Monday, December 19, 2011
Excerpt from MommyBest: 13 Inspirational Lessons… Lesson + Memoir + Reader Reflection = Ways to be your MommyBest!
“Kitty” and Grandmothers.
Very rapidly, mothers ripen into glorious grandmothers
who leave indelible imprints on both their children’s and
their grandchildren’s lives.
I gleefully watch from the sidelines, letting “Granny
Lynn” become mere putty in my children’s tiny,
adoring hands. As she spoils my sons. I often tease
and question why I didn’t get this “VIP treatment”
while I was growing-up?
I believe one of Life’s great blessings is:
A grandma who always has an extra stash of
cookies she dotingly saves, eagerly awaiting her
grandchildren’s visits. Be prepared to see your own
mother transform into a grandmother and journey
with your children in wondrous ways!
“Kitty” and Grandmothers
My mother, now in her sixties, loves being a grandma. After
hundreds of requests from my children, she recently
agreed to stay overnight. My toddler sons were so excited
to have their “Grandma Lynn” to themselves so she could
play with them, and especially, read a bedtime story. They
heartily laughed when my mother was unable to decipher
some of the words without her reading glasses on. Both boys
eagerly found her spectacles after digging like dogs through
her immense and cluttered purse.
But, the biggest hysteria came when they saw their
grandma clad in her brightly colored, ruffled pajamas—accented
by my father’s black socks. After lots more giggling
and snuggling, Grandma tucked them in with a promise of
“more fun tomorrow.”
I was awakened very early the next morning by the
sounds of scurrying footsteps and loud whispers—which
are my spirited children’s attempts to be “quiet.” I went to
see what all the commotion was and found my two sons
hanging over our guest bed, their heads downward, pressed
very close to my mother’s face. Their hands were covering
their mouths, in an attempt to contain their laughter.
Grandma Lynn was making a good amount of noise snoring,
although she calls it “heavy breathing.” Her eyes were
half-open—until she jolted up when I joined my sons in
“The kids were in here earlier this morning. I must have
dozed off again,” my mom groggily shared. It was 6:30 am
by the time I arrived, so I reprimanded my sons for going
into what had now be called, “grandma’s room.” Both boys explained they
had come back for a second visit because they were very
interested in seeing “Grandma’s teeth again.”
My mother was mortified when she learned my two
son’s return to her guest room was in response to their discovery
of her false teeth, sitting in a glass of water beside the
bed. My mother is old-fashioned and very private about
what she considers “personal,” and her teeth or lack thereof
falls into this category. Thankfully, after seeing and hearing
our laughter, Grandma joined in, now jokingly sliding her
teeth in and out of her mouth in a rhythmic pace.
The jesting continued as my sons observed and dissected
the contents in the glass as if they were investigating a science
experiment. The direct and innocent questions about
“where did her real teeth go,” “how did she get her teeth
out of her mouth if they were glued inside?” were wondrous.
My younger, mathematically-inclined son wanted
to know if the entire set of teeth cost “more than $100”
or did Grandma have to “buy one at a time.” The scenario
ended with my mother joyfully smiling while hugging my
sons—sporting a full set of gums.
I’m often able to use Grandma’s teeth to further instruct
my children on the importance of taking care of their pearly
whites when they complain, as they sometimes do, I make
them brush their teeth too much.
As I watched from the “sidelines,” I saw my two boys
wondrously playing games starting with “Go Fish” before
dragging Grandma outside, tossing a moving basketball
to her before returning for a snack inside. Each boy vied
for her attention and she didn’t disappoint them, bouncing
from one activity to the next…until I reminded them
Grandma Lynn needed a rest. I could tell my mom was exhausted,
yet enamored by all the attention my sons showered
While I continued to watch my boys snuggle with my
mom, I knew “Grandma Lynn” would be one of the most
important people in their lives; I began to reminisce about
my own grandma’s visits as a child and how special those
moments were, and continue to be, for me.
“Kitty” was a nickname we teasingly called my grandmother
as a shortened version of her name: Catherine. The
nickname was very fitting because she was playful and
youthful like a kitten. She and my grandfather, a New York
City Police Officer, had six children. My grandfather died
early, at the age of fifty, leaving my grandmother with some
very challenging times ahead of her. One of her first challenges,
which she enlisted the help of my father, was learning
It wasn’t long before she was on the road, now able to
commute to her new job as a secretary in a religious high
school, as well as visit her family scattered throughout the
Northeast. Sometimes when Grandma came, we’d be playing out
side with friends as her car passed by. All of us raced home
to greet her and taste one of the many delectable cakes and
cookies she always brought fresh from, as my mother would
say, “the best bakeries in the Bronx.”
My friends, upon meeting her, often thought she was an
aunt because she didn’t look old enough to be a grandma. She
probably would attribute her youthful glow to her meticulous
hygiene rituals. Whenever Grandma slept over, she would
systematically wake early by 5:30a.m., dutifully cleanse her
face with a handful of cold cream and rinse it off .
Next, she would turn her head downside and frantically
tease her jet-black hair, before swooping and pinning it
into a high and tight twist.
