I hadn’t called my grandmother since last summer when my mom told me to thank her for the donation that she made towards my tuition. When I called then, she expressed to me how grateful she was to hear from me, how she never heard from my mother’s other four children, and how I remind her of grandpa with my talent for still life paintings. The only other times I’ve called my grandmother have been to wish her happy birthdays in October—and that’s about how frequently we talk.
I was hesitant to tap the little green call button on my iPhone. How would the conversation begin? Am I allowed to say things like what’s up or how’s it goin’ to my grandmother? I called my mom earlier to tell her that I thought it would be more of a service to interview Grandma than it would be for me to interview a complete stranger—she is my only living grandparent, and I am the only grandchild who writes. My mother agreed, and told me during our next phone call that Grandma was expecting my call. Would she know that I would be interviewing her, writing in her voice? I sat myself down on the stained couch in my college living room, grabbed my grey, 5-subject spiral and pen, and gently hinted my finger on the iPhone touch screen.
“Hello?” Her New York accent was just as thick as I remembered; it’s the same accent my brothers imitate during the holidays when she visits. I could picture her sitting in her blue recliner, the small chain of her pink-framed glasses dangling on either side of her neck, holding the cordless phone to her ear. I thought of Lipton Soup with Acini De Pepe and White Shoulders perfume. I thought of her little pink villa in Florida, and how she lives there alone.
“Hi, Grandma,” I smiled big enough for her to hear through the phone.
“Hello my baby. How is school?” I replied with my usual. It’s great; I’m really busy all of the time; I spend twelve hours a day on campus; I share a room with three people; and the house is old. “You datin’ anyone yet?” I replied with my usual. No. “What the heck is wrong with these people? My granddaughter’s meetin’ wimps out dere in Idaho. You’re gorgeous and-and-and talented—just a gem, Aly. You’ll meet some schmuck someday.”
“But Grandma,” I laughed, rocking my entire body forward, “that’s exactly what I don’t want to do is meet some schmuck.” For some reason, hearing my grandmother’s slang words and ideas on dating is refreshing and takes me by surprise. I remember now that there are places in the world besides Rexburg; I am made up of more than this.
She told me about how she just had dinner last week with her old bishop: Bishop Montgomery. Apparently he has a gorgeous son in the Air Force and a daughter at BYU-Idaho that I should befriend. “Didn’t your mother tell you?” No, she didn’t. “You gotta be kiddin’ me. I’m gonna clobber her. I can’t believe she didn’t tell you. You just wait til I get her. I’m gonna pull her hair outta her head.” I laughed loud again. I hadn’t laughed like this in a while. “Oh, I guess that’s okay. She’s got more problems than hair on her head, that woman.”
I propped my legs up onto the couch and pulled a pillow from the ground to place in my lap. I set my notebook on top and drew swirls on the lined paper with my purple pen.
“You know,” she began. I expected her to recommend I meet with the Montgomery brother or tell me what the Swami said about me in her last Tarot reading. “My friend fell down, and she looks like a raccoon.” I laughed. Okay, change of subject, I guess.
“What? She fell down?”
Grandma chuckled, I think, at her raccoon simile. “Yeah, I’m not kiddin’ you. Annie was walkin’down tha steps at tha community centa and fell down. Now she’s walkin’ around with a black eye, for God’s sake.” She continued. “You know, we got March of the Widows over here with all these women. The only men here are the old bitties that are about to croak, God bless ‘em. They look at me like they wanna date me—are they kiddin’? Whadu I wanna be with an old man for?” Grandma is eighty-six. I laughed again, and I tried to scribble down all of her classic lines as fast as she talked. This is my mother’s mom, and though I don’t talk to her much, I feel deeply connected. She raised the most influential person in my life, and because of that, I am connected.
The conversation about our current lives lasted an hour. “Well thank you for calling, baby.” I felt adrenaline as I remembered that I hadn’t interviewed her yet—that was the main purpose of this call. I wouldn’t have thought to call without the assignment. I am a crappy grandchild, I thought.
“Grandma?” I asked before she could hang up. “Mom told you about how I need to interview you for a class, right?”
“Oh yeah, yeah.”
“Is that okay if I ask you some questions? Do you have time?”
“I was thinking about the deli?”
“The deli? Whaddaya wanna know about it?”
And my grandmother told me about her little deli in Nanuet, NY. We talked for another hour.