My grandmother's 100th birthday was this week. She apparently was not quite ready for such longevity and passed away in her sleep just a few days shy. (Her mother had made it to 101, it's possible she didn't want to knock off that record.) I had been putting together this list for her in anticipation.
1. My grandfather decided he did not want to be known as grandpa. He wanted, instead to resurrect a childhood nickname Bud. Not to be outdone, my grandmother went with Mamamia (sometimes shortened to Mia).
2. Mamamia grew up in Oregon.
3. Mamamia attended Vassar, and held onto her graduation ring until the 1990's, when she gave it to me.
4. Mamamia took gorgeous photographs.
5. I have a few. She did not believe I really wanted them at first, thought I was just trying to make her feel better.
6. At one point, Mamamia interned for Life Magazine.
7. Mamamia is super afraid of snakes.
8. I discovered this quite by accident one day when six-year-old-me stuck a rubber snake on her shoulder and she literally jumped. And screamed.
9. My mother found this story hilarious. My mother also enjoyed sticking rubber snakes in places on our visits, such as the car glove compartment.
10. Mamamia has macular degeneration so these visual jokes lost their oomph.
11. Mamamia is super organized.
12. Over her life she moved into progressively smaller houses and each time she has put together lists of all the things that need to be dispersed and distributed them.
13. Sometimes, a few things changed, and they would go to the new place with a tag naming the relative who had claimed that item so they'd get it at the next move.
14. Mamamia has always had pets, at least in my lifetime.
15. There was a lab that had been my uncle's that came to live with them during a move, and never quite left.
16. There was a Siamese cat named Lucifer.
17. There was a Siamese cat named Pandora.
18. When Lucifer had an untimely encounter with a car, it was decided that Pandora needed company and so there was Jason. (Yes, there was a mythological theme going there.)
19. In Jason's kittenhood he discovered that if he got a running start on the hall rug, he could spin like a whirling dervish on the hardwood floors.
20. When Lucifer and Pandora went to the great kitty beyond, Mamamia made it about two weeks before she happened to see an ad about cats in the paper.
21. So then there were Angela and Gabriel. Angela is still with her. Angela has appointed herself guard kitty since Mamamia's had some strokes and, in Angela's world view, cannot properly defend herself.
22. I find this hilarious because Angela will let you pet her and then remember she is on guard and you are "new" and hiss at you but then come back because you were the one who was petting her, basically, Angela is conflicted.
23. As kittens, Angela and Gabriel got into normal kitten antics. Mamamia would invite her neighbor over to watch.
24. They declared this better than TV.
25. Mamamia loved to travel. Sort of. She loved being new places, but, as you may suspect, is a bit particular so sometimes found some of the things that happen when you travel annoying.
26. An example of this occurred in Bermuda. I arrived later this day, so heard this from the other relatives, but they went on a tour of the hotel where they told them about how in Bermuda they use rainwater harvesting to get fresh water and not too long after that revelation, Mamamia started feeling a little nauseous. (She and my mom did go to a doctor, who pronounced her fit.)
27. Mamamia was pretty ecumenical about things that can happen while travelling. In Paris she was surrounded by a flock of adorable children who kept asking her questions. After they dispersed she noticed her purse was hanging open. (She was carrying primarily traveller's checks, so all was fine. But I have met people who quite literally got on the next plane home after such scenarios.)
28. Mamamia also travelled to Asia, Australia, and South America.
29. Mamamia always asks me about my creative pursuits, in addition to other news. She firmly believes that, as she says, people who have such talents should use them.
30. Mamamia has three boys and one girl. They all survived to adulthood.
31. Mamamia has eight grandchildren. She has been excellent to all of us.
32. Mamamia has one great grandchild. She would be thrilled to have more, but so far, her grandchildren are procreation slackers. (Comparatively, my other grandmother had lived to see great-great grandchildren. In our defense, some of the grandkids are still in college.)
