02 April 2007

Things my grandmother gave me

Every time I go to my grandmother's house, she says she wants to give me something, and sometimes she actually does. Today, it was a hodgepodge as she puttered around her house finding things she had set aside just for me:

  1. Half a pan of yellow cake with crushed pineapple on top. She wanted me to take more, but I told her we would struggle to eat what I was taking before it went bad. She thought I was lying, but Micah has confirmed that he probably won't eat any, as it's "just yellow cake with pineapple on top." To take the cake home, Grandma provided a plate, three toothpicks, and some aluminum foil; the toothpicks are ostensibly to keep the foil from sticking to the cake top, but, of course, they poke through the foil immediately, no matter how careful you are. Micah thinks this is a hazard. She really wanted me to use another pull of foil to go crosswise and also wanted to provide a plastic bag and twist-tie to further secure the package, but I refused those.
  2. $5.50 cash. The $5 was an honorarium for taxiing her to the accountant's office this afternoon as she delivered her "tickets" (read: "receipts") and other tax-worthy documents so that he can prepare her W-2. (The papers were sealed with an entire roll of tape in the envelope her CPA sent last year's taxes to her in.) The 50 cents was repayment to Micah for scanning and printing two copies of an old family photo; she has asked multiple times "how much do I owe Mike for that work, now?" and we've told her the photos were only 20 cents each, so she doesn't need to repay us. She doesn't take anything for free, though, so she finally got out her coin purse and even gave him a 10-cent tip.
  3. A pile of scrap paper. Every time I have talked to her over the past month or so, her answer to the question "What are you doing?" has been "First one thing and another, cutting up these papers." She has a small table-top shredder that she feeds the mailing labels on everything she receives, along with bank statements and the like, but the shredder is so small that she can't just shove in a full sheet of paper. Well, she could on the trifold, but that's too simple. And she could just tear them into shredder-size bits, but that's not sufficiently neurotic. So she cuts them with old-school scissors: metal and pointed, with a pinky rest. It's a wonder she hasn't punctured herself with them. And she apparently maintains piles of "to-be shredded" documents somewhere in her house so that she can tackle them all at once rather than bit-by-bit. Ergo, the project requires a good month of paced work. She never throws her mailing address in the trash can (you know, the one that she puts directly in front of her house, a stone's skip from the mailbox) and she gets scrap paper out of the deal. What's more, she can share the scraps: all the size of 1/3 a full 8.5" x 11" sheet, these apparently indicate that the month-long project has come to a close.
  4. A spot of tea. In a common marketing endeavor, Tetley sent a sample of their round tea bags to postal customers and Grandma thought I might like to have them since she doesn't plan to brew tea with them. The envelope proclaims these are "FREE" and "Introducing" Tetley Round tea bags. And it seems that Tetley introduced those round bags in 1989. . . .
  5. A bag of baby spoons with one surprise fork. Each utensil is still in its original cellophane package, and they are bound together with a twist-tie. That package was then dropped into a cellophane bag that has some gold stripes on it, and that bag is closed with a gold twist-tie. Grandma thought we might like to have these for "Dola." When I told her that another silver spoon originally in the gold bag wasn't a baby spoon but one designed for some kind of serving, like the spoon we always use for cranberries, she took that one out and only let me leave with the baby ones. She said, "I found these before your shower and held them, case nobody gave you spoons, but if you don't want them, I can keep them, but if you only have one, you could have another, case Doel knocks one on the floor you can just get another one, don't have to clean it. But Jenny, you don't have to take these, now, if you don't think you'll use them, but I'd like Doel to have them. You know Avon gave me those, worked for them long time and they always gave us things like that, a spoon in every big order, and I worked hard."
All this came after several stories about snakes, a lecture about how to feed Noel in such a way as to obviate all crying, and an offer of a boiled-ham sandwich ("Don't tell me you're not hungry. Oh, Jenny, I know. I know you're hungry." At 3:30 pm? Some of us lunch on more than a handful of potato chips, which is what she said she had today). It was an ironic afternoon.

16 comments:

Micah said...

I don't mean any slight to your grandmother's cooking--it's just that yellow cake with pineapple icing isn't my style of cake any less than pizza with cleverly-named ham triangles and pineapple isn't my style of pizza.

