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My Nana, an Amazing Long-Distance Grandmother

March 5, 2012

I am planning a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, and it’s impossible not to be thinking about one of my two amazing grandmothers, Nana. She loved her Irish heritage, and ate like it. Her diet was plain — potatoes, meat, Cornflakes, cooked green vegetables and what I remember to be a daily dose of chocolate milk made with Hershey’s syrup. Garlic was forbidden, and I am sad she had to live through the rise of garlic mashed potatoes on restaurant menus. (“Excuse me, is there any way I can just have plain potatoes?”) And somehow, with a steady intake of white flour, meat, butter, and limited raw vegetables, she made it to 94 with perfect intellect and no major health problems.
Nana was an ideal grandmother. I only visited her in Chicago once or twice a year as a child, but each visit was perfect. It was so wonderful that someone wanted you to be with them so much, to be doted on and spoiled. She kept an arsenal of toys in her basement, shrewdly connected us with neighborhood kids to play kick the can, indulged us with ice cream or treats every day, and, just as we were saying our good-byes, she had grandpa slip up some cash. A crisp $5 or $10 bill was thrilling. Every time I left her house, I was already hoping to go back.

I am so happy that she met both of my daughters before she died. As the only one of her 9 grandchildren who has had children to date, I suppose she might have been even more excited than me. And just as I would visit her in Chicago, I would take my girls to visit her every 2-3 times a year. I love that my older child remembers her. And I love that I can tell my kids stories about her on March 17, when we dive into a feast Nana would have loved. I think I’ll go with the basics – corned beef, potatoes, peas with butter, and not a hint of garlic.

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