My grandmother Mary Elizabeth was a remarkable woman. She served in WWII. She had four daughters, each four years apart. She lost her husband to cancer over twenty years ago. She found the strength to go on after losing her oldest daughter Jeanne months after Jeanne retired from teaching, and after they had planned to travel the world together. She was a feisty lady, one who was funny, generous, liked a good margarita (and mexican food!), and loved to read. She was the Queen of Butterflies – her favorite thing. She had everything decorated butterflies. She was very religious – and even though I’m not – I am so glad she had her religion to comfort her during life’s ups and downs.
Grandpa worked at ASU as an athletic trainer, and I often went with him when I was really little. Apparently, it was Grandpa’s job to watch me…and I somehow managed to crawl in the clothes drier to play. Grandpa came by and shut the door – and round and round I went! Luckily, Grandpa quickly noticed the drier was making an awful racket, and got me out. Not so lucky for Grandpa, he got in lots of trouble from Grandma when she found out! I heard this story many times growing up, among many other hair-raising stories about me that always make me wonder how I survived childhood!
My brother, sister, and I spent every spring break with my Grandparents while my parents worked – and there were rituals to observe. The girls went to the hair salon for perms (so not a good idea!). We went to the zoo, found our brick (with our names on it) on the bridge walkway into the zoo, and we were always allowed to buy something in the zoo gift shop. Grandma always got us whatever cereal we wanted to eat, and we used the cereal boxes to make homes for our zoo babies. We watched TV, made forts inside the house, and played all week. I can remember how much fun that was!
Easter was always a fun celebration at Grandma’s house. We had tons of food – deviled eggs, chocolate bunny cake, and my brother’s favorite – canned asparagus! He accidentally ate it one year, thinking they were green beans. He hated it – and told my mom they were the worst green beans he ever had in his life! Naturally, he loves asparagus now that he’s all grown up (not canned asparagus though – yuck!). But the best part by far about Easter was the Easter Egg Hunt…and Easter Egg War. We’d start out hiding and finding all the beautiful Easter Eggs…and then at some point throughout the day, we’d decide it would be a great idea to hold the great Easter Egg War. We’d throw the eggs at each other, thereby destroying the beautifully decorated eggs, and making a gigantic mess in the process. We always had to clean up every little bit of egg and shell off the grass. Every little bit. One year we lost an egg, and didn’t realize it until the mailbox started to smell really bad. By then, Grandma found it!
When I brought my future husband Jon to meet Grandma told him that she had worked in the geology office at ASU for Troy Lewis Péwé, a geologist. (My husband is also a Quaternary geologist and geomorphologist). Grandma never tired of telling Jon the story about how she had to transcribe his verbal notes, and he was always saying “Schist“, which is a metamorphic rock. She always thought he was saying “SHIT” and refused to write down that word! She was so happy to transfer to the Education Department, where they didn’t ever say “Schist“.
Grandma made friends where ever she went. I remember one trip driving to San Diego with my family, and Grandma just talked and talked. Nonstop. Dad always joked that Grandma had to ride on the roof – he even showed up to her house one time with a folding chair secured to the roof! So, on this trip, we picked up a hitchhiker – an old man. He talked and talked and talked – Grandma couldn’t even get a word in! We all had a good laugh at that. Grandma always asked about all of my friends and how they were doing – every single time I visited or called. It’s amazing that she could remember all of them, with seven grandchildren and their lives to keep track of! Grandma Mary made fast friends with Jon’s Grandma Irene, whom we call Memere. They’d call and write letters to each other. It was so sweet.
Grandma loved being a great-grandma. She told us we were to call her Gigi from now on – GG or Gigi, short for great-grandma. She had four generation photos taken with all her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Her family brought her such joy.
Gigi celebrated her 90th birthday in January, and she passed away Monday night. She will be greatly missed and always loved. There are so many great stories to tell about Grandma Mary – it’s hard to stop writing about her. I’m glad both of my children had a chance to meet her and spend time with her. I’ll keep her alive in our hearts with stories for them.