33. Both my grandmothers were married the same year. They found this pretty cute.
34. Mamamia did not go gray, her hair went solid white. (In fact some of her kids are hard pressed to remember her hair pre-whiteness.)
35. My other grandmother was also solid white, so she shared that too.
36. Mamamia had a small cloth handbag with a wooden handle for much of my life. I'm sure she had others too, but I remember that one getting a lot of use.
37. Mamamia does not acknowledge my current hair color. I was not aware this was an issue (so I swear it wasn't intentional, although obviously I have done nothing to address this) until she commissioned an artistic rendering of my family but told the artist that my hair in this picture should be brown. (The artist, who is a family friend, took me aside to explain this to me, lest I become concerned about the artist's color perception.)
38. Mamamia has a sister. She and her sister live in the same retirement community. Once her sight started failing, her sister would read to her.
39. Not that they are keeping track, but Mamamia (and Bud) once went halfway around the world to help her sister and her sister's kids make their way back home after a tragic accident.
40. Mamamia and Bud celebrated over fifty years of marriage. (Also, their fiftieth anniversary was the same year as my other grandparents.)
41. Mamamia is excellent at crossword puzzles. Often the only thing left would be the one or two pop culture questions (things like star of "Pretty Woman" which were sometimes the only parts of these crosswords I could do.)
42. Mamamia is an excellent cook and baker.
43. Mamamia let me help her make meringues once.
44. There are also some delicious sweet rolls. I once learned the lesson about food and dogs as I held the last sweet roll poised in front of me only to have the aforementioned lab snap it out of my hands.
45. Mamamia comforted me but recommended I be a little more cautious eating food around the dog.
46. She also told me she was making cauliflower that night, and it should be pretty funny since my mom hated cauliflower.
47. She also sent me a care package in college of homemade macaroons. Each macaroon was individually plastic wrapped and the whole batch was encased in bubble wrap. They were delicious.
48. Mamamia was an avid tennis watcher. Pro, country club, she was happy to sit and watch any of it.
49. Mamamia always had lots of books. She was as happy to see child me reading kid lit as Noel Coward.
50. Mamamia and Bud had an excellent record collection full of musical soundtracks.
51. Mamamia happily embraced email and its ability to allow her to send lovely letters more speedily to relatives across the world.
52. Mamamia (and Bud) loved big family trips. I have been lucky enough to tag along on trips to Oregon, London, France, and Bermuda.
53. Mamamia and Bud invited each grandkid for their own sibling and parent free visit scheduled somewhere around the child turning seven so they could spend time with us as an individual person.
54. I have to tell you, being viewed as an individual person is heady stuff, especially for a seven year-old.
55. When Bud became bedridden, after progressive strokes, Mamamia created ongoing entertainment, including playing solitaire up-side down (facing him) and developing a blinking system so he could convey which cards she should move.
56. As you might suspect, Mamamia can be a little selfless like that.
57. Mamamia hates medication.
58. She recognizes its uses, but had a bad experience with nasal spray and became suspicious of it.
59. Her children would joke that if your arm was partially detached, she would offer you half an aspirin.
60. She's not a big complainer. In one scenario, she battled bronchitis for a month and when she sorta kinda halfway mentioned to the doctor that she didn't feel much better (having taken the full batch of antibiotics) accepted their suggestion that she was getting old, and it was affecting her recovery time. After she got worse, they discovered a drug interaction was the real culprit, and they switched her antibiotic and she recovered quickly.
61. Some modern things did flummox her, like car buying. My mother went with her to buy her last car because she thought the whole you-are-not-supposed-to-pay-the-price-as-marked was strange. (She's not wrong.)
62. Mamamia gave up driving after the macular degeneration kicked in.
63. It did not prevent her from constantly warning the folks who drove her places (her children in particular) about things she could see out of the corner of her eye. (The macular degeneration affects the peripheral vision last, however for driving, things on the periphery often deserve less immediate attention.)
64. Mamamia is exceedingly generous.
65. She has done things like help fund her grandchildren's college education (mine included) and fund family trips in addition to all the little things (like cookies).
