Thursday, September 03, 2009

Apples Don't Fall Far From The Tree

September 3, 1901 Marie (JesusMaryandJosephCorkywheresmyteeth) Jeffries was brought into this world kicking and screaming and probably son-of-a-bitching everyone around her.

She was my grandmother. What a woman.

I think about her all the time. She was quite the character. I like to think I got all the good qualities of my DNA from her. Any bad qualities all of us kids had, my mother naturally blamed on the Polish in us.(which is very, very little Ski!)

All who knew my gram, my mom and me tell me that they will never be dead as long as I'm alive. I consider that a great compliment.

I stayed overnight at my gram's house every Friday night for most of my life until she died. She was the only one who would let me. My other Grandmother couldn't handle me. She could handle 32 other grandchildren at one time as long as I wasn't there. Go figure.

Anyway, those Friday nights were fun. They always started with a trip to the bakery. I would run down Butler Street to Gunther's to get cream puffs for company. Yeah, right. My great-Uncle George who lived next door would come over and sit on the porch with us (He never ate the cream puffs). They would talk for hours about people who had been dead for decades. I wish I would have taped them. When I was 10, I didn't care who these ancient people were. Now it do.

What I didn't realize until much, much later..long after she had died was what an extraordinarily strong woman she must have been. Even after her legs were amputated,as the result of her diabetes, her spirit was never broken.

She was married twice. The first marriage ended in a divorce. She had three young children. Caught him cheating and got the hell out of there. This was in 1925. Imagine being a single mother of 1925.

She then met my mother's father. Big Pete. His parents were straight off the boat from Poland. Imagine how well that went over. Nice Polish policeman takes a crazy Irish divorcee with three kids home to meet the family, none of whom spoke English! PLUS she smoked like a fiend and enjoyed a few bottles of Iron City.
I'm thinking they weren't really all that nice to her. Which would account for my mother telling us every bad habit we had in life we acquired from the Polish. My mother spoke of going there as a kid and hating it because they were all speaking in Polish and my mother sort of got the vibe that there were talking about them.

They loved my Aunt Babe because when asked, she would tell them she was Polish. My mom, she would tell them she wasn't Polish, she was a Democrat. Are we all getting who I take after?

She had to bury a son and daughter-in-law. He survived Pearl Harbor only to die of carbon monoxide poisoning after being home from the war a short time. My mother said she was never the same person.

While trying to cope with that, Big Pete dropped dead at age 53. My gram lived off his pension until her death. The big pension? $21.00 a month.

I mention these things because she did not let any of these tragedies defeat her. She loved life. You only had to be in her presence for a few minutes before she had you in stitches with a joke or singing an Irish tune.

She smoked like crazy. Towards the end of her life, she had Parkinson's disease. She never flicked her cigarette. The ash was as long as the whole cigarette. But it never dropped. Amazing.

The thing that I remember most about her, while sitting on her porch, I never knew who was going to stroll by. She treated every one around her with the dignity that they deserved. She never once rolled her eyes. Not even when Henny Nichols would stop by for the Popsicle sticks that she saved for him.

She was fiercely protective of her children and grandchildren. Just ask my cousin George. Poor thing cried once while watching fireworks when he was probably a year or two old. For the next fifteen years she locked herself in the bathroom with him during Forth of July fireworks just in case they scared him.

When we went to Parades downtown, which was often, every time a horse came down the street, she would yell at my mother and aunt to watch us even MORE carefully than they already were. In 1919 someone got kicked by a horse in a parade...... so you just never can be too careful.

Once, when I was about five or six, someone was picking on me. I ran home crying. While my mother just gave me a hug and told me to ignore them, my grandmother became furious. She told me in no uncertain terms DO NOT take shit from anyone. EVER.

My mother said that was worse thing anyone could have told me. My whole personality changed after that. Thank God, can you imagine me being a sissy-la-la?

I've been sticking up for myself for a good 53 years now.
Thanks Gram.
I'm thinking of you.


Scoop Murphy said...

Hey Hon,

When I would visit with your Gram, she would ask me to buy her candy and, of course, I would get her three. She'd also enjoy a manicure with nail polish...RED nail polish. She loved it. Our conversations were always warm and fun. The world is duller without her.

Judi said...

OMG....I feel like I know her! Love the description about the ash of the cigarette--we always called it the "nose" Aunt Sarah Kirk could do the same thing. She could even talk with the cig hanging out of the one corner of her juicey red-sticked mouth and never loose the ashes! Shit, those Irish women were talented!!
Gunther's Bakery.....oh boy does that bring back memories! We stopped there on our Sunday trips to Homewood to get "Special Muffins" for Grandma Carr!!!
I too loved porch sitting with the older generation when I was a young girl....
It's amazing what our parents and grandparents lived through...isn't it? Kinda makes you stop and think how okay we have it...

Irishembi said...

HA! The cigarette ash! My Great Grandma (also a source of many wise witticisms - some completely indecipherable, but we continue to use them today, such as saying "somewhere some poor dog's ass is sore") was also known for the mile long ash. She used to iron and smoke never ever tapping the ash.

It rocks to come from a long line of impressive Irish women.

Judi said...

Where are you? I'm looking to see if I can get permission to start an AMG chapter in the South Hills.
Can you send me the paperwork to move that along?