A Grandmother’s Gift

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A Grandmother’s Gift

By Andrea Goto

No two kids are alike—and this also applies to Grandmothers.

Though both of my grandmothers passed away several years ago, I was blessed to know them growing up—sort of. Neither one fit the sweet, fun-loving granny mould of the Betty White variety. We didn’t bake cookies together, sew dolls or build forts. My grandmother who “didn’t like girls” never really spoke to my sister or me, but she did let us play down by the railroad and shoot pool in the basement—pretty much anywhere we couldn’t be seen or heard.

I knew my other grandmother a little better. She at least had toys. We colored in half-used coloring books, waged war with army men that belonged to my uncle 40 years prior, and drove Matchbox cars she plucked from yards while on her evening walk—toys that belonged to kids “who didn’t know how to take care of them.” 
She spoke to us, but mainly in declarative sentences.

“Don’t bang on the piano keys.”

“Don’t start a new page until you finish coloring that one.”

“Don’t wrestle with the bear rug.”

(Can you imagine having a bear rug and not wrestling with it? Yeah, me neither.)

It was years before I realized that not everyone’s grandmothers were so stoic and stern. I believed they loved me, but for various reasons they felt uncomfortable showing it.

I’ve always wanted more for my daughter.

I wanted Betty White.

Messy, Perfect Love
My mother-in-law drifts asleep while babysitting and lets Ava stay up as late as she wants because “she never says she’s tired.” She lets her eat fudgsicles for breakfast and sneaks her candy when I’m not looking. As a lover of all things sparkly, my mother-in-law has taught Ava to appreciate the value of quality diamonds (I feel for the future spouse, I really do), and as an artist, she not only lets Ava sling paint and color outside the lines, she insists on it. Nothing has to be neat; icing can be unevenly spread, clothes needn’t match and fingernail polish on the skin is not big deal (shudder). She suspends judgment like a belt holds up pants.

“She’s an artist,” my mother-in-law proudly declared when Ava took “mix-and-match prints” to a whole new level.

“She’s a mess,” I said.

My own mother prefers things a bit neater. Coloring happens inside the lines and she has an eraser poised and ready for any defectors. She thinks all other children are damaged and, therefore, unfit as potential friends. But robbed of the experience of playing Barbies with her own daughters, Mom will play far longer than any sane person should. She also makes the mundane tasks of adulthood absolutely magical.


The chore Ava loves most is cleaning the cage of my mother’s ear-piercing lovebird. I would prefer to see it roasted on a plate with a blackberry reduction, but Ava and my mother tend to that downy devil like it’s their job, complete with benefits and a retirement plan.

They painted a fence together without spilling a drop. They made perfectly proportionate paper dolls. If Mom had a bear rug, I’m not sure she would let Ava wrestle it, but she would let her clean it.

My mother-in-law would let her paint it.

To Each Her Own
My daughter did not get Betty White for a grandmother. She did even better. Both of her grandmothers have their respective strengths, and they are united in that they, like my husband and I, think Ava is the best thing since cordless phones. These women give my daughter something I cannot, and something that I did not get from my grandmothers. Watching her talk to them, explore with them, and love them makes my heart fill up—and it also makes me a little envious. Luckily, we want for our children more than we want for ourselves.

I truly believe that my grandmothers gave what they were capable of giving, but it’s a blessing to see Ava’s grandmothers give so much more.

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Reader Comments:

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I have 5 beautiful grandchildren and love them all dearly. I tell them when ever I can "Do you know how much I Love You?), I want them to know that. I love doing all things with my grandkids as I tried to do with my own children. I do follow the "Parents Laws" but what happens at Mema & Papas, stays at Mema & Papas! I learned a lot from just sitting in the kitchen talking with my grandmother, but we really never played together. I am a young grandmother (50) this year, and I want to be the grandmother that my grandkids will remember forever as being fun and exciting. And yes I am young at heart. But I want to start cooking with them, I have been given a HUGH bucket of rolled oats and want to make holiday cookies and have the youngons in on it, but all recipes I have found do not call for rolled oats, and quite frankly I'm really not sure how to cook or prepare rolled oats. If anyone has any suggestions please feel free to post them. I've looked all over Paula Dean's site for recipes and/or suggestions so figured I'd start here.

By Mary Matt on September 18, 2013

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A GRANDMOTHER’S GIFT by Andrea Goto I love your story -- especially about your grandma who didn't like girls! LOL Thanks so much for sharing it.

By Cathy on August 02, 2013

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@jeff jones I never had a problem as yours with the porcelain cookware. It works wonderful for me. I absolutely love my set, and would not trade them for anything. No sticking, tight fitting lids, makes frying a breeze. Thanks for the wonderful cooking set Paula! It is truly a great set well worth the price (the price is great also).

By Tiffany on July 29, 2013

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I bought Paula Dean's collection signature porcelain nonstick cookware for my daughter for christmas. One pot was out of round and the lid would not fit. As we used the cookware more pots became out of round,soon all the pots became out of round and none of the lids would fit! We are all very unhappy with this cookware!! I will never buy any of these products again!!

By jeff jones on July 27, 2013

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