My parents are two of the most normal people you will ever meet. They are not controversial in any way, shape, or form. The same cannot be said for my grandparents. To be honest all four of them were all a little odd, but one of them in particular stole the crazy flag and ran with it.
I called her Memere, which is French for Granny. She was first generation American as her parents had immigrated from Quebec. Good ole Memere had a lot of quirks about her beside just speaking in a sort of Fren-glish. She drank Ancient Age whiskey by the fifth, smoked like a dirty chimney, and said what she thought with no filter. She was a hell of a lot of fun as a babysitter too!
Occasionally she would entertain my sister and I while my parents went out to dinner. That is when we really got a show. Memere would feed us plates of spaghetti bigger then our heads and then for dessert show us how to flip crepes with our bare hands. Playing with hot pans was something mom never let us do. It was great fun to see who could get the crepe flipped over best without obtaining third degree burns.
After dinner Memere was known to give lessons in anything from poker to blackjack. We did a lot of gambling before we reached double digit ages. Pennies were passed out and the games began. There was no handicap, it was every man for themselves. We learned when to go all it, and when you needed to fold. And oh the joy, when you got to rake in all of your sister’s money as she sat across the table pouting. What fun!
As the evening went on and the Ancient Age bottle got lighter and lighter the entertainment became a bit of a floor show. Memere had a dummy, a real genuine ventriloquist’s dummy, and she knew how to use it. She would sit in her nylon nightgown and house shoes with her cigarette hanging out the side of her mouth and that dummy on her knee. She would tell jokes and bob his head up and down as my sister and I rolled with laughter. My sister and I stared in wonder at how Memere was able to keep that cigarette in her mouth the whole time the dummy was talking. It was really something special.
Being babysat at Memere’s was the five year old’s equivalent to a night on the Vegas Strip. As we got older though Memere never dulled in her unique ability to care for us.
When I was about nine I asked Memere if she would take me to get a Mother’s Day present for my mom. She immediately accepted and off we went to Sears. I had saved up about $35, which was big money in the 1980’s, and I wanted to get something really special for my mom.
Memere and I wandered all around Sears looking for just the right gift. We passed the kitchen department, the linens, and the women’s wear, and ended up in the lingerie department. And that is where with Memere’s guidance I found the world’s most inappropriate gift for my mother, and it was perfect!
I was so excited and so proud. I passed over the counter the black, lacy teddy neglige I had picked out special just for my mom as the sales woman stared back in horror. Then I slapped my money down on the counter as Memere looked on with an approving smile. The look of confusion on the sales woman’s face was epic. I guess you don’t see a kid buying trashy lingerie with her grandma everyday.
When Mother’s Day arrived I was giddy with excitement as mom tore open the package I had carefully wrapped for her. Boy did she try to look thrilled as she held up that black scrap of sexy lingerie! I mean what mom wouldn’t be proud to have her nine year old pick out risqué unmentionables for her. Memere and I looked at one another with knowing grins. We had done it, we had picked out the best Mother’s Day gift ever.
Childhood with Memere was never dull. While she never quite had a grasp of the age appropriate, she did know how to show a kid a good time. That is for damn sure!