Archive | Family secrets and history RSS feed for this section

Groupies Are Eternal

8 Jun

Grandma, hotter than Megan Fox.

As long have there been boys to strum guitars and throw balls, there have been girls there to fawn over them. I know this because I am currently living with one who is 90 years old.

Grandma had the golden egg in her youth. She was beautiful and she had a lot of brothers. Boys, being boys, have boys as friends. But one brother stood out among the band of brothers. Bob was the brother in a band.

Bob played guitar, along with his band mates, they’d hit the local taverns for a gig. Same as today, no one expected much in terms of money, just a paid bar tab and a piece of ass. I do just love how the more things change and all that…

Grandma met Madelyn at one of these taverns. How they became friends is a muddled story, just like we do it today. Everybody has that one friend and asks the eternal question, ‘how did we meet?’ and there is always that one friend for which there is no good answer. Kind of like maybe your dog, or that third cat. Alcohol may have been a factor.

Madelyn was married to Joe, brother of a really, seriously-famous baseball player of that time. She loved to entertain her Brother-in-Law and his team mates when they came to town (St. Louis) for games. Grandma loved all things taverns and parties and apparently, men. It must be said that during all of this time, Grandma was married. But in her defense, please see Guilt Cards. Everyone was married. It was what you did. There was only one ticket out of Mom and Dad’s and it was stamped and filed at the court house.

One afternoon, I’m assuming after some hair of the dog, Grandma found herself surrounded by Major League ballplayers, courtesy of Madelyn. Bob had played with the band the night before, my Dad was with his Grandma and who the fuck knows where Grandpa was. Madelyn brought up swimming as a pre-dinner diversion.

Grandma didn’t have a suit. Turns out that ball players on the road don’t really care. Same as today, as long as you’re wearing your good underwear, you can pull it off. As she told me this story last night, she wrapped it up with, “and they were really nice boys.”

I am so not putting that through the Grandma translator.

Grandma. Groupie. Fuck Yeah.

So where were we? Right, Gay Uncle Harvey.

24 May

Finally, just the other day, I got the confirmation that my Grandfather’s brother was gay. Also, he was married to Aunt June. “Swishy,” was how Grandma described it and it never fails to make me giggle because all can envision is the great Sue’s Corner on Sneaky Gays and her imploring them to ‘swish it up a bit.’

I guess here is where I need to insert my authority to discuss this situation freely using the community expressions of our day. I do not have A gay friend. I have ALL gay friends. Except Heather. Well maybe Heather too. We have had enough showers together to count for at least a smidge gay. (Sorry, Hayes.) But this is about Uncle Harvey, so let’s go there.

My Grandfather was born in 1918 and his brother four years later. I can’t imagine his 20’s, during wartime years, being all that much fun, but there must have been some fun going on since he didn’t marry June until his 50’s. Unfortunately, Grandma has no insight into this particular area, other than to state, “well, we were a bit surprised when he got married.”

I’m not. I am quite sure that he made the conscious decision to marry his fag hag, and that June, being as cool as she was, was down to just travel and dine together and have the best dance partner on the floor. All with the added comfort of knowing that he’d not be asking any of the other ladies to dance.

Harvey had white hair, and sometimes a matching mustache. He came to my first wedding with June in tow, both dressed in white linen. Harvey with a lavender bow tie and pocket scarf and June with a lavender silk sash around her waist. I am positive that he dressed her. Shit, for all I know he may have tried on the dress.

I guess there is not too much more to say on the situation, other than that I wish I’d have had the opportunity to know him better. He wasn’t around much during our childhood. If there was some tension between him and his brother, I’ll never know. Grandma simply says that he preferred the city life in St. Louis, downtown apartment living to the country, travel and fine dining. Do we really need to know anymore?

All I know, is the last time I saw him was May 9th, 1992. He hugged me and said he loved my dress and as he spun me elegantly across the dance floor,  told me that I looked beautiful. He wished me all the best in my future life and stayed at the wedding until we got in the limousine to leave. Thank you Uncle Harvey.