66. Mamamia also may have sent me a letter after college with some very strong suggestions that I not go off and buy frivolous things but instead work hard to get myself situated so that later I could buy frivolous (or not frivolous) things.
67. Mamamia lived in Vermont for a while. There have been several years that I received a package of cheese and cheese adjacent things from Cabot. (Being a "West Wing" fan, I refer to this as the big block of cheese. It tickles me. And is delicious.)
68. One year we Thanksgiving'd with her. (In fairness, we did this a time or twelve.) But this particular year, I called my mom about a zillion times to make sure that she would explain that I had to watch TV that year. The Redskins were playing. Mamamia (and the other guests) were very nice about that.
69. Mamamia was not anti-TV. But she also believed that TV should not supplant family time.
70. Mamamia loves art. In addition to photos there were paintings and sculptures.
71. She even assisted in the commission of portraits of I and my siblings. (This was in addition to the aforementioned piece where my hair was changed.)
72. Mamamia used to send us all unsigned Valentines Day cards. (Or, signed with a question mark. My mother has picked up this tradition.)
73. When we were little, our birthday gifts would arrive early, wrapped in brown paper and marked with a note not to open them early.
74. Mamamia and Bud came down for the last few days of my mother's pregnancy with my brother. (It is my understanding that this was not the first time. It's just the first I recall.)
75. Mamamia made my sister and breakfast since my mom and dad had gone off to the hospital.
76. We still had to go to school.
77. Mamamia used to make granola. I have never tasted granola quite as good.
78. The time in New England, led Mamamia to make delicious sweet bread. Amusingly, it was years upon years later that I discovered that other people called this Hawaiian bread. (Although the roots are the same, it came over from the Portuguese populations in both areas. I associate malasadas with Hawaii, though I understand parts of New England play with that too.)
79. Mamamia and Bud taught me the joys of making, and then, of course, eating homemade ice cream, particularly peppermint.
80. Yes, I have a lot of food memories.
81. Mamamia diagnosed my hernia.
82. It was congenital, and apparently she had had one too as a child, but she saw me racing around in a bathing suit and told my mom to get it checked out. My mom did, and sure enough they scheduled me for surgery.
83. Mamamia is a big fan of hats. Not big hats or church hats, but sun hats and the beret are perennial favorites.
84. Mamamia also has quite a collection of brooches.
85. I'm going to protect the identity of the person in question here, but let's just say that I happened to be present one day for a certain male child being taken to task for improper toilet seat etiquette. When said male attempted to argue it might have been someone else, a girl even, she said, "I raised three boys, don't try to tell me what I saw."
86. Mamamia has got some spunk.
87. Mamamia and Bud searched around for a retirement community once he began ailing.
88. They selected one in Pennsylvania that was run, in part by a group of Quakers.
89. As wonderful as the unanimous consensus building can be, Mamamia found it a little relentless some days, and got herself a wildlife plate for her car, because she liked animals, and wanted at least her car to be Friend-reference free.
90. My uncle commented on my toe rings. Mamamia politely complimented them and then asked if they meant something. (No, just meant that I like to decorate my toes.)
91. Mamamia had a relative who wrote a book entitled White Nights.
92. She was a little peeved when they made a movie that stole the title.
93. Mamamia got a hearing aid at one point. This apparently led to a hilarious lunch with several of her retirement community lunch buddies where they discussed the ins and outs of the various choices, and their various costs.
94. My mother said lunching with a bunch of ladies with new hearing aids is fascinating, in part, because as they lost their hearing they became accustomed to just talking when they felt like it since they couldn't hear anyone else, and they think they are muttering under their breath, but not so much.
95. Mamamia has high standards for manners.
96. These standards apply to pets as well.
97. Except for Angela and Gabriel who were allowed to prance across coffee tables with abandon.
98. My mother was a little peeved about that. She has been instructed to treat the coffee table with care.
99. Mamamia said that, for now, the coffee table was theirs.