Monday, February 2, 2009


This is a shameless reminiscence.

We had three grandparents. The fourth, our maternal grandfather, died before we were born. Grandparents are valuable parts of family life. They have extra clout with Santa Claus, and they offer special relationships to their grandchildren.

Grandpa Allen drove streetcars in Chicago. He saved streetcar pins that we called buttons and gave them to us. He took us for rides in his Reo car. He told me that if he drove slowly enough, the red light at the corner would change to green. I remember him sitting in a chair asleep while being our baby sitter. He had a Swedish accent that made it hard to say my name correctly. After he retired, he got sick and died after about a year. I was eight years old.

The real star of the grandparents was Grandma Allen. She was all love, no matter what we did. Santa Claus brought gifts to her house for us even when he also came to our house. Her chocolate pudding and pinwheel cookies were the best. When we stayed overnight with her, she took us to her church and let us sit in the balcony instead of downstairs. She taught me to crochet three times, and I made a long crochet chain but that’s as far as it went. She had a cocker spaniel named Blondie, who drank coffee with her every morning, using her water dish.

Our family moved in with Grandma Allen in Oak Park after Grandpa died, and we stayed with her for several months until we moved into the duplex in Lincolnwood. After we moved to Sturgeon Bay, we moved her and Aunt Lina, her sister, to Sturgeon Bay. She was thrilled to live long enough to see her first great-grandchild, our first daughter. Grandma was a real saint. She said that dying was going to Glory.

The grandmother on the maternal side was Sweetie Pie. Apparently she preferred to be called something other than Grandma. She was pretty glamorous for her day, with various shades of red hair and stylish dresses. She gave us silver dollars when we visited her. I remember seeing her try to catch a mouse in her apartment in Rochester, MN, and catching it. Later she moved to Chicago to be near us. She worked in music stores. She then lived in Milwaukee for a while, while I was a student at UWM. Later still when she was old we moved her to Sturgeon Bay to be closer to us again.

Holidays with both grandmothers were interesting. Sweetie Pie enjoyed alcohol with my parents, while Grandma Allen was a teetotaler. Those who wanted a drink would sneak one while Grandma Allen wasn’t looking. The two grandmothers were never friends.

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