Grama had as many girlfriends as she did shoes, and that’s a lot to say. If she and Sara Jessica Parker lined up their duds toe to heel, the sturdy soled path would probably lead straight from Lancaster, Ohio to the ninth hole on a golf course in Myrtle Beach – a regular destination for Grama and the golfing girls.
There were the golfing girls…and also there were bowling girls, bridge club girls, churchgoing girls, and girls she just knew because I think she probably knew everyone in the small town where she lived from the time she was born until 85 years later. That was last Sunday. I’m pretty sure she’s been golfing ever since she left – and I imagine that where she is, there are quite a few people she had been looking forward to seeing in for quite some time. My grandpa for one.
“Oh, did we always have a time,” an old buddy told us as we celebrated Grama’s life, quietly. “I’ll tell you…”
She felt lucky that Grama and she wore the same size.
A bowling girlfriend who was the baby of their group remembered visiting our family’s house while Grama babysat us one time. My parents were on a trip, and the girls had a ball – a lunch at the country club and, of course, nine holes as an appetizer. Grama was a vital woman, her girlfriend said to us. Grama knew what it was to be a sturdy, lively pillar for her girlfriends and her family.
While looking at the mounted pictures carefully placed on boards, memories scrolled through my head like movie trailers…I felt like an elementary school girl in a 29-year-old body. The experience was a time warp.
I was back in Grama’s basement watching MTV when it was the newest channel in the 1980s, and my brother and I played Pac Man on my uncle’s Atari system. Grama had the latest technology in her basement.
During summer, I got to visit Grama’s all by myself – it was like camp. We’d shop for fancy dresses and shoes at Lazarus and eat lunch at her two favorite spots. One of those was in the bowling alley. Grama had her own ball.
I remember riding big wheels around the neighborhood with my brother, and at her house, there was a back alley which was top-secret territory, or so we thought. We had cool big wheels at Grama’s – mine had little seat on the steering wheel for Barbie, too.
At Easter we made hardboiled eggs with decorated shrink-wrap sleeves. Our baskets had baby peepers that perched on the handle, and there were Easter dresses with tiny bells sewn into their ruffles so every step sang with a jingle. There was always ice cream in the freezer at Grama’s, and we were allowed to have seconds.
In the mornings, Grama would boil water in a small metal pot for her instant coffee. Our family would go to breakfast at the restaurant around the corner. We always got grossed out when Grama ordered grits. She’d drop a pat of butter on the soft cereal and get a real kick out of when my brother and I turned down her offer. “You don’t know what you’re missing,” she’d try to tempt us. It never worked. Grama always bought scratch-offs for us on the way out, but she was the only one that ever won. I learned that she actually kept a tally of her monthly booty and had a playbill of winning numbers she referred to before deciding on her Pick Three.
Grama owned a knit shop in town for some time, before I was around to know of the yarns and camaraderie she surely kept there. She stored the leftover shopping bags from her shop in a cupboard in her vestibule. They were little pink paper boutique bags, just big enough to slide in a ball of yarn or set of needles. We liked to play store with them – and we never ran out of inventory when we bagged up artifacts we found in that cupboard. There were jillions of bags, too, it seemed. I hope there are a few left.
There were always playing cards at Grama’s, decks and decks of them. My brother and I knew how to play Old Maid – and 52-card pickup. Grama knew rummy and all there was to know about cards as far as we were concerned. She knew how to win her hand at cards, too.
There were holidays – Thanksgivings when my Uncle would pay my brother a dollar to eat a brussels sprout. And there were days after Christmas, when our family of four would visit and uncles, aunts and cousins would gather at Grama’s, too. I remember thinking it was funny that Grama stuffed her tree in the attic, decorations and all, so it was ready to go for the following year. These holidays grew farther apart and gatherings less frequent as we all got older. I realized that many of the times I think of Grama’s house are times when I was young – before the driver’s license, college classes, the first real job. But as my Grama said at my wedding just a few months ago, “I was there for everything.” And she was. Birthdays, graduation, celebrations, and weddings. Thank God she made that day – her character could not have been more lively. I don’t think there is a guest that wouldn’t remember her. Perhaps that is because she and my husband’s grandfather were quite a tag team during the ceremony – a comedy act, though an unintentional one. We are so very thankful that our party was theirs, too.
But for a couple days this week, I wasn’t old enough to be married or “grown up” – was I? I was eight years old again. But I wasn’t. And I was meeting three cousins for the first time, it seemed – we were all young at Grama’s, and now they were grown, too. We rode together in the car to the cemetery. We share the same last name and roots and Grama. We share dads who are brothers, who are feeling a different kind of blank space now without mom. We share a past and a lot of quirks we probably don’t even know about. With sad times comes reconnection.
The girlfriends who visited Grama that day understand that more than anyone, I think. They are saying goodbye to more of their golfing buddies; some are sick, others are still tan and strong. But none of them ever quit the game – the important game, that is.
A collection of pictures reminded us of that.
Grama in an Indie race car, holding wads of bills – winnings, teeing up with her girlfriends. A young bride, a lady jock, a mother, a Grama, a fierce spirit…and always, always a girlfriend.
“I always felt so lucky that your Grama and I wore the same size,” joked the baby of the group, who was coming to pay her respects. Somehow, that seemed like the highest compliment, not about shoes really. But about living.