My grandmother, Frances, is no longer here to celebrate with us, but today marks the 100th anniversary of her birth.
A while ago, one of my cousins told me that his friend used to call our grandmother, “Grandma Dynamite.” I loved it. It describes her perfectly. Everything about her was powerful, colorful, and explosive—especially her laughter.
I could tell you about how my grandmother taught me to crochet (imagine a short fuse on that dynamite), how she could beat me at “math races” with long division problems she’d make up on the fly, beat me at card games and arm wrestling (I didn’t have a prayer), how she hated to lose (a sit-ups contest she set up), how she took me to this brand new restaurant in the area called “McDonald’s” (OK, so that was a long time ago), how she sang us to sleep with Toora Loora Loora, or how she could float like styrofoam on the waves of the Jersey shore, soaking up the rays from heaven.
But that wouldn’t even be the tip of it.
I could tell you that she ran a successful business, made mass every week, followed the stock market, and made all her own skirts.
But those are just titles of long, traveling chapters.
So I’ll tell you about one of the “fun activities” she devised for us when we were kids. We did this a thousand times, and the thrill never wore out. Here’s how it goes.
I sit on the hood of my grandmother’s Ford,
my back pressed against the windshield
legs straight out in front.
She turns the ignition
revs the engine beneath me
backs out, pulls up,
and burns rubber
down the black center of the asphalt alley
between the apartment buildings.
Then, inches from Main Street
she screeches to a halt
where I fly off the hood
my long hair undulating like a river behind me
and I land perfectly
in the future.
Happy Birthday, Grandma.