Geez. This post has been a long time stuck in my head and I’ve never written it. It is a hard one for me because there is so much to say and I hardly know where to begin.
My Grandma Ginger played a huge role in my childhood and probably on the person that I’ve become. Bigger than huge. Some family members actually used to deem me a living reincarnation of Grandma Ginger (before she had even passed).
I adored Ginger so much. When I was growing up on the chicken farm in hicksville Reedley, she was the bright and fabulous, bedangled in gold jewelry, glamorous woman that lived next door to us on the ranch. A woman that would get her hair done in town every week. A woman that would read novels non-stop. Yes, my Grandma, who at 80 years old drove a Camero with the license plate HIYAGINGA. And the same woman that had boyfriends well into her 80s (my grandfather died the year that I was born).
Ginger was not an easy woman to get along with. I’m sure that her boys and my mother can attest to that. She had her Gingerisms. I’m sure they would say that she was demanding, spoiled and self-centered. But all those traits are things that a child doesn’t neccesarily see in someone that you idolise. And I really did idolise her…
GG used to take me into town with her on her weekly hair trips. On trips to visit her girlfriends in town. To the library to pick up her weekly read. She put up with Graham and I on our afternoon visits when we arrived home from school to torment her. She would scream at us for the crap that we used to ask her – things like “Grandma, when you die can I have your car?” (that one caused us to be booted from her house).
Every year she would buy us birthday cards and put money into them. She was an avid magazine shopper – the woman would receive no less than 50 catalogues per week in the mail.
She loved to play gin rummy. Graham and I used to win all the time until she finally figured out that we could see the reflection of the cards in her glasses and cheat.
Ginger loved her dogs. She always had a dog. Max, the one I remember best, was a stupid Irish Setter that my entire family hated. And when I say he was stupid…I mean STUPID. He once was lost for a few days because he had gone down to the pond and when it started raining he got stuck in the mud. Her last dog was some freak whose previous owners had its barker removed so he just made a horrible sound like arfff all the time. But she loved the dumb, pathetic mutts regardless.
Every year on her birthday she insisted that we all take her into Reedley to the Bear Club for dinner. Everyone (my dad and his brothers) hated these trips and complained non-stop about them, but everyone always went. Every year on Mother’s Day we used to have to go to the Sherwood Inn which always resulted in Uncle David making some drunken rant that we’d all roll our eyes at. When we were younger the best part about these trips was drinking Shirley Temples. Another thing that I’m reminded of is the overpowering smell of Grandma’s perfume. The woman knew how to pack it on!
One tradition that Grandma Ginger had in our family was to call all the boys on the day after Thanksgiving and say to them (as if they didn’t know after years of saying this), “Do you know that today is the biggest shopping day of the year?” I have taken over that tradition and try to continue that every year…
Grandma also used to make these embroidered calendars, stockings and knitted blankets. On the calendars there were little sequins where your birthday was marked. Somehow when these calendars were hung on the wall throughout the year you felt a little special when you would see your little sequin. Grandma loved you and remembered you. Graham also has his very special little blankey that Grandma made for him. I’m sure he still has it. A dark and light blue blanket that he used to share a corner with me when I was a baby.
As Grandma got older and I moved far away I saw a lot less of her. Not that I didn’t think of her and send postcards and letters. And she started getting older. A lot older than I ever remembered her to be. The last time I went to visit her she was having trouble remembering who I was. She would say to me, “You are so beautiful, what is your name again?” and then there were moments when she would remember me. It broke my heart.
When Grandma finally suffered a stroke and complications and was on her death bed I refused to go and see her. That may sound callous and cold to some people. But to me it made sense. And it is something that I live with and I don’t regret doing.
My Grandmother was a vain and beautiful person. I know that. I knew her. There is a lot of me that was learned by watching her when I grew up. And knowing that, I chose not to go and see her in that state. I chose not to remember her by seeing a shell of what she would want to be remembered as. I chose to keep her memory – her dignity and her beauty – in my heart as she would want me to remember her.
I really think that she would have gotten a kick out of who I’ve become and the adventures that I’ve had. I still have dreams about her. It is funny that so much of your childhood comes back to you in dreams. And she does – just as I remember her – with her done up hair, her gold rings, her smile. My Grandma Ginger.
Georgia Rose Robesky
30 August 1907 to 28 July 2000