Modern Day Grandmothers: My Memory of Grandma Ethel

Dr. Maxine Thompson

Whenever my children complain I don’t spend enough time with my grandchildren, I relate this story. I saw my paternal grandmother, Grandma Ethel, one time while she was alive, and she left a “memorable impression.” (I missed Grandma Ethel’s second visit when she came to Detroit. At the time, I was about 10 years old, but I was in Oklahoma that summer visiting my maternal grandmother, Lucille. The last time I saw Grandma Ethel was at age 14. She was stretched out in her casket, at her funeral in Oakland, California.)

Anyhow, I was about seven years old on this particular visit, which is indelibly engraved in my memory banks.

I don’t know how the game got started, but we wound up playing “Little Red Riding Hood.” Grandma Ethel laid in one of the twin beds in the childhood bedroom I shared with my older sister, Nancy. Our grandmother was assigned the role of the wolf, posing as the grandmother. I remember she even pulled the covers up to her eyes.

“Grandma, what big eyes you have,” we said. (I believe it was my brother, David, since we were the youngest.)

“Better to see you, my dears.”

“Grandma, what big ears you have.”

”Better to hear you, my dears.”

When it came to the part where we said, “Grandma, what big teeth you have,” she jacknifed out the bed, growling, “Better to eat you!”

Shrieking in fear and delight, we shot off running. She began chasing us around the kitchen, which sat in the middle of our shotgun, two-story artificial brick home. This kitchen had a table in the center of it, a freezer that lined one wall, and a much-used refrigerator (since there were six children in the family) hugging the corner. As we raced around the kitchen table, in a continuing circle, we were screaming like scalded hyenas.

My brother and I were as happy as any children could be. Lesson: Children don’t need a lot of money to be happy. I still dream of my childhood home, and it’s always a warm memory. Now, my parents come to me in recurring dreams as a young perfect couple. At this point, all the imperfect flaws are meaningless. I’d do anything to have them back…or even have another day with Grandma Ethel or Grandma Lucille. Looking back, I had a rich childhood, one filled with imagination and made up games.

So I say all this to say, I try to leave a memorable impression on my grandchildren, as my grandmothers did for us. As a writer, I do it through reading with and talking to them. I also set an example by showing that grandmothers today don’t just sit in rocking chairs.

I am not able to spend a lot of time with my grandchildren, who have been separated from me either through divorce, or through distance. However, I am self-employed, and when I can, I’ve had grandchildren come visit me, or I’ve stayed up to 6 days during births, or during emergencies. However, it’s never enough help for young parents.

In an ideal world, we would all live in extended family situations with 3 generations under one roof like some other cultures still do to this day, but that’s another story.

Growing up in Detroit in the 1950s, I didn’t have the privilege of grandmothers who lived nearby, but they both played a major role in my life.

Both of my grandmothers were working women, and unknowingly, they influenced me in that I’ve always been a working mother, now a working grandmother. Like Christmas, Grandma Lucille came to visit once a year, and it was a momentous event every June when she showed up with packages and silver dollars.

Grandma Ethel only came that one time.

So the lesson Grandma Ethel taught me was to make the time together count.

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Dr. Maxine Thompson is a  retired social worker who became a novelist, poet, columnist, short story writer, book reviewer, an editor, ghostwriter, Internet Radio Show Host, and a Literary Agent in her second career. She is the author of The Ebony Tree, No Pockets in a Shroud, A Place Called Home (A Short Story Collection), The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sell, a contributor to bestselling anthologies Secret Lovers, All in The Family, and Never Knew Love Like This Before, (Also a Kindle Bestseller).

She is also an ebook author of The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sell, The Hush Hush Secrets of Making Money as a Writer, The Hush Hush Secrets of Creating a Life You Love, a contributor to bestselling anthologies Secret Lovers, All in The Family, and Never Knew Love Like This Before, (Also a Kindle Bestseller). Proverbs for the People, and Editor/Contributor to anthology, Saturday Morning.
Her novels, The Ebony Tree, (Won a Pen Award in 1997), Hostage of Lies, (Voted a Best Book of 2009), LA Blues, (2011), and LA Blues II, (2012), which were featured in Black Expressions’ Catalogue in August 2012, and LA Blues 3 was published in 2013. She is currently working on raising the money for her independent film, Hollywood Blues, which is based on her novel, LA Blues.

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