I always (gently) teased my grandmother that she had to live to be 100.
And this was no childhood thing; I am pretty sure I started this campaign in my 20s. I’m not sure why I did, and likely it was because I never could imagine a world where she was not in it, even if she had to live to be 190.
Like horseshoes and hand grenades, she won that by being close, leaving this world seventeen years ago today. And I was on the other side of the country.
So I reach into the pile of past posts and comb through the 50 minutes of so I recorded of her back in maybe 1996, done on an old school microcassette tape at my sisters house in Baltimore.
In this clip she insists on her childhood being good (with her laugh). The backstory is this was a childhood where her immigrant mother Eva passed away when grandma was ?? maybe 11 (I find Eva in the 1915 Census but not 1920), being raised largely by a mob of older sisters and brothers in likely a Newark tenement apartment. They were poor and never seemed to talk about that being bad, because she and her siblings had each other, and a dad, who all I knew was a kind of natural genius, a gifted self taught, award winning chess player.
She describes going to the movies with her mother, Eva silent movies, having to read the dialogue cards to her mother who did not speak English. Granny had learned piano as a child, I think there’s a story of learning at a neighbors, and she said she worked briefly playing piano in the silent theaters (“until they got an organ”).
She talked about having to go to work at age 14, when she was “done” with school after the 8th grade. That was considered enough schooling around that time (~1918). Only her youngest sister Florence went to high school. “High school?” she says on tape with a lilt, “Whoever heard of high school?”
I can see I used the same photo above for several of these posts, and it’s funny, because while I remember that being at my sister’s house, I just noticed that the audio cassette recorder is sitting on my knee. Thus this photo was taken at the time the above audio was recorded (ignore my mullet hairdo).
Or maybe my memory is wrong, the caption on that flickr photo mentions the recorder- but there it is, working some 1990s technology to save Granny’s voice. So I can hear it again in 2020.
I don’t know what became of that recorded, not even sure whose it was, but here was my setup in 2009 when I had sense to digitize it
I don’t know what kept her going to live to 98; she outlived her husband by like 50 years, outlived all of her brothers and sisters, outlived both of her children and one grandchild.
It was the thing I kidded her about all the time (I loved to make her laugh). Her “spunk”.
98 was more than enough, Granny. Thanks for every one of your loving quirks. Hello from 2020, though I am glad you do not have to see it lived out. You did plenty from 1905 to 2003.
Featured Image: Mashup of my own photo of me and granny Recording Grandma’s Stories flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license, lightened slightly, and superimposed with the numbers that include 100 and 98 (box added around “98”) from Image from page 305 of “Soils, their properties and management” (1915) flickr photo by Internet Archive Book Images shared with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons)