|Grammy Rewards – Deborah Dalfonso
Our daughter, Jill, has two grandmothers who are different as chalk and cheese.
One grandmother taught her to count cards and make her face as blank as a huge white Kleenex when she bluffed at blackjack. They practiced in the bathroom mirror. The other grandmother taught her to where to place the salad forks. When Jill was three, this grandmother taught her not to touch anything until invited to do so. The other grandmother taught her to slide down four carpeted stairs on a cookie sheet.
They are both widows, these grandmothers, and one lives in a trailer park in Florida from October until May, then moves north to an old lakefront camp in Maine for the summer. This is a leaning discouraged looking structure filled with furniture impervious to wet swimsuits. Raccoons sleep on the front deck every night. The other grandmother resides in a townhouse at the Best Address in the City – a brick, regal looking building boasting a security system and plants in the hallways that are tended by florists who arrive weekly in green vans.
One grandmother plays Lotto America, Tri-state Megabucks, and bingo at the Penobscot Indian Reservation. The other grandmother plays bridge every Tuesday with monogrammed playing cards. One wears primary colors, favoring fluorescents when she has a tan; the other wears Leslie Fay suits, largely taupe or black.
They both take Jill on adventures, these grandmothers. One took her to a Bonnie Raitt concert, and the other to a Monet exhibit at a fine arts museum.
One grandmother believes in magic; the other believes in the stock market. The both believe in security. To one security means plenty of white mushroom, Vermont Cheddar, and fresh limes in the refrigerator when the meteorologist said, “We’re gonna have some weather.” The other thinks security refers to a financial planner with solid references.
Both grandmothers are near 70, and have hair the color of good wood smoke. One wears her hair long and braided and pins her plaits into a crown around her head. Sometimes in the evening she lets Jill loosen all of that heavy hair and fluff it free with an ancient hairbrush. The other grandmother hasher done twice a week by Cyril, who wears silk shirts with shoulder pads and discourses on the art world.
One grandmother would be delighted to learn that many people think of her as eccentric. The other hopes that people will refer to her as “correct.” This grandmother, when startled, says “Oh my word,” her strongest expletive. The one says “Jesus Mary and Joseph” or “hot damn” or both, or worse.
Before entertaining, one grandmother hires help to come in for an extra half day to polish the silver and attend to the table setting. From this grandmother Jill will learn about civility, and elegance and the gleam of things well cared for. The other gram kills the lights, burns candles and says, “They’re coming to see me, not my house.”
During Hurricane Bob, one of Jill’s grandmothers bought her a duckling-yellow slicker and took her to Higgins Beach to watch the wind kicking up the surf. She believes that the ocean throws off positive ions, excellent for growth and peace of mind. While they were experiencing the elements, Jill’s other grandmother called to make certain we were safely down in the cellar.
“Are there many ways to live?” my puzzled six year old asked me after a recent visit to the Best Address in the City, where she was expected to bathe and dress for dinner.
“Yes,” I said gently. “There are many, many ways, and you may choose which feels right to you.” And, I promised myself silently, I will let her make her own choice.
Two grandmothers, two different worlds. Both want for Jill no less than the lions’ share. One will be her anchor; the other will be her mainsail.