This weekend I was going through some old boxes and I came upon three very large, antiqued, ivory bras. As I pulled them out and they unfolded in all of their parachute sized silken glory, I thought to myself, “these must be my grandma’s old bras.” Now, even though I had a small stint as an employee of Victorias Secret in my early twenties, I am not deft at guessing cup sizes upon first glance. I did not know these were my grandma’s bras simply because she is the only woman I know who fits the criteria of having 1. Enormous breasts and 2. We are emotionally intimate enough that your bras may somehow end up in an old cardboard box of mine labeled in sharpie as “Nicole’s stuff” and “poop” on the underside. No, there was a small telltale sign that was characteristic of all of my grandmother’s articles of clothing, placemats, furniture, and pets. A cigarette burn hole. Yes, aside from using her bras as a seemingly bottomless storage container for packs of generic cigarettes, lighters, tissue, wads of money, etc., her bra apparently also was a landing pad for the cherry of a GPC or King Mountain or whatever brand of ultralight cigarette that was on sale at the reservation that month.
My grandma’s name was Grace. Grace Ford. And she was amazing. People who crossed my Grandmother thought that she was pure evil. She read alot of murder mysteries and sometimes got drunk and told us about how to kill people and get away with it. To this day, part of me still believes that she was capable of cold blooded murder. Once, I watched out her kitchen window as she gathered a bag of the neighbors dog shit out of her yard, walk it over to his house in her in muumuu, place the bag under his welcome mat, and jump up and down on the mat that covered the bag of crap making sure to really grind it in to his new deck. For a woman that acted feeble and helpless much of the time, I had never seen her be so physically active.
Yes, Grandma had a temper and an insane propensity for revenge thinking and grudges. This was something that did not translate to her grandkids. There were eight of us all together and there was nothing that we could do that would make grandma angry at us. In fact, one summer my cousins and I decided to heat our kiddie pool by carrying large pans of hot water from the bathtub to the back deck and dumping them in the pool. Caught up in our genius idea, we had no care that we were scratching the shit out of the finish of the brand new bathtub grandma just had put in her bathroom. Most kids would be sent to live in an orphanage for pulling that kind of shit, but grandma did not punish us at all. She left that, as usual, up to our exasperated parents.
Once, when she lived across the street on the bird farm (there were peacocks, pheasants, turkeys, ducks, and a hawk) with my grandpa, my cousins and I were spending the night and were upset that He-man and She-ra weren’t on at 11pm at night. We must have been tired of watching the Stephen King movies and murder mysteries we rented earlier that evening. Grandma acted outraged that our favorite cartoons were not on exactly when we wanted to watch them and pretended to call the network and complain and demanded that they put on our cartoons. The word entitlement obviously was not in her vocab.
She endearingly called us her little “poopsies” or her “pussycats,” which, as her blood alcohol content of cheap vodka and tap water went up would devolve into a slurry “pussscayt” and then just straight up “pussy.” Hearing your grandma ask you “Pussy can you pour me another teensy” was awkward, naturally.
A teensy was my grandma’s signature drink. She did not mess around with any of the frills when it came to her booze delivery routine. She bought gallons of the cheap plastic jug vodka from the bottom shelf at the liquor store that would make even a bum throw up a little in his mouth. She would drink this vodka with a splash of tap water. And that was it. That my friends, is a teensy. Of course, a teensy is always accompanied by chain smoking and Fox News blaring in the background.
Despite her alcoholism and temper, Grandma did alot of laughing and alot of loving. She would get drunk sometimes and break out an old acoustic guitar that she had in the back room. I learned all my favorite Hank Williams songs from her. She pretty much just played the G chord, but there was something about her singing old country songs, without her teeth in, drunk off her ass, in her muumuu, pulling another cigarette out of her bra (even though she already had one lit in the ashtray and another on the dish drain) that just made your heart sing. She provided the unconditional love and magical thinking that all kids need. She taught her grandkids that the sky was the limit, and that we were good enough and smart enough to achieve great things.
“You can be anything you want to be Pussy,” she would say, “now can you do your ol grandma a favor dahling and pour me another teensy.”