Oh, to the devil with politics and controversy for now! My mind is wandering to early, nay, my earliest memories. I was in the car with my grandmother and grandfather on one of our Sunday magical mystery tours. Sunday was special for a wee lad because of those rides. It was for all of us.
My grandfather, Leo, looked almost just like Gandhi (How I wish I had an electronic picture to upload!), skinny as a rail, tall, spectacles, almost toothless and all; but handsome for all of that. He owned a small Pontiac dealership in Billerica, Massachusetts where he worked long hours. Because he owned the dealership he often just threw a ‘dealers plate’ on any car he was selling—those cars seemed as big and heavy as boats in those days—and on Sundays we were off, sometimes to the race tracks, sometimes to the lakes or open areas with picnic baskets, always for an ice cream. He loved electronic gadgets—he was an all ’round ‘fix it’ kind of man—and so we often stopped to look at Ham radios or whatever caught his fancy at the time.
My grandmother, Lena, (whose only grave fault was staying too long in stores buying little or nothing for herself) was almost the spitting image of the mother in the movie How Green Was My Valley (see pictures here). For her, going for these Sunday rides was heaven itself. Twenty to a hundred miles to my grandmother might as well have been to Galway or Paris. She always lived a very provincial life and never learned how to drive herself. Never wanted to.
Anyway, a part of those rides always, without fail, included my nap on her soft-and-warm-as-heaven belly. That maternal gift, made of many homemade cakes and soups which you can be certain we helped her enjoy, was a cloud on which a four or five year old head could sleep the sleep of the angels, her warm hand patting my red hair till I entered blissfully the Land of Nod, only to wake up later in some magical place where smiles and stories were accompanied by foods (seafood was a special delight for us) and the laughter which echos in my ears to this moment.
Only many years later did I notice that my grandmother may not have been, objectively I suppose, the prettiest woman on God’s green earth. But, even then, to me she was the greenest valley I could ever imagine. But hear me: She was real. Aging was natural. She loved. She loved us. Her love was in her family (a very world to her!) of whom she never ceased to speak and charm and cook and remind us to be good. She wouldn’t think of dyeing her hair—yes, Virginia, there were strange high class Irish ladies even then, ladies we called ‘blue hairs’; we gawked at them clicking their rosaries and whis-pering their Ave’s in the pews in front of us, but even these grand dames wore dresses and in no way would seem vain by our ‘standards’.
If you were to tell my grandmother she might need the gym to get ‘with it,’ and fit into a nice pair of tight jeans, or that maybe she could use a little plastic surgery on her jolly jowls, or get her hair all dolled up, she would have spit her cake in laughter! It was inconceivable! She never even wore make-up. Why paint a barn that is already as beautiful a picture as can be conceived, and which ‘homed’ the birthings of so many who hold her in their hearts to this day?
Was this not beauty itself? Oh yes it was. Oh yes she was! And despite her well-earned largeness, and breaking every ever-changing postmodern dietary ‘rule’ in the book, she lived to be 91.
I feel bad for women who, thanks to the greed of our perverted media moguls, are afraid to age naturally and in simplicity. How sad not to be real. Our time is very hard on women, God’s most sacred gift, who did not abort or resent us, but birthed us in wonder and countless joys…
How I miss her. Extended families are stronger in every way together than apart…