Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Florence and Harry

These were my "local" grandparents, Grandma Flo and Grandpa Harry. When I was a little girl, people always told me I looked just like Grandma Flo. And I'd look at this old lady who had jowls like a basset hound, and think...gee, thanks. Of course, now I get it: I do look a lot like her, and when I happened upon the few pictures we have of her as a young girl... yeah, the resemblance is striking.

They were quite a pair. They spent most of their marriage yelling at each other. In Yiddish, as if that would disguise the fact that they were arguing. They had separate bedrooms because each claimed the other snored; they were both right. Grandpa Harry was a terrible tease: no one was safe and any degree of humiliation was okay as long as he thought it was funny. He loved to hear jokes and tell them; I'm sure my Dad's love affair with bad puns came directly from Harry.

Although she was a working girl in the family's drugstore, Grandma Flo was all about family; it's too bad she only had one child. The sun and moon rose for her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Grandma Flo carried some embarrassing prejudices, more as the result of her upbringing than from any personal experience. Still, I have wonderful memories of special times we shared, just the two of us. We often took the bus downtown, and went to several department stores, stopping in to visit Aunt Mildred in "Foundations." Yes, back then, there was a whole department dedicated to garments that kept the girly bits firmly in place. Once a year, we took the train to Chicago, had lunch and attended a fashion show at Marshall Fields. Each of us came home with one "good" dress. On the later trips, she was already becoming easily confused; I took over navigating our way around the city and the large stores. I was always thrilled to "work" next to her at the drug store, running the ancient cash register and making change for customers. I was blatantly Grandma Flo's favorite, more and more as she succumbed to dementia, or maybe Alzheimer's. Sis was deeply hurt by her bias; Grandma Flo often forgot her completely. (Sis doesn't remember that she was Grandma Sophie's clear favorite.)

I thought we were very lucky to have these adoring grandparents just a block away, rather than Mom's parents, who seemed very strict and expected so much from us. Grandma Sophie, especially, was always criticizing me and scolding me for not helping my mother more. Boy, that embarrasses me now to admit it. They loved us too, of course, they just didn't believe in indulging us the way Flo and Harry did.

I'm betting both brothers will be wistfully nostalgic, looking at themselves with all that hair! And now, of course, I look more like a basset hound every day.

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