Thursday, December 25, 2008

This Christmas, I Channeled Grandma

My Mom's Mother was German.  As a child, I spent a lot of time wondering why she cleaned so much and laughed so little.  She's not remembered as being a very loving woman but every time she gently pin-curled my thick head of hair, I knew she loved me.

Grandma did a lot of funny things by accident.  When we laughed at her, we made sure to do it in private.  After all, this is a woman who was known to start whipping kids with the wooden rosary she'd just been praying on.  And it wasn't just Mary and Jesus she threw around, her broom was used as a powerful weapon. With it, she chased small children and animals into hiding all the while shaming them with German curses.  

Unless she was angry, Grandma spoke English.  Her mother, my Great-Grandmother Folk, tried not to speak German in public, either.  Since this was post-war America, speaking the language of Hitler was something done in private.  Or in extreme anger.  Take your pick.

Once, Great-Grandma Folk came over to watch my mom and her two sisters while my Grandma went to the dentist.  She was getting fitted for dentures and of course, had to have her teeth pulled out.  When she came home with a painful, puckered and unsightly mouth, she reverted to speaking German with her mom.  My aunt was hiding under the bed bawling because she thought that without teeth, Grandma couldn't speak in English.

She pronounced Tylenol, "Ty-nol", called the couch a "Davenport", and had friends that were "Eye-talian".  Her medicine cabinet was filled with so many over-the-counter drugs that I'm sure would be of great value to the neighborhood meth user.  My Grandma often confused the drugs in her cabinet. 

It wasn't uncommon for us to be laughing at the kitchen table because we heard, "Jesus, Mary & Joseph! I just dropped Pa's nasal spray in my EYE!" coming from the bathroom.  Or, "Oh, for Pete's sake! That was BEN-GAY?! I thought it was Polygrip."  It is the running joke in our family.  

Which is why my mom called me a few years back to tell me (between tears of laughter) that instead of cleansing gently with a cotton-ball full of astringent, she had rubbed her face raw with nail-polish remover.  Jesus, Mary & Joseph.

Yesterday, I used my own astringent.  I noticed that it seemed a bit bubblier than usual and thought that it might be my imagination.  I inspected my cotton ball to see if maybe there was some soap on it or something.  And then today.  It happened again.  Instead of the nice, tingly lavender rubdown, there was a strange, foamy residue.  I marched downstairs-in my towel, even- and confronted my 8-year old.

"Lambchop.  Tell me the truth.  Have you been doing science experiments with this?" I asked as I held up the bottle in question.  He denied it.  I didn't believe him.  I pressed again.  "Are you SURE you didn't add something to this??  Hydrogen Peroxide?  Soap??  Come on.  Just tell me."  I could not get him to admit he'd been tweaking my skin-care even though I practically interrogated him.

Which is why I felt just a little bit guilty when I discovered it was eye-make-up remover I'd been smearing all over my face.

Under my breath, I muttered "Jesus, Mary & Joseph...."  I fugured my Grandma and I were just wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

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