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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Let's talk Grandmas! Okay!

All of this talk of elderly females got me thinking about grandmas.

I had two, which I believe is considered the norm. They are dead now.

My siblings and I used our grandparents' last names, so they were Grandma Mariano and Grandma Bradley. It still sounds weird to me when people call their grandparents by their first names, or even weirder, use some adorable made-up moniker, like Pop-ola or Grummsy. As if grandparents are figures of affection and warmth, and not forbidding matri-/patriarchs under whose shadow you must cower and throw offerings.

Actually Grandma Mariano was, by all accounts, the (much, much) less forbidding and stern of the two grandmothers, but she died when I was eight, so my memories of her are murky.

My grandma.

Wasn't she lovely? (That's my mom on the right.) I have many pictures of her, and she's gorgeous in all of them. ( have no pictures of Grandma Bradley, strangely. Although she didn't cast a reflection, so maybe that's why? And every time we tried to capture her image our camera burst into flames? I have to look into that.)

My most vivid memory of Grandma Mariano is sitting in the passenger seat of her car as she drove the wrong way down the one-way exit/entrance to my sister's high school. I remember a lot of people shouting and running out of the way. She seemed unconcerned.

I am told she did that sort of thing quite a bit.

I have also been told that instead of using the phrase, "I'll treat you," or "it's on me," she would say, "I'll blow you." Now, apparently this was some sort of vernacular in her day (I HOPE), but not the sort of thing you want to hear out of your grandma's mouth. My sister still talks about how mortifying it was to have her grandma utter the words "Let's go out for ice cream! I'll blow you!" in front of a whole bunch of teenagers who had wandered outside to see who had driven the wrong way into the parking lot and caused all the ensuing chaos.

Oh, how I wish I could remember that part.

Reader Comments (57)

We always called my grandparents Grandma/Grandpa LastName, so now that my parents are becoming grandparents, I find it strange that it's all about the first name. At least they still use Grandma and Grandpa and not some made up (obnoxious) title.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdoahleigh
Hey, now. Henry actually has made-up names for one set of his grandparents, and they LOVE it. To each his own.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteralice
Okay, THAT is hilarious, and this is a day where hilarious is highly valued. I'm hoping my toddler calls my mother something totally ridiculous that we can call her forever. Like Geegaw. We can only hope. The parents on my husband's side were such...strong personalities that when they were trying to figure out what "grand" names they'd go with, the ones their parents used were OUT. I'll have to check about the reflections in mirrors bit--probably the same.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
Oh my goodness, those stories are fantastic....I'll blow you! Love it.

I love old people because they just don't care and I LOVE that.

Sadie at heyMamas
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSadie at heyMamas
I am laughing out loud, over here. Hope Grandma Mariano is driving the wrong way down that giant on-ramp in the sky right now.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSheila
My mother's mother died before I was born, so I really only had one grandma. I just called her Grandma.

She was also a crazy driver. And when we finally took her keys (at like 82), she'd sit in the passenger seat and yell, "GO. GO!" And I'd be like, "Grandma, it's a red light."

She also couldn't bake. She'd make these awful hard cookies that she kept in a drawer. I'm not kidding. A drawer. I have such awful memories of feeling like I had to eat those drawer cookies just to be polite.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea
My mother had my paternal grandmother built up to that forbidding matriarch role, so much so that we would get a list of instructions on how to behave every time we went to Grandma's house. Which we all promptly ignored. We were a little more circumspect there, though, but only because she was old (I think she was 80 when I was born) and a bit frail.

On the other hand, we would laugh like crazy because my maternal Grandma would yell at my mom like she was still a kid. But, she was all about putting us to work, which meant we were involved with activities with her. So she was approachable.

Also, Grandmas were simply Grandma in their presence, but Grandma Lastname when they weren't there.

