Thursday, December 25, 2014


Because I've been a scold for the last few posts, I thought I'd make you all laugh for the New Year.

As I mentioned in my comments to the last entry, SURPRISE!, my mother was a total flake. My kids sometimes didn't call her Grandma, they called her Graham, for the cracker, because, they said, she was cracked! And they loved it! And so did she.

She loved words---and bad puns. In our early teens, I and my brother---a genuine genius---would have "intellectual" conversations, often above her limited schooling. We took ourselves very seriously! And she would stalk us, hovering around as we conversed. It drove us nuts, because we knew exactly what she was doing! She was listening for the odd word in our conversation that she could use for a bad pun! "Haydn?" she would interrupt, knowing nothing about the composer. "Have you heard his Zeek?" "What are you talking about?" we'd say. "Oh, my," she'd answer. "You've never heard of Haydn's Zeek?" (Sound it out!)

And after we'd groan over the bad pun and tell her it was terrible, she'd smile sweetly and say, "Terrible? So's tissue paper."

And she insisted that, if you could say "fourth" or "fifth" or "sixth", you could say "oneth" or "twoth" or "threeth". And so she did. My mind still works in that direction. Last week, when someone asked me for the date, I said automatically, "It's the twenty-tooth".  (Made sense to ME!)

And how about doing something "for the halibut", one of her throwaway lines? We were expected to respond to that comment of hers by saying it sounded fishy to us.

One of my favorite goofy stories about my mother involved LIFE magazine and the scrapbook my brother and I had. Mom was always slow in reading back issues, and we weren't allowed to cut up magazines she hadn't yet read. To let us know she was "finished with" an issue (which usually had a picture of a person on the cover), she would put a large X on the person's nose. It became one of her signature habits. But she decided to extend it to our behavior. If we were really bugging her, she would say nothing. Instead, she would pick up a pencil and put a large X  on our noses, to let us know she was "finished with" US! It was enough to get us to back away from a confrontation!

I mentioned in my SURPRISE! blog entry how she made fun centerpieces for special occasions, but she would often let the supper dishes wait so she could make tiny "furniture" out of watermelon rinds or "flowers" our of apple peelings. ("Watermelon", incidentally, became a bad pun, as in "Watermelon head you are!")

Perhaps the most endearing thing about her was her willingness to be silly, to indulge a child's goofy impulses, even if it made more work for her. (Too many parents cut corners because it's easier and faster.) But the magic of those moments lasts for a lifetime, an extra-special memory. I remember when my younger sister was about 3 or 4---she suddenly only wanted green food. She was very firm about it and refused to eat. Most mothers would have gone head-to-head with a stubborn child like that, insisting that she eat her food! Not OUR mother! She bought food coloring. And for the week or so while my sister's "phobia" lasted, there was green milk, and green soft-boiled eggs and green oatmeal and green potatoes!

More special, during winter in our very snowy New England town, the piled-up snow would eventually turn to a thick layer of ice on the top. My brother and I would spend hours carefully cutting a heart from the top layer. It took forever, the icy heart often cracking at the last minute as we smoothed away the soft snow from beneath it. But eventually, we had a perfect heart, which we presented lovingly to Mom. She didn't say, "Get that messy thing out of here. It's dripping all over my floor!" She took the ice heart and laid it gently in the middle of the kitchen floor. And admired it till it melted away.

She was a special lady, with a rare spark. Even today, when one of my kids sends a generalized email to the family with a bad joke or pun, someone else will respond, "Grandma would have loved that!"


  1. Oh what a delightful mother you had! No wonder you are so inherently all begins at home. She reminds me of my fun-loving grandmother although Nana was never self-deprecating in her mischief. Your mother and the snow heart brought tears to my eyes. Happy New Year Sylvia!

  2. Thanks, Donna. And Happy New Year to you! My sister commented on Facebook about Mom interacting with her children: "My kids loved sitting with her on the edge of the bed, facing a mirror, seeing who could make the silliest face." And I remembered another one of her favorite comebacks---I'd say to her, 'I saw a bunch of beautiful summer dresses in the store today." And she'd say, with a straight face, "Well, summer dresses, and summer not." (Say it aloud!)