Once her grooming was complete we would find her,
usually with eyes half-closed, sitting on the living room
couch waiting for everyone else to wake-up. She’d often
stay a few days doing our favorite things—shopping, talking
and eating—before she returned to her own home.
After years of living in the four-bedroom Colonial in
Mount Vernon, Westchester, with her youngest daughter
(my aunt), they were confronted by robbers one evening
after returning home from work. Boldly and brazenly,
Grandma ran after them as they took fleet!
Worried about Grandma’s safety, my mother had invited
her to live with us, as did some of her other children.
But, she confided in me she wanted to be independent and
not become a burden to her children. Instead, Grandma
decided to sell her house and downsize to an apartment.
I was sad when the house that represented some of my
earliest Christmas memories was sold. Grandma’s house
sat high above an incline with an entourage of trees;
ironically, most were Christmas evergreen. I vaguely recall
an enclosed porch with tiny glass windows. It was on this
porch I sat in front of an organ, slamming its keyboard,
pretending to be on-stage.
I can still sense the aroma of home cooking from visits I
had, and I especially remember eating the best homemade
macaroni and cheese I have ever tasted. As a child, I was scared
of the cellar that housed the infamous
“cat of nine tails” my grandmother teasingly threatened
she would have to take out if we didn’t behave well.
Also scary to me as a youngster was a recurring dream
I had about roller skating at an uncontrollably fast pace down
the house’s precipitous driveway, into oncoming
traffic and ultimately down under into a sewer drain gate.
On my way down, deeper into darkness, I would abruptly
wake-up with heart-racing palpitations.
But the most lasting impressions that still remain with
me are those from one Christmas gathering I recall: All Grandma’s
children and grandchildren were scattered throughout
the living room laughing, munching and eagerly awaiting
Grandma’s cue to sit down for present opening. Grandma
enthusiastically put her glasses on before selecting one from
many piles of gifts. Once each name on the gift tag was
read, the recipient raced to the front of the room and back
to his/her place before tearing open their prize.
Every gift I received from my grandmother was wonderful
because I felt—even as young as I was—she had spent
much time and consideration in her selection, personalizing
each present. Her gifts became even more meaningful
as I grew older and appreciated their sentimental value.
It was during this one Christmas celebration when Grandma
gave me a ceramic figurine of “Snow White” with a
matching watch clasped at the bottom of its dress; I was
enthralled! I wore the watch around my wrist and carefully
took it off when I showered and slept. I put the “Snow
White” statuette atop a shelf across from my bed so I could
see her before I went to sleep each night.
Following Christmas that year, Grandma moved to a
quaint, one-bedroom apartment in Park Chester, NY. It
was then when different Christmas traditions started and
my grandmother earned a new nickname: “Rudolph.”
Each Christmas season, she traveled to her six children’s
homes. Her car was the sleigh she maneuvered across the
Like the Christmases we celebrated at her home, we
continued to eat lots of food and desserts; we started our
own tradition: each child in our family took a turn sitting
in a designated chair to open presents while we all watched
in anticipation. It was as much fun to give as it was to receive.
Like a little kid, Grandma’s eyes widened as each gift
During one visit, there was an “Elvis Presley” marathon
of movies on television. My grandmother and I, both adoring
fans, watched in delight. As the evening progressed, I
noticed my grandmother sitting on the couch, eyes closed
with head slightly tilted. I could hear her breathing heavily
(as my mother does when she sleeps).
“Go to bed, Grandma,” I called across the room. When
she didn’t answer, I giggled and repeated, “Go to bed, Grandma,
you’ve been up since 5:30 this morning.
“NOOOoo,”Grandma wailed, as she flung her head upright and lifted
her feet from the floor, vertically moving her legs in a scissor-like motion:
“I want to watch Elvis,” she demanded!
I could not argue with—nor could I ever forget—the
endearing and child-like protests she made!
My grandmother died the following year, on December 7, 1980, two and a
half weeks before Christmas. My family was deeply saddened by her sudden death.
We longed for a holiday visit from her.
To our surprise, my aunt delivered presents Grandma had
purchased before her death. I felt as if Grandma was watching
me as I opened them. Her spirit was with us that year
and remains with us—especially during the holiday season.
I often feel as if she is bestowing gifts upon us and guiding
our way with her light. Sometimes, when I wake-up in
the early morning—when it’s still dark out—I feel as if she
is sitting on my sofa, waiting for my family to wake-up.
“Snow White” continues to sit high, atop a shelf overlooking
my bedroom. The figurine, with its jet-black hair
(the color of my grandmas’) has aged: some of its smoother
surfaces scratched; some of its vibrant color faded.
Yet, like my grandmother, she has matured with dignity
and grace, while possessing a beauty that transcends time.
Both Grandma and Snow White represent magical
figures in my life and cherished moments from my childhood—
moments that become dearer with each visit and
every holiday my children share with their “Grandma
• What’s your most powerful memory of your grandmother?
• How has your relationship with your own mother changed
now that she’s a grandmother?
• What’s her relationship with your children like, and what do
you cherish about it?