I took a creative writing class for fun during my freshman year of college. I knew I would minor in creative writing once I got to a four year school, so I thought I could get ahead and take some of the classes at the two year college. Turns out, that method does not work, but I am glad that I took the class, if only because it got me to write again. I had sort of lost my way in writing, and the class got me back on track.
My teacher was open-minded about most things, but she had one pet peeve. She called it the “Grandma Story.” She would always point out that a lot of people tend to write a poem or a story about their grandmother, usually shortly after the grandmother has passed. She hated those types of stories.
Because of her negative reaction to it, I had the impression that Grandma stories were a big no-no in the writing world. So I avoided writing them, which wasn’t a big deal. That is, until my grandmother passed away. It was then that I understood why people wrote these stories.
There’s something essential about a grandmother, something that people take for granted. She’s always there to make you dessert, (sometimes she makes it to lure you to her house, because how else do you get the grandchildren to visit?) and she’s genuinely interested in hearing about your life. Those two things are happiness and love, emotions that people need in order to get through life.
My great-grandmother would always make angel food cake, and one of my other grandmothers would make vanilla ice cream from a machine she had every once in a while. Those treats defined my life. Now, whenever I’m feeling nostalgic, I either buy angel food cake or crave homemade ice cream.
I think I focus on the food not because it has the most memories attached to it, but the most senses. I can smell the vanilla beans in the soft, white ice cream mounds; I can taste them, feel them, see them. The memory begins with the food and expands from there. Through that, I am able to visualize my surroundings. Sitting on the red swivel bar chair with the metal back, the one that looked like it belonged in an old-fashioned barber shop or diner. The toy witch hanging from the ceiling on her broom. The painting on the wall of what looked like a character from Where the Wild Things Are, created by my uncle, her son.
We tend to reach for things long after they’re gone. Whether it’s a memory, a sensation, a person, we long to have it there again, in front of us. Tangible, real. A Grandma story creates that reality. It is our way of baking an angel food cake for our lost loved one, of mixing the vanilla beans into the ice cream. One final meal before departure.
Grandma stories are not overused. They are a necessity. With these stories, we honor grandmothers everywhere for all that they have done for us.
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