And fortunately she uses dull toothpicks. Nobody wants an injury to the soft tissue of their hand from cake he didn't eat.

rachel said...

i would love to meet grandma...ester is it?

Shannon said...

I hope when I'm sending stuff home with my grandbabies after they've had babies of their own (and I'm sure I won't get the babies names right, either), they're kind enough to write something sweet like this about our afternoons together... And a 10 cent tip? Hey, that's big money in these here parts. I've got a 3 year old that would wrestle you for it.

My Breathments Off said...

Do you think she was thinking about your rejection of the yellow pineapple cake when she called Noel "Doel"?

Jen Strange said...

Yep, Esther--loved of many. And big tipper :) Tell that three-year-old we ain't rasslin: she can't have it! I'm actually shocked Grandma gave up that ten cents--she's usually rather precise about such things.

Re "Doel"--funny and good ear, Sic. Micah says I should spell it "Dole" because she generally says it in one chumped syllable rather than the 1.5 that "Noel" usually takes. And that would evoke the pineapple much better. But no, by the time the cake came up, she'd already gotten it straight and returned to calling him "the baby."

Brent and Kat said...

Really, now, you forgot to mention the wonderful smiles and memories she gave you... I think Esther really is playing us with this eccentric old lady routine. I wouldn't be surprised if you don't turn on MTV someime soon and see you and her together with Ashton Kutcher narrating on "Punked." That's my prediction, at least!

lauren said...

Um, can Adult 7 please have a ministry project for Grandma? We could take turns driving her to the grocery, clean around the house, whatever. I know she would protest, but for ME...I think my life would be a bit richer if I had a little Esther in it. At least I get to hear some of the stories...

Arthur Jackson said...

I went to change a flat tire for my grandparents on Monday at St. Vincent Mall (outside "the Piccadilly" of course). I knew going over there that I would be paid extravegantly for simply being a good grandson. I was correct. Granny slipped 20 bucks into my back pocket as she was hugging me goodbye. I told her to drive carefully and slowly on the mini/temporary style spare I put on. (As if one could drive more slowly and carefully than she normally does...) She said that she would do just that and also that she was going "directly to the Esso station." For those who don't know, Esso is what Exxon used to be known as before they were bought out sometime after the Second World War.

Arthur Jackson said...

oops...I misspelled "extravagantly." And I just had to look up "misspell" (as i always do) to make sure I don't misspell it, too.

Jamie Oakes said...

Lauren's idea about a ministry project for Jenny's grandmother reminded me of female intern ministry projects from days gone by. Allow me to relay one such ministry visit (of the more male variety) from long ago.

...Mrs. Hagler answered the door (lit cigarette in hand) and greeted me rather inattentively. After she advised me of my tasks, I asked her, "Mrs. Hagler, why do you smoke?"

She stepped forward to close the door and "keep in the cool air." But, before she could answer, she tripped on the front step and burnt herself and her dress with the cigarette. She then began to cough so violently that several neighbors came out looking for road construction. Finally, after an interminable period of hacking up several handfuls of green and black phlegm, she responded, "i enjoy it."

rafe said...

Hilarious reading! I'm glad I found this one.

Micah said...

that's a deft manuever by granma jax

Lin said...

your g-ma cracks me up. i would never take any food from my g-ma since the running joke in our family is everything in her fridge/pantry expired 10 yrs ago...seriously. last yr she asked me if i wanted some frozen rib-eye that herb bought....herb was her 2nd husband who died in 1994.

Jen Strange said...

Indeed, Lauren, Esther would protest. She's "independent" and doesn't need help getting to the Esso. She likes to talk about the station that was at the corner of the highway near her house: "that crippled boy" ran it, and she always got her oil changed there, just like Ike (my grandfather) told her.

Jen Strange said...

Oh, and who's posing as "Hie-mee" as Mandy used to say? That story about Mrs. Hagler is classic. Almost too true to be funny.

On a similar note . . . that pre-1994 rib-eye is grossly hi-larious.

rafe said...

Speaking of Mrs. Hagler, she seems to be getting along pretty well.