I know I’ve been MIA for a large number of days, because of reasons. I’m going to just dive back in instead of talking about them, but I am very concerned because it seems like every other day I see another ambulance pulling up to another neighbor’s house and I’m very worried about all of these people. I want them to be okay, and I don’t want their families to remember this as “the year grandma was in the hospital for Thanksgiving.” Or worse. I don’t want to think about worse. There’s one outside right now.
Speaking of grandmas, I am very grateful for mine. She’s gone now, and I had new occasion to remember her fondly when a friend of mine posted about her family’s pierogi making day tradition on Facebook. I love any similar story where people get together with their abuelas or their nonnies or their omas to make tamales or ravioli or strudel or whatever it may be; it fills me with hope and joy and all sorts of wonderful feelings. But pierogi are especially dear to my heart, because that’s what MY buscia made. And none are ever like hers, nor will they ever be.
But I am grateful for my grandma (she only became buscia later, as a great-grandma, to differentiate her from grandma, when MY mother became grandma) for more reasons than that. Despite having a very hard life, the kind they make movies out of, my grandma made life wonderful for us. Not in a grand, sweeping gesture; she didn’t have the means to do something like that. Instead, she made sure we knew she loved us in a thousand tiny ways instead.
Like having gum in her purse. Like making sure she had crayons and paper available. Like taking us downtown on the El every summer. And always, always making sure the bluebird was filled with Pick-a-Mix candy.
Every year someone posts a poll or an article about the “worst Halloween candy,” and every year someone will say something about the Brach’s Pick-a-Mix candy either individually or collectively, and every year I want to punch that jerk in the snotlocker. Because grandma loved us, and had to walk to the Jewel to get that candy, and had to be thinking of us and how we were coming to visit. And she wanted to make us happy in the small but unfailingly consistent way she could.
I ask you, would you rather have some cold and distant millionaire grandparent who every so often threw money at you? Or someone who had almost nothing, yet used what little she had to think of you, to prove that you were worthy of her time and attention and love?
I have to tell you, as someone who was frequently above average at things but never a star, not skilled at sports or dance or some of those other activities that earn you trophies or recognition as a kid, it was really, really nice to have someone value you just because your existence meant something to her. And our existence meant something to grandma.
She spent her life making sure her family was taken care of and loved. That’s how she counted success. And grandma, you were a success. Just instead of an Oscar or your name on the wing of a museum, the symbol of your achievement is the Bluebird Cookie Jar.