|Lucille and Frank Burdette|
LUCY BURDETTE: Back in the days when I was working as a psychologist in private practice, I attended a weekly case conference at the Yale health plan. Students took turns presenting cases of people they were working with. Invariably, if someone had come from the horrific background that should have scarred them, but they appeared to be functioning well, one of the old guard therapists would ask: "is there a grandmother in the picture?" Because even if the parents were completely whacked out, having a loving grandmother made a huge difference in a child's life and normal development.
My mother's mother was a very sweet woman, whom I remember as warm and loving. Sadly, she died of a heart attack when I was around seven. (I use her name now as my pen name.) My dad's mother was a tough little Germanic woman, who had been very strict with her two sons, and her husband! I don't remember her as a warm person like my maternal grandmother, but I enjoyed her especially as I got older. She was spunky and energetic and she lived to the ripe old age of 92. At 91, she asked me to buy her a pair of pink sweatpants that she cut off below the knees to wear to exercise class.
I am thinking of all this now because soon it will be my turn (unbelievably, as young as I am) to be a grandmother! Our first granddaughter is due in August and we can't wait to meet her.
HALLIE EPHRON: My mother’s mother spoke Yiddish and very little English, so though I always wanted to know what life had been like for her in Russia before she came here, I was never able to find out. My best memories of her revolve around food. She was not a great cook. The matzo balls in her soup sank. When I stayed at her house, she’d serve me a can Campbell’s condensed tomato soup on spaghetti, a pat of butter on top giving it the gourmet touch. On the other hand, she made cinnamon cookies that were to die for – thin crisp cookies that you brushed with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar before baking. Also sensational was her chopped liver -- I have the big wooden bowl and meat grinder she used.
My Grandma Greuling, my mother's mother, looms largest in my life. We lived with her for a year when we got out of the military, and then moved into a house in her tiny town (which is the basis for some of the fictional Millers Kill and Cossayuharie.) She was skinny and fierce, with a white perm like a tightly-kinked poodle and a tremendous pride of home and family. And opinionated? She would have killed on one of those Sunday morning political talk shows. In my novels, the character of Russ's mother, Margy Van Alstyne, is definitely rooted in Grandma Greuling and Gramma Fleming.
Also? I love hearing the names people use for grandmotherhood. My mom is Grammy (like Debs!) and here in Maine there are lots of Memes. My best friend is her granddaughter's Mimi (very chic!) and I have another friend who has a Nana. When we came back from Germany we called Grandma Greuling Oma for a while, but it didn't stick. Me, I'm thinking of going full Downton Abbey and going by Granny in that far-future day when my kids reproduce. Lucy, what's your grandmother name going to be?
LUCY: I had Grandma and Nana, but I like the sound of Grammy. Of course the kid may find something altogether different!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I'm Grammy, too. And I do love it--it really touches me when Eli and Josh call me Grammy--because it's...all they know, right? It's not like they think oh, her name is Hank but we call her Grammy. I AM Grammy. And that's very special.
|Hank's Gramma Rose|
I once asked Gramma Minnie (her name was Minda) to type out her history, about the little town she came from in Russia, and what it was like to live there. I was so excited to find out the inside scoop. But when she gave it to me--gosh, I bet I was twenty--I could tell it was all made up. ALL made up. Everyone was lovely, the life was pleasant and peaceful, there was no fear or strife. Hmmm. Russia around, what 1915? I don't think so. But when I gently pressed her, she insisted it was all correct.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I only knew my mother's mother. Her name was Lillian but she was Nanny to me and my brother and all my cousins. She lived with us from the time I was born and was not only my caretaker when I was a child, but my best friend until she died at 86--far too young, I think now. She taught me to read, and best of all, to be interested in life. One of my great regrets is that she never knew my daughter--she died two years before Kayti was born. I wish I knew more about her life before she came to us, but she didn't much like to talk about it. My grandfather had died while she was trying to raise four kids during the depression. She was a teacher, and had taught for a while in California before she came to live with us. It makes me sad that I don't even know where.
|Nanny Lillian in her teaching days|
My mom, now, was busy and a little impatient when I was a child. Not a bad mother, by any means, just very involved with my dad and their business and their life. But, oh my goodness, she was a terrific grandmother. She always had time for Kayti and my parents' house was a wonderful second home.
As for BEING a grandmother, it is the most fun ever. Lucy, you will love it!! Will you be close enough to see her often, at least part of the year? You can't imagine how much you will adore this baby.
I've gone back and forth over the name--Grammy or Nana. We decided on Grammy, but I'm still torn. I love Nana because it reminds me of my grandmother--and of all those English books I love. Last night I was holding Wren and talking granny nonsense to her, "Do you love your Nanagrammy, Grammynana?" And Kayti said, "I've got it. Nanagram."
So that's my new name. Nanagram. (We'll see what Wren thinks!)
I hardly knew my father's mother. We saw her from time to time but we never bonded. My children's grandparents were in England and they had the same problem. When they did see their grandparents they were spoiled and made a tremendous fuss of. I've been so lucky that I've been a big part of my grandchildren's lives. I held Sam when he was two minutes old. Ditto Lizzy. I've taken care of both sets and they are so comfortable running into my house without knocking, finding their toys, helping cook pancakes etc. Now they are teenagers they share laughs and dreams with me. I'm Nana and I love it.
Tell us about a grandmother in your life or the kind of grandmother you've become or hope to be...