us grandkids all of the stuff she had ever done for us. And it wasn’t just her grandchildren either, she would always try to be there for her whole family and all of her friends as well. I really don’t know how she managed to do it.

So, my grandma didn’t know how to do hair, but she knew how to do a lot of other things. The most important things she knew how to do in her life were how to be the best grandma, the best mother, the best wife, the best friend. She was sassy, she was stubborn, and above all else, she was strong. She knew how to make people laugh even if most of the time she wasn’t even trying. She survived many different things even when we thought she wouldn’t.

I know that when I see a cardinal fly that it’ll be her way of letting me know she will always be there. It isn’t easy to let her go, but I’m thankful for all the stories I will be able to share about my grandma.

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