Your Grandma Mariano sounds like a lot of fun, but I'd like to hear more about Grandma Bradley, because I like scary stories!
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commentera
"Drawer cookies" may be my new favorite thing. 
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlice Bradley
We still have a 'munga', my cousin named her that 28 years ago, haha.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchiefy
Wow, Grandma Mariano looks like you. I mean, A LOT.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercindy w
My grandmother made cookies without sugar. Just when you got one in your mouth she would say "I just sweetend those with raisins". Turns out raisins just aren't sweet enough. They tasted like a drawer.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkristen
My Irish Granny used to make the most delicious scones when we'd visit. I can still remember the taste of the warm buttery treats melting in my mouth. I also remember she used to fart a lot as she shuffled around the kitchen.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
My eldest daughter named her Grandpa 'Elmer' one day (no idea why, his name is actually Mike) and so it is now Nana and Elmer. Her Grandma (my husbands mother) recommends everyone with a back ache try her 'vibrator it does wonders!' by which she means massager and yet no one can bring themselves to correct her. Fun times.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRos
That's hilarious. Thank God the "I'll blow you" is no longer in fashion.

It's funny you posted this as I just this morning wrote a post about what my 19-month-old grandson has started calling me: "Graya". It has nothing to do with my bad hair color job -- or at least that's what I'm telling myself.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
My nieces and nephews on MY side of the family call my parents Bop, who ismy dad. His name is Bob so it's not a huge stretch to get to Bop. My Mom is Munka.I have NO idea where that came from. My oldest nephew who is almost 17 now started all of this and the younger ones just followed suit.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Cassady
We used to call min,e "Grandma" and "Other Grandma." It seems kind of odd in retrospect.

Loved this.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRimarama
What a fabulous post!

I intend to be a Grandma Mariano when I'm older. If I have the cash, I shall blow everyone!
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHairy Farmer Family
I know this post is about grandmothers, but your story reminds me of meeting my father in law when my husband and I were first dating. I't s 5pm, he claps his hands and says, "So... who wants a hummer?" CLEARLY we had different uses for that term. He was offering a cocktail. We used that word for blow job. The in laws still don't know why we cracked up because neither my mate nor I was going to explain the mixup.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAuntie P
Grandma Mariano would have got along famously with my grandma who uses "Well, blow me!" as an exclamation of surprise. I think it's short for "Well, blow me down with a feather"? Maybe? Let's hope?

Imagine the conversation, if you will:

Grandma Mariano: Grandma Hicks, let's go out for a thimble of sherry. I'll blow you.

Grandma Hicks: Well, blow me, Grandma Mariano! That's awfully nice of you!

Grandma Mariano: Yes, exactly. That's what I said. I said I'll blow you. Are you getting hard of hearing in your old age, Grandma Hicks?

(I feel like this comment has turned me into a 14-year-old boy. Apologies.)
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNothing But Bonfires
Oh, Alice, you have only touched on the many humiliating things our grandmother would do; yelling "I'll blow you" in front of a group of teenage boys was only the beginning. Of course, as much as I hated it back then, my fondest wish now is to be just like her.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
Liz, I think you need to elaborate! Do I sense a blog post of yours coming on...? 
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlice Bradley
I am the names-sake of my mother's mother-we called her MamaMary. My dad's mom (Bessie- thank GOD they didn't name me after her!) insisted on "Grandmother", which we mangled horribly during our preschool years. At least it was never confusing. My mother-in-law goes by Nanmom (we tried unsuccessfully to change it to Nanomom - a really tiny mom) and my mom wanted to get beyond the pronunciation problems and chose MomMom. We have a really hard time assigning the correct name to each.

My favorite legacy from Grandmother is her ability to swear in a satisfying way using made-up cursewords. This has become really useful now that I have a near-4-year-old. I found a new one the other day perusing a document at work: "Larry D. Cripe". Barking that one really releases the proper endorphins in a stressful situation.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaryB
This is why I read you. I don't care what you're writing about... family, pets, ladies at the Y, eating vegetables, or being in a funk. You make me laugh.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRenee G
Yes, "I'll blow you" is for real. Thanks for bringing it back. I'll be using it with regularity now. Thanks.
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
Megan: OH NO! What have I begun?! 
February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlice Bradley

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