Saturday, November 05, 2005

In a Family Way

It's Saturday and I'm sitting in my office, trying to get some of the work done I was supposed to accomplish Monday - Friday, but could not, because I spend so much time reading blogs. I think it is time for a major life style overhaul.

Also, I really, really feel like buying a scratch ticket.

On my subway ride into Midtown, I was sitting next to a Grandmother and Grandfather with two little girls. The grandfather was teasing the girls, doling out one M&M at a time until the Grandma seized the bag and said, "Oh, for Heaven's sake!" and showered the little girls with candy. The girls were going nuts.

Watching this scene made me miss my own grandparents, all of whom are dead. Not that any scene like this ever occured in my childhood. First of all, I couldn't say if any of my grandparents ever visited New York city. They certainly never would have taken my brother and me on a big city excursion on a Saturday afternoon, zipping around town on a Subway. Not even to Providence. I can't imagine how exciting that would be for a child. Instead, riding in the back seat of my grandparent's car was frightening enough: Grampy driving, weaving in and out of lanes at 35 mph, Grammy yelling at him, telling he was going the wrong way, the scapulars swinging from the rearview mirror, and my brother and I, staring at each other in the back seat, wondering if we would live to see our next birthdays.

Of course, like all Grandparents, they loved to spoil us, but they just never gave us anything we actually wanted. Instead of M&Ms and Ice Cream and the Rockettes, we were showered with Number 2 Pencils and Circus Peanuts and anything that might have been on sale at K-Mart that week. This would lead to private talks from our mother about "fixed incomes" and "being gracious". We always took what they gave us, and I as I got older, this lead to my father turning around, packing everything right back up into shopping bags and instructing me to bring it to high school and distribute the generic Pop Tarts to "those freaks" I hung out with.

Sometimes, when I go home to Rhode Island for a weekend visit now and I'm trying to squeeze everything in, I think, 'oh yeah, have to go to Grammy's house' before I remember that both of my mother's parents died when I was a sophomore in college. I wonder what they would think of my life now if they were still around, to say nothing of my father's parents who died before I was born and when I was a child respectively. As far as my family is concerned, I might as well be an astronaut living in an orbiting international space station. Some of my cousins, all of who are older than me, think its cool I live in New York, but I don't think they could imagine once minute of my daily life here. Others pull my father aside at family events and ask when I'm going to "grow out of this New York phase and come home". (Translation: When is Nancy going to come back to Rhode Island, move two houses down the street, meet a nice Italian boy who is maybe not too bright but has a good city job and start popping out babies? Answer: don't hold your breath). At a family party this summer, one of my beloved aunts said to me, "And I told your uncle, 'I just don't know how Nancy does it.' What do you do when you need a Toaster? Where do you go? How do you get it home? Do you carry it on the bus?" Nevermind the fact that my aunt and uncle have probably been using the same toaster that they received as a wedding gift 35 years ago.

I think my grandparents, probably by the very nature that they were at the end of their lives and therefore understood a bit about the fleeting nature of life, would have really gotten a kick out of me living in the city. Sure, they'd be just as concerned about me being the victim of crime that everyone from home believes lurks around every corner here, but at least they'd have a new story to tell their friends! And at the end, that's what I was good for- it was difficult for me to spend time with them. They were very depressing, sometimes crying, touching my face and telling me how much I looked like my mother. I couldn't handle it. But I could go off and have zany adventures ... and send postcards. My brother was the one who was handsome and tall (relative to our family) and had girlfriends, but I was the plucky, intrepid one who made for great anectdotes.

I wonder how they would explain my job, and if my Grampy would mind that I was working for Germans, the same people who kept him as a Prisoner of War and caused him to earn a Purple Heart. Probably not. They were that proud of me. And though the rest of my family is too intimidated or uninterested to come visit me, my Grammy might have actually pulled it off, but only by cohercing her Senior Center to charter a bus to New York for a day.

1 comment:

tspiffy said...

i heard that in new york city, you can have anything delivered - even women.

if they do that, maybe you can have one of those women bring a toaster along too.