Saturday, October 21, 2006
Remembering Grammy Mac - 1922-1989
Several of my previous blog posts have included tributes to my paternal grandmother, "Dambi," and it occurred to me that I had yet to mention that I was fortunate to have two wonderful grandmothers for most of my life. My maternal grandmother, Velma Josephine (DeWitt) McElroy or "Grammy Mac," could not have been more different from Dambi, but she taught me just as much, in entirely different ways. And today would have been her 84th birthday, had we not lost her in 1989 to a heart attack at the age of 66, so I thought I'd remember Grammy today, in this post.
I was her first grandchild, just as I was Dambi's, a position which brought with it certain privileges, not the least of which was her undivided attention until my sisters arrived on the scene, as well as an (inaccurate) assumption on her part that I was more mature than I actually was, so that I was always given more freedom (a.k.a. lack of supervision) during frequent overnights at Grammy's when I was a child. My mom's youngest sister (Roberta) was only 4 when I was born, which may have accounted for my grandmother's lack of keen attention to my behavior. I was treated more like her fifth child when I was around, rather than her first grandchild. And those late life kids always get by on benign neglect, which suited me fine, because as the first child of very young parents, I was smothered with attention and overprotection at home. On a typical sleepover when I was about 7 or 8, "Aunt" Roberta (I called her Bert as we were so close in age) would go roller skating in the evening, so I was left to my own devices. Grammy would pull out the sofa bed, and I'd stay up late (anytime past 8 pm when I was a kid) and watch M.A.S.H., Bob Newhart, and the Mary Tyler Moore show. I felt totally grown up watching these shows by myself. When Roberta returned home, we'd burn a batch of Jiffy Pop on the gas stove, and then go to bed. On Saturday morning, Grammy would let me bake my own cheese on toast in the toaster oven, while she fried up an entire pound of bacon.
In addition to giving me my first taste of independence, Grammy taught me how to dress stylishly (albeit, it took me many years to catch on - we won't talk about the 80s). In spite of her humble beginnings -- she was born to a very poor family in Augusta, Georgia -- and struggled financially most of her life, she was a brilliant bargain shopper and could look gorgeous on a shoestring budget. I accompanied her on countless shopping trips before it became un-cool for me to hang out with her, and then my sister Jennifer stepped in where I left off. She bought me my first grown-up trench coat, and my first pair of lined trousers - both inexpensive but classic, so that I owned them for more than a dozen years before I finally stopped wearing them. I am the only person in my family who can find a decent shirt or dress at the likes of WalMart or JC Penney, thanks to Grammy.
This photo of Grammy was taken in 1963, at my parents' wedding. Incidentally, I cropped my grandfather out of this photo, as I'm sure Grammy would have wanted me to - but that's a story for another time.
I have a million more memories of Grammy that all came flooding back as I began writing this, but I will save them to post from time to time on days when Grammy Mac is foremost on my mind - there's a turkey story that begs telling, so perhaps I'll post another Grammy Mac story on Thanksgiving.
Happy Birthday Grammy!
Hope you're enjoying Brooklyn!! (this is a family joke - a whole blog post for another day)
Note: I actually made a collage on canvas with this photo, but I my digital camera hub is at work so I can't post the collage until Monday.