The second in a series about mothers who shaped my life.
My paternal grandmother was a city lady. She was a beautiful woman with black hair and the darkest black eyes I’ve ever seen. She lived with our family when I was just a child, but than moved to her own apartment in downtown Milwaukee. It was on the second floor so we had to ride a rickety old elevator to get to it. Her apartment faced Wisconsin Avenue, which was the main street of downtown. It had huge windows that overlooked the city. Whenever there was a parade or special event many of my friends would join me to watch it at Grandma’s. I became instantly popular because of it.
Grandma had an extremely tough life. She fell in love and married a tailor and they had 4 children together. I don’t know much about her husband, because he deserted the family when my dad was just a young boy. In those days, there were many hidden things concerning things like that. She returned to her home town with her children and started a new life. After a while she became frustrated with small town life and moved to the big city. I believe her parents had a hand in raising her children until she found work. It must have been a struggle to bare the shame and humiliation, but she carried on.
Being a single parent in those days carried a bit of a stigma. Grandma worked hard to give her family what she could, but it wasn’t enough so her children pitched in to help and all of them started jobs at an early age.
Being the first grandchild, I was given carte blanche on most anything I wanted. If she could manage, she would give me my heart’s desire. If she couldn’t, she would save and save for it. She was a whiz at making things too. She loved to sew lovely little dresses and tons of doll clothes. She taught me how to make things out of nothing.
She made the best pineapple upside down cake. Mmm-mmm! I tried making it once, but it never compared to Grandma’s. She was a beautiful lady, always taking time to look the part. I remember her wearing pearls and matching earrings. She had a little dressing table with all sorts of makeup and perfume – Evening in Paris. It seemed so elegant.
Grandma didn’t talk much. She never talked about her past. She loved me unconditionally. She spoiled me rotten, as my cousins will attest to. She always told me that my face would stay that way if I scrunched it up. I think there was some truth to that statement. She gave the best hugs. She was strong and stoic sometimes. She never gave up even in adversity.
Both of my grandmothers took different paths, but each left me with a wonderful heritage. They both loved God and lived amazing lives. They had a strong work ethic, a deeply rooted faith, grit and determination. I believe I have inherited a bit of each of them and I pray that I will be able to leave some of the same things to my own grandchildren.