When I was a child, I loved staying at Grandma’s house.  I packed my suitcase and lugged it up the creaky stairway to the alcove bedroom with the framed print of the alley cat whose huge eyes glowed in the dark.  Crisp morning breezes carried the sweetness of lilacs and bird song through the open window.  Grandma didn’t play with us so much as let us tag along as she did her chores.  We clamored to help gather fallen apples for a pie, knead bread, or feed laundry through her old-fashioned wringer.  She never cut us a break when we played games.
It didn’t matter if you were six or sixteen, if you misspelled a word in Scrabble, she would challenge you and you would lose your turn.  She had the patience of Job, fielding our questions all day without a trace of irritation.  When I pointed to a ceramic jar on the bathroom counter and asked what ‘Chopper Hopper’ meant, she told me choppers were teeth and a hopper was a place to keep them.  “C’mon, Grandma, you can’t put teeth in a jar!” I said, certain she was pulling my leg.  I about flipped when she opened it and showed me Grandpa’s dentures.  At bath time, I told her I didn’t want my hair shampooed; I had sounded out the words on the bottle and was convinced that a product called ‘Hurr-ible Essence’ would smell bad.  Her rosary resided in an elegant plastic box whose lid was a statuette of the Holy Family.  Across the front it said, “The family that prays together, stays together,” which
I solemnly repeated every time I retrieved it for her.  My fascination with reading everything in her house must have driven her bananas.

(Elegy in Ghazal)

Her gentle brown eyes lit up just for me, my grandma
Her hugs were warm and soft and bosomy, my grandma

She stoked the basement woodstove, did her gardening
in a proper dress and hose—always a lady, my grandma

She turned every chore into fun: chopping up vegetables,
making beds or bread, hanging out laundry, my grandma

In card and Scrabble games, she did not pander to us kids;
she played hard, made us beat her honestly, my grandma

She churned out snickerdoodles and homemade noodles
and jars of tiny pickles, as sweet as could be, my grandma

She knew a mourning dove’s cry, made snapdragons talk,
shook down fruit for us from her apple tree, my grandma

When I tossed a Nerf ball in the toilet, talked too much, or
toppled a houseplant, she never grew angry, my grandma

On her Singer, she sewed clothing and puppets and quilts,
and hundreds of pairs of mittens for charity, my grandma

She even made me a black baby doll, hair done up in braids
Provider of my first lesson in racial diversity, my grandma

Each night, she prayed for world peace and those in need,
counting Hail Marys on her worn rosary beads, my grandma

I’m fifty and childless and live in sweatpants and sneakers,
but inside, where it counts, I shall one day be my grandma

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  1. Aunt Marilyn March 3, 2019 / 8:21 am

    Joan, you made my day. What a lovely tribute to Mom. Brought back many memories of years ago. You are already your grandma inside. Blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 3, 2019 / 8:39 am

      Thanks, Aunt Marilyn. I was adding a few items to my “memory box” after Dad died and came across Grandma’s holy card and a deck of cards from her kitchen drawer. It got me to thinking about her, how staying on vacation at her house was the highlight of the summer, how her everyday life was so fascinating to us. The pieces of her we carry inside us are blessings indeed. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tippy Gnu March 3, 2019 / 8:41 am

    Sounds like you had a very nice grandma. I did too. I came from a dysfunctional home, so it was always an oasis of relief to visit my grandma. My grandparents showed a possibility of a happy, long-term relationship, and a happy home, that gave me hope as an adult.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just Joan March 3, 2019 / 9:03 am

      My home life wasn’t dysfunctional, but grandmas seem to have an unlimited supply of tenderness and patience for curious grands. Plus, she had cool things we didn’t. A wringer washer, a wood stove, a fancy Scrabble board that rotated on a lazy susan. We loved her toy box, full of old pocketbooks (her word for purses) and wallets. She put Jell-O in her homemade popsicles to make them easier to bite into. She let me watch while my aunt gave her a permanent. She and Grandpa took us to the church festival one year and I won BINGO for the first time. Grandparents are special, and I’m glad yours provided a hopeful haven for you. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Cousin Jenny March 3, 2019 / 9:38 am

    The things we remember! I remember Grandpa’s chopper Hopper (once I saw the picture) but don’t recall it saying those words! I have yet to see anything but a plastic one in the nursing home setting!
    What a Grandma we had! God rest her soul!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 3, 2019 / 9:50 am

      Thanks, Jen. They just don’t make chopper hoppers like they used to, do they? Heaven is better and brighter with Grandma there. 🙂


  4. Carri, March 3, 2019 / 9:40 am

    Thanks for sharing those memories, Joan. Made me teary eyed but you pegged her with your memories. She is smiling today to know you appreciated your time with her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 3, 2019 / 9:56 am

      You’re welcome, Aunt Carri. Grandma was beloved to all of us. It must be hard to make each of 37 grandkids feel one-of-a-kind and special, but she did it. 🙂


