Not bad for a fat girl


Happy Birthday, Oma Hilde

So I’ve noticed that people on Facebook often wish a happy birthday to someone who is no longer alive. I understand thinking about people on their birthdays, but I’m not sure how I feel about the whole social media thing.

static1.squarespace.jpgHere’s the thing. Today is my grandmother’s birthday. She’s been gone a long time. Since my college-age son was a baby. I miss her.

She was the grandmother who kept me overnight when my parents had a big event or went on a trip. She was the grandmother who taught me to wash windows with vinegar and water and to dry them with newspaper. She was the grandmother who made the best potato salad in the world and let me drink Teem out of the bottle on the porch on hot summer nights. She was the one who walked me to the theater to see Cinderella when I was a little girl and she was the one who took me on the city bus to visit one of her old friends.

0034000170380_A1L1_ItemMaster_type_large.jpgNearly every day, she walked up and down the busy street that her street adjoined, visiting at the dry cleaners, the market, the bank, everywhere. She knew everyone and they knew her. She smiled and she laughed and she liked a good joke. She watched As the World Turns and professional wrestling. She didn’t swim, but on a hot day she liked to put her feet in the pool. She brought me giant Hershey bars when she came to visit, and she told me to keep them in my room and not share them.

Once, when I was ten, my parents went on a trip. My brother stayed with my other grandmother and I stayed with Oma Hilde. It was over Valentine’s Day, so she decided we should make a cake. She had a heart shaped pan we used, and we made a pink cake with chocolate frosting. I think it’s the best cake I’ve ever had.

I had a doll carriage at her house. Who knows where it came from, likely a yard sale, but it was wonderful. I also had a closet full of other toys there, all of mysterious origin, but that’s what made them so appealing. I was her only granddaughter for a long time, and the only one who ever lived in the same city. Those toys were for me, and me alone.

When I was home from college we would get together and run errands, then go to “Hi Ho Silvers” for lunch. She loved the hush puppies, even though she knew she wasn’t supposed to eat food like that.

Right after I graduated she took me on a trip to Germany, sponsored by the city from which she and my grandfather and my mother fled during the Nazi regime. They invited a whole bunch of “their” Jews back, a gesture to make amends I suppose. She was a wonderful travel companion. She was happy to make new acquaintances, and she was delighted to be back in her home country.

We took a side trip to the tiny village of her birth, and I learned so much about her. She rang the doorbell of her childhood home. We were invited in for tea. We stayed overnight with the Mayor’s parents (who lived right next door to the mayor and his family). She took me to the site of the community bakery, where my grandfather proposed to her. We visited family graves. We took a boat ride down the Rhine River, and she sang the Lorelei, a traditional song that Germans sing when they get to a particular point on the river. We drank beer in a beerhall.

This grandmother learned to write checks only after my grandfather died. She bought the high-end washer and dryer in her eighties, because she wanted them to last. She oversaw a bathroom installation project, too, because climbing the stairs got too hard to do every time she needed to use the toilet. She didn’t bat an eye when I destroyed the side view mirror of her car. “It can be fixed,” she said. She called my son a prince. She meant it.

As an adult, it was my grandmother I would call for sympathy. My mother is a fixer, so calling her with a toothache or a rotten neighbor or a work hassle always turns into an investigation. What brought it about? What have you tried? What else are you going to do? You get the idea. My grandmother, on the other hand, was a listener. She would let me talk and then reassure me that whatever I was doing was most probably the exact right thing to do, and that the situation was sure to resolve itself. I always felt better after I talked to her. I didn’t talk to her nearly enough, though. I regret that.

crayon.jpgI suppose if my Oma had a Facebook page (although she wouldn’t) I might stop by and visit it today. And I might just leave her a message. It would say, “Happy Birthday, Oma. I miss you, and I love you, and I always will.”

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Okay, admit it, if you’re of a certain age you probably started singing “…but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

I’m right, aren’t I?

Well today I didn’t get something I needed, but I did get something I wanted. Funny thing about it is that I didn’t realize I wanted it until yesterday. Let me explain.

My actual real card from my sweet son.

My actual real card from my sweet son.

I was married for a long time. At the beginning of that relationship, things were not good between me and the ex’s parents (father and step-mother, his birth mother was deceased). They took issue with certain things about me, like the fact that I didn’t share their son’s religion. Over time, though, they got to know me, and after a while, we developed a fairy decent relationship. The fact that I bore them a grandson helped too, I think.

Anyway, they retired and relocated to our state, which was especially nice for my son. When he was younger we would all get together at their house for swimming, barbeques, and various celebrations. It was fun, really fun. Just yesterday when I was out by our pool I told my sweetheart that I sort of missed those times. Of course he wasn’t part of them, and I wouldn’t turn back the hands of time for anything, but those afternoons by their pool were really wonderful. Alas, time and tide waits for no man, and that ship has sailed. Time to let it go.

Then today my son showed up for Mother’s Day. His father accompanied him to the door with a request. Could we please go over to his parents’ house to retrieve son’s math assignment that he left behind last night? I hadn’t seen or spoken with my former in-laws in almost two years. How strange.

My son called his grandparents and they told us to come on over, which we did. They had house-guests (whom my son had met the day before) but that didn’t make any difference. We were ushered into the backyard, poolside, for a visit. It was great. I felt like it had been weeks, not years, since we had visited.

I guess I need to spend a little more time identifying the things that I want in my life, so the universe knows which opportunities to throw my way. This time, at least, I got exactly what I wanted.

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Throwback Thursday – Cars Edition

1973 VW Bug 007It seems that most of the cars I remember from my childhood had something peculiar about them. This is no surprise, since oddities stick in the brain. Here are some of the cars I remember.

1. My grandmother’s sapphire blue Ford LTD. She was tiny, so she drove around on a pillow. It was a square thing and really old. Like her. Well, except for the fact that she wasn’t square.

2. My other grandmother’s Pontiac Grand Am. It was a hideous olive green color, but what a cool looking car!

3. Mom’s 1973 T-Bird. That was the car that I got my leg closed on. It was an almost white shade of light green, and the dog chewed up the armrest when my mother took him to run errands one day.

4. The Oldsmobile station wagon. This is the car I learned to drive in. It was enormous, pale yellow, and complete with faux wooden paneling.

5. VW Bug, before it was a punchbug. My friend’s mom had one, which later became her brother’s. I loved riding around in that little bug.

6. The earliest version of the Honda Civic. Back in those days Honda’s were only motorcycles. A Honda car was weird, and very tiny. I remember being squished in the backseat of one on the way to a concert during my teens.

7. The Lincoln Continental, for some reason, bugged me. One of our neighbors had one, and I thought it was the most gawd-awful looking thing around.

8. VW Thing. Another neighbor had one of those, in bright yellow. For some reason I found this car preferable to the Lincoln. Go figure.