Grandpa’s Uncle Harvey

21 May

Totally gay. Known since childhood but confirmed today. Grandma described him a little “swishy.”

Cue, Sue’s Corner, Sneaky Gays….

Absolutely more to follow.

As Promised, Things I Love About Grandma, Installment One

14 May

Picture of Grandma not in another country.

What we have here is classic Grandma. Please note the look on her face. This is, I think, supposed to be a fun thing. Sort of. I’m not sure. With Grandma, it can be really hard to tell. First rule of Grandma-ness is that she must dislike anything new or different immediately and she seems to be pulling this this off with great skill in this particular photo. But before we go any further, there are a few things in this picture that must be addressed and possible reasons for her less-than-thrilled-to-be-in-Tijuana face.

First off, the hat. Leaving aside for the moment that it’s been inscribed with the words “What-A-Man,” it’s also been jammed on the back of her perfectly coiffed head, or as perfectly coiffed as possible given the heat.

Second, her only son, that she has groomed and attired in his best Fidel Castro play suit, has been unceremoniously plopped atop a donkey painted to resemble a Zebra. Though, props to the dude who thought the Zebra touch would really add to the authenticity of the quintessential Mexican photo op. Nothing really screams Mexico quite like a Zebra.

Third, my Grandfather, who can’t be bothered to put down his smoke for the shot. I realize that you don’t know my Grandpa, but I have his same forehead. Notice the wrinkled, furrowed brow. This is our trademark hangover face. I know without a doubt, from that furled brow, that he is sweating tequila from every pore in his body. He is hot, with my Grandma and Dad, sitting behind a stinky-ass donkey, probably in need of a nap and/or some hair of the dog. He as well is none too pleased.

But the thing that I love most about this photo and a Thing I Love About Grandma, is that if you ask her if she’s ever been out of the United States, she will tell you no.

To Grandma, Mexico is just another US territory, or a state that’s yet to be admitted to the union. Show her this picture as proof, and she will respond, “Oh that. That’s just Mexico. I’ve never been out of the country.”

And there you have it. Mexico, New Mexico, whatever. Much like Grandpa’s hangover face, I get my sense of direction and geography from Grandma, and I love that about us.

A Confessional, I Am A Potential Terrorist According to My Kitchen Sink

6 May

Mornings around here are pretty mundane. Coffee is made, breakfast order taken and served, and sometimes, to have new conversation material, I will bring the laptop to the table.

Grandma is both fascinated and horrified by the internet. Now that I have written that sentence, I think we all are, but anyway, this morning we hit the jackpot.

We, in general, are a little snoopy. Okay, a lot. I looooove to know what’s in someone’s pantry. Your junk drawer, to me, is all I’ll ever need to know about you. I was endlessly in awe of Grandma’s medicine cabinet as a child. Even as an adult. When I opened it, a whole world of information was open to me. Grandma’s medicine cabinet could serve as her wiki page.

Saving the analysis to Grandma’s medicine cabinet for another time, back to this morning. I opened my favorites and skimmed for something of interest to Grandma and Gawker, via The New York Post, delivered this gem.

Inside Faisal Shahzad’s home. Oh My God yes. Let’s go. Working backward, first we have the shower. Pantene, not my first choice, but a very solid go-to if on sale. What I want the CIA Interrogators to find out is why the shampoo and THEN the 2 in 1? I am confused. Does he never just condition after shampooing? Or does he just shampoo one day and then 2 in 1 the next?

I’ll not drag you through our frame by frame analysis of his home, but his kitchen sink tells a very sad story and the caption, “the kitchen sink in the suspect’s apartment,” made the story all the more real. The lonely, not a Scotch brand, scrub pad, the Ajax with the top in the open position, the lack of any dishes….sad. This man used his dish soap as hand soap as well. Sigh.