  5. Joyce Robinson March 3, 2019 / 9:41 am

    Ahh Joan what a wonderful remembrance. Hoping my grandchildren remember me with such fondness

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 3, 2019 / 10:00 am

      I’m sure they will, Joyce. You are so involved with everything they do, always cheering them on, and making them feel special for their particular talents. 🙂


  6. judyrutrider March 3, 2019 / 11:10 am

    The first time I read your blog, I felt a connection; and each time you post something like this, that feeling is intensified. When you ended with “I’m fifty and childless” I realized that our lives ran parallel on yet another level. Independent of our similar roots… What a gifted writer you are!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 3, 2019 / 11:57 am

      Thanks, Judy, what a lovely compliment! Connections are what writing is all about. Did you have a grandmother like mine? At this point in life, I won’t BE a grandmother in the literal sense, but I want to be the kind of lady my grandma was: kind, patient, charitable, fair, appreciative of nature, frugal, a savvy Scrabble player, an artist (she made gorgeous quilts from scraps). She set a high bar. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. humanitiesphilosophy March 3, 2019 / 11:19 am

    Loved your sharing as always, and am blessed you shared the tradition with me to pray together daily.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 3, 2019 / 11:59 am

      Thanks, honey. Prayer is the best glue, it holds things together and can fix almost anything. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  8. snoozing on the sofa March 4, 2019 / 8:55 am

    If you need a grandma job, my kids are looking for one. Here’s a little tip: they like homemade cookies. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 4, 2019 / 6:54 pm

      Snickerdoodles? I do a mean chocolate chip, too. Maybe I could mail them. Grandmas and arctic ass bruises don’t mix. 🙂


  9. L. T. Garvin, Author March 5, 2019 / 9:13 pm

    Oh Joan, I triple love this! I was also lucky enough to have two wonderful grandmothers. This reminded me so much of them. The Ghazal is a lovely poetic form. I adore what you did with it in homage to your grandmother. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 6, 2019 / 11:13 am

      Thanks so much, Lana. My grandmothers couldn’t have been more different, but were both special in their own way. This was about my mom’s mom. Dad’s mom, Anna and her husband lived on a farm, sold eggs at a little shack on their property. They had outside cats and a well you could pump for a cold drink on a hot day. She lost two sons as children, was widowed fairly young, and cared for a disabled daughter until she died. She never learned to drive and relied on my aunt to take her to church and the grocery. She wore slacks under housedresses. Her TV was always tuned to Billy Graham. Our birthday cards from her reliably contained a one-dollar bill and a stick of Fruit Stripe gum. Her toy box had Chinese checkers and old baby dolls whose hair could be flipped up like a bad toupee. If my mom brought three kinds of pie, rather than choose her favorite, she’d have “a sliver of each.” She talked a lot about the (sad) state of the world and ended every sentence with “…and I don’t know.” There’s probably enough there for another Ghazal, if I was so inclined. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sharon S Garwig March 8, 2019 / 11:19 am

    Grandma Margaret is smiling down from heaven! Thank you for capturing her essence perfectly. Love you, sis. The Older and Not-So-Wiser One

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 8, 2019 / 11:36 am

      Thanks, Sis. Grandma was one extraordinary lady, a role model in every way (well, except for the pantyhose). Jesus would be pleased that she always “let the little children come to her.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 8, 2019 / 5:20 pm

      Thanks, JR. No holes here, except the one Grandma left in my heart when she passed away. 🙂


      • joyroses13 March 8, 2019 / 6:32 pm

        Grandma’s are so precious . Mine was gone way too soon as well but she will never be gone from my heart! Parchesi was her game. 🙂

        Oh and good to know that you aren’t in any holes.:)

        Liked by 1 person

  11. K E Garland March 9, 2019 / 5:28 pm

    I love this, especially the part about making you a black baby doll…that’s progressive and really shows how she talked her walk ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 9, 2019 / 6:17 pm

      Thanks, KE. Grandma helped out at the local food bank and spread love to everyone who came in. She sewed hundreds of gloves and mittens and in winter, passed them out on distribution days to anybody who came in without a pair, especially the children. 🙂
      I still have that baby doll. Here is a picture of her:

      Liked by 2 people

  12. circumstance227 March 27, 2019 / 4:45 pm

    This one brought back so many memories of my own grandma. She gave bosomy hugs too. And her hands were so soft and warm. She had a pottery kiln in her basement and a chest full of games – Chinese checkers was my favorite. She made me a red-headed doll with a set of different costumes and my very first toy: the Gingerbread man. Who at this moment is sitting on a shelf over my right shoulder and watching me type this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 27, 2019 / 7:31 pm

      Oh, 227! Your grandma made Gingerbread Man? No wonder he is so special! I have several mementos from Grandma: the quilt she made me for HS graduation, my black baby doll, a deck of cards, and a set of nesting Corning Ware bowls (you know, the big one is yellow, the next is green, then red, then blue)–they are nicked and scratched, well-used and much-loved. Hard to believe she’s been gone almost 15 years.

      Liked by 1 person

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