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My Grandmother’s Stories, II

“I remember the doll my cousins and I played with at our maternal grand parents’ home.  Mother and her sisters learned to sew at an early age.  They made their clothing and with the leftover scraps made doll clothes, also quilt patches and rag rugs.  There was only one doll left by the time my cousins and I arrived on the “scene,” and it had a fabulous wardrobe.  There was also a doll size three drawer dresser and hump back trunk for storage.  That doll was dressed for all occasions church, trips, parties and anywhere else our imagination took us.  Unfortunately, she didn’t have a head.  The china head had been broken and someone had patched the hole so the stuffings didn’t run out.  Lack of a head didn’t slow down her social life one bit, we hardly missed it except when there was a matching bonnet for one of the many dresses.”

This is a story I wish I’d heard when grandma was still around.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2012 in Grandma's Stories

 

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Goodbye, Max.

“Maurice Sendak, the children’s author and illustrator best known for the 1963 classic “Where the Wild Things Are,” is dead at age 83” (here).

As a child, I had very few heroes. Not because there weren’t any out there, but because I never really grasped the concept of hero worship. An avid reader, I was well aware that heroes were the stuff of make believe. Sure, people have heroic moments. They rush into burning buildings to save strangers, step boldly between an attacker and his victim, adopt children and pets and charitable causes. But all of this seemed so temporal. There weren’t really people out there that put all of their energy into making the world a better place. I grew up as a child in the military. Even understanding the sacrifices that soldiers make, I was too close to them to think them heroes. I saw the very human side to these men and women as well. And really, isn’t that what makes a hero in a child’s mind? They’re something above and beyond the general mediocrity of ourselves.

It wasn’t until much later that I adjusted my idea of hero worship to include people that were as human and mortal as I, but had made amazing accomplishments happen despite adversity. Maurice Sendak was one of those heroes. He was surrounded by death and mortality as a child, part of a family that was decimated by the Holocaust. He spent nearly all of his life hiding his sexuality and his partner of 50 years from his family. He grew to dislike people, to see the world as a weary and sad place, and to want nothing more than solitude. From the outside, he seems like a manic depressive curmudgeon with the unlikely skill to create indelible art.

I think, perhaps, that this is what makes a hero. Despite himself, he created things that we and countless generations after us will remember fondly. And he didn’t just lock them away out of spite. He shared them with the most impressionable of us. Maybe what makes a hero isn’t the news-ready smile and platitudes of morality and self-sacrifice. Maybe what makes a hero is surviving despite the life you were given and leaving a mark that will outlast you. Maybe a hero is defined by his flaws.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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My Grandmother’s Stories

My mother, with no small amount of foresight, asked her mother to write down stories she remembered from her life. Stories that the rest of us might enjoy having around. Well, my grandmother died in March. It was hard to talk to my mom and my brothers about it because I wasn’t just sad that my grandma (the apple-pie grandma) had passed, but also because the loss of your last living grandparent reflects somewhat on your own mortality.

Imagine my surprise when this image showed up in an email from my mother. It turns out that my grandma had filled out a great many journals with little tidbits that she remembered. Since she was not functioning at 100% for a while before she passed, both physically and mentally, these treasures mean that much more. When I last saw my grandma, she had a tendency to repeat herself, check the mail several times after she’d already gotten it, and drop off in the middle of sentences. Reading this reminds me of the joyous, witty woman that my grandmother had been.

And no, even though my mother has been sending me typed translations to accompany the difficult to read handwriting, I’m not going to do that for you. I haven’t looked at the Courier New versions and I don’t think you should either. Betty is far more present in her sometimes illegible script than she is in a serif font.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Grandma's Stories

 

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