And then I turned to look at my kitchen. Holy shit. Had I just blown, or tried to blow something up and had just bought a ticket to God knows wherever, I’d never make the flight. The Feds could just head here immediately and find me trying desperately to clean this shit up so other people can’t make fun of it on the internet.

*whoops, my un-retouched sink on the internet

What a fucking mess. The horrid, circa 1982 painted tiles are enough to make me cringe. The sponge sits woefully unused and dry to the side. The sink, full of enough dishes and bacteria to create several new strains….the pears I am supposed to be baking instead of writing this, mocking me from the back. But at least I have hand soap. Also, please note the completely empty dish rack, sign of a suspect mind for sure. In my defense, I would like to point out that the dirty pan is All-Clad and the dishes are Mikasa, Italian Countryside. When they eventually come for me, please leave these details in comments somewhere.

The Belle Isle Docks and San Fran Rocks

29 Apr

So. We have Grandma, 5′ 8″, auburn hair rolled and pinned. Fresh from a long weekend with Aunt Cad at Miss Henie’s.  A crisp cotton skirt, a white blouse with ruffles at the neck, and Dad, tiny, in a Navy uniform. The Belle Isle groaned and made her way to the dock. The sailors lined up on the deck, most not having seen their wives and children for a year and a half.

I imagine Grandpa straining to pick Grandma out of the crowd. I also imagine him failing. When Dad was born, she was 19. We are late bloomers, us Sharp girls. If you blink, we’ll become women where a gangly girl once stood. We’ll stun you with our change and shame a butterfly with our ability to morph into beauty.

As he disembarked and began to pass her by, thinking surely this beauty can’t be mine, she grasped his hand as Dad stood stoically by her side. He turned and saw her anew, and his son, dressed in a miniature Naval uniform, not the baby dressed as a girl, as was the custom of the time, but a tiny version of himself, from his visage to his clothes. And it all began again. The song played, the skate began, and she fell again before him. And he again, picked her up.

They left the dock hand in hand, Dad on his hip. They found a place to stay for the night and again sealed their love.

No guilt cards proffered or needed. Sometimes all you need is a sailor suit.

Grandma

A Sailor Suit and an Ice Queen

28 Apr

* dressing your baby as a sailor will work every time

 About a year and a half into Grandpa’s service, Grandma decided she’d received just about enough Guilt Cards and packed up and headed to San Francisco. The only nights she’d spent away from her childhood home were in her marital bed. The only countryside she’d seen was continually filled with corn. But as we all do, she had a plan, and a connection. 

* we all know someone worth knowing, don't we?

This lovely skating beauty is Sonja Henie, ice princess extraordinaire, a true star of her time. Grandma’s Aunt Cad, and aside, I love that I had an Aunt named Cad….was her cook. She travelled with her everywhere and would sometimes send Grandma a momento from her travels. When Grandma thought of San Francisco, she naturally thought of Aunt Cad. Who wouldn’t? 

She packed herself and Dad into a coach car and spent three days travelling farther and farther than she’d ever travelled in her whole life. Since it was war-time, the train was filled with sailors, Navy men, returning to port. She had ample time to reflect on her trip and plan her moves, with the sailors, missing their own kids back home, keeping constant watch on my Dad and giving her frequent breaks. 

I love the thought of a time long since passed, when one could without a second thought, hand over care of a child to a fellow passenger and never even consider that they’d not be returned safe and sound, as well as full of candy and soda. A common enemy and will to thrive makes a safe haven of any situation. Are we always at our best when forcibly bound by circumstance? Hopefully I’ll never know the answer to that, but that was the case then. 

The country girl/wife stepped off the train and into a limousine, courtesy of Sonja Henie. They were whisked away to the servants quarters of Miss Henie’s home. The crystal glittered, the bone china gleamed. They dined and talked and drank. She never thought of home for even a moment. Her parents or anything that came before that moment. She was a star. 

She’d see Grandpa soon.