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Thu, April 25

Get A Grip: Remembering Granny Great on Mother's Day

On this, my third Mother's Day as a card carrying member of the Mom's Club, I find myself longing for the advice and counsel, not of my mother, or even of her mother, but of my great-grandmother.

I was fortunate to know my great-grandmother.

Granny Great, as we called her.

Unfortunately, my memories of her are hazy.

In my mind's eye I see short, stout old woman with a halo of soft white hair.

I remember soft, kind blue eyes scarred by cataracts and gnarled hands bent by arthritis.

Granny Great walked with difficulty and with the aid of a cane.

Because of this, when I think of her, I see her ensconced in a green chair in my grandmother's living room.

When I was little she lived with my grandparents and when we went to visit we (the grandchildren) were always sent, one by one, to give Granny Great a kiss as she held court from her chair.

This ritual terrified me.

She seemed so old and solid and distant to my child's eyes.

On Sunday nights she would pick up her cane, stand slowly and shuffle into her bedroom.

I was allowed to follow and together we would settle down to watch Lawrence Welk on her little black and white television.

These are my memories of Granny Great.

She died in 1984, when I was 14.

For several years before that her health had deteriorated to the point that I rarely saw her.

But now, so many years later, I long to talk with this woman I barely knew.

I have many questions for her.

I've been thinking about Granny Great a lot lately because of my daughter, Sophie.

Here's why: Sophie, at two years old, is exactly as I imagine my grandmother, Dorty, was at the same age.

I wish I could get some advice from Granny Great.

You see, Sophie and Dorty, although separated by 88 years, are two of a kind.

They are beautiful and charming and have an inborn ability to get whatever they want with a smile.

They demand control but do so with such grace and charm you don't realize you're being manipulated until it's too late to do anything but smile and obey.

All my life I have thought that Dorty would have been a great president.

But I've amended that slightly recently because, upon further reflection, I think she, with Sophie as her protégé, would be even better suited to the role of beloved dictator.

I'm tempted to buy them matching red berets and riding crops.

Sophie, like Dorty, is inherently happy and energetic.

She is my greatest joy.

But I'm finding it difficult to keep up with her.

Some days, as I follow her around singing and dancing and jumping to try and catch a cloud, I feel like I'm living with a force of nature.

She is like a summer storm, fast, loud and chaotic but overwhelmingly beautiful and sometimes, somehow, calming.

The other day we sat down to watch Sesame Street characters put on a puppet show.

Afterwards she looked at me and said, "my puppet."

"Am I your puppet?" I asked.


My puppet, " she said.


She may be right.

And it got me to thinking and wishing I could have a talk with Granny Great.

Somehow, she did it.

She raised the spirited and wonderful little girl who became my grandmother.

The girl who incited a race between horse-driven school buses.

The girl who, without her parents' knowledge and nowhere near her birthday, invited kids over for a birthday party because she wanted the presents and the attention.

So I wonder, did Granny Great ever feel like a puppet or a woman lost in a storm? I bet she did.

And I'd like to know what she did about it.

Since I can't ask her, I will instead, on this Mother's Day, think of her as I watch my little redheaded link in the chain unknowingly carry on in the spirit of her ancestors.

Then I'm going to do some genealogy research because I suspect, if I go back far enough, I'm going to find Napoleon (and his mother) on my family tree.


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