Ah, Grandma! She was a rock, but maybe something softer than that. She had come with her family from Poland. She was sensible, practical. She knew how to take care of things and she knew how to get over things. She was round all over. She cooked Polish food and knew where to get the best stuff in Chicago.
The best Polish sausage came from a butcher who wasn’t even Polish. That was something of a secret so of course I won’t tell, even though Grandma is long at rest and I left the wrong guy far behind. But it was, after all, Grandma’s secret to success and it wouldn’t be right to give it away even now.
Grandma had come to America with her parents when she was 4. Her sister Ann was born in the United States. While it was never said aloud, this small difference seemed to make Grandma the authentically Polish one with Ann as the American one. The two sisters were quite different from each other in many ways. As practical and down-to-earth as Grandma was, Aunt Ann was as flighty, superficial and impractical. Remarkably, they lived in the same house on the south side of Chicago, a neighborhood undergoing great changes when I first arrived there, changes beyond the matter/anti-matter drive that were Grandma and Aunt Ann.
When I was first introduced to the family, they were skeptical. It was with good reason but I did want to make a good impression.
“Where are you from?” they asked. “McCord, that’s Irish, right?”
Aunt Ann had married Jack who was Irish, so it wasn’t like Irish was a bad answer. They just wanted a better answer than Irish, something they could relate to. They inspected me, all blonde and blue with those dark eyebrows, searching for more.
I stuttered to list the litany of my mutt-like heritage, Irish, English, Scots, French, German, Czech, Bohemian….
“Bohunk!” They seized upon the familiar with delight. “Oh, if you’re Bohunk, you’re OK!”
I was relieved to have passed the test since my next listed heritage is Gypsy or more correctly Rom. This usually does not garner cries of delight from folks from the Old Country. I’m here to say I have never stolen a baby or a chicken from anyone in spite of rumors. There’s a lot of bad press out there for the Rom. If Grandma and Aunt Ann were happy, I was happy. I wasn’t sure it was OK to call Bohemian “Bohunk” but I wasn’t going to argue with the matriarchs. I was in another country after all.
|Art Postcard Tarot|
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
Easter Sunday we went to mass. Grandma preferred the plainer local Polish Catholic Church. Aunt Ann liked the fancier, wealthier Lithuanian Catholic Church. At some point we went to both. This being post-Vatican II, the Lithuanian church mass was said in Lithuanian. Grandma and Ann marveled that I knew when to kneel and stand up since they were sure I didn’t understand Lithuanian. I tried to explain that the mass is the same in any language, but after they gave me that “two-heads” look, I just smiled and decided it was a compliment. I said thank you.
Back at the house, Ann and Jack made their way slowly upstairs to rest before Easter dinner. Jack had emphysema plus a pacemaker, so we didn’t want to wear him out. After all, living with Aunt Ann was like living with Tigger, bouncy, bouncy, so it was a silent understanding that Jack needed to lie down a while.
“We’re going to have pink champagne!” Ann announced. Grandma rolled her eyes and mentioned we already had wine to go with the feast that included potato cakes and jelly-filled cookies and other ethnic yummies. Ann insisted on the pink champagne. Hubs-1 and I, plus his two sisters, trooped up the back stairs with Aunt Ann to separate her from Grandma, hoping to stave off any Easter violence. Aunt Ann set the big bottle of pink champagne on the counter, preparing to take it downstairs. Then she got a phone call.
Aunt Ann was a talker, again the opposite of Grandma who used only the few words necessary to get her point across. After about an hour of waiting for Aunt Ann’s animated conversation to conclude, we all offered to help Uncle Jack down the stairs again. Dinner was almost ready. Yet Aunt Ann talked on and on. We could hear her from downstairs. Grandma rolled her eyes again and shook her head. They sent Hubs-1 back upstairs to retrieve Aunt Ann.
Happy as can be, Aunt Ann and the bottle of pink champagne came bouncing down the stairs.
“Bruce! You open this!” she insisted, thrusting the now warmed and shaken bottle at Hubs-1. We all muttered that we had wine. No, this was a special day. We were having pink champagne. Dutifully, he began to uncork the bottle.
I’m not sure if you realize this, but champagne is bottled under pressure. Like any drink that bubbles, when both warmed and shaken, pink bubbly can take on explosive properties during the uncorking.
Suddenly, the entire kitchen was awash in a geyser of pink, the majority of which sprayed Aunt Ann head to toe. We watched in horror as the volatile little sister was first stunned then furious, a 70-year-old wet hen. Valuing our lives, the rest of us said nothing, but all eyes were as big as saucers. All eyes, that is, except Jack’s, for he had begun to eat having waited for Aunt Ann all his married life and knew better than to wait further for a decent meal. At the fountain of half a bottle of pink champagne drenching his wife, he set down his fork. Taking as deep a breath as he could, considering the emphysema and pacemaker, he laughed.
We quickly mopped up Aunt Ann, poured what was left of the champagne into her cup, finished Easter dinner as if nothing at all had happened. After the cookies and the lamb cake and a little coffee, I could stand it no longer.
“Take me for a drive. Now,” I hissed. Hubs-1 was not particularly quick on the uptake. “NOW,” I stage-whispered through my teeth and smiled sweetly.
“Lovely spring day! We’re going for a little drive,” I said to the rest of the family.
In the car, I lasted just long enough to get to the next block. I exploded in helpless laughter, wracked with giggles that approached the Grand Mal stage.
“It wasn’t that funny,” Hubs-1 pouted.
“It was, too!” I gasped. “Keep driving. I have to get this all out. I can’t go back there and laugh.” We drove for about an hour, Mr. No Sense of Humor silent, apparently avoiding making my giggle fits any worse and feeling like the victim of a bad joke. Jack’s laugh at Ann’s misfortune had seemed like years of pent up told-you-so’s. This patient man had waited his whole life for this perfect moment and, taking one of his few remaining breaths, had laughed when no one else was allowed to. Tears streamed down my face. I howled. I hiccupped. I pounded the dash and stomped my feet.
The spray of pink foamy champagne over the family live wire, their own Queen of Wands, began to paint in Easter colors a journey with a family I was ultimately to decide I was not suited to. While it was not a successful relationship, however, it wasn’t without its laughs.
This blog entry is part of a "blog chain" for a Tarot Blog Hop. Be sure to read the next blog entry in the chain and enjoy: Hudson Valley Tarot
To read the blog entry prior to my blog, click here and again enjoy: Tarot Inspired Life