I couldn’t talk the day I was born. But, if I could, I would have said “I don’t want it.”
Truth be told, even though my mother was in charge, she didn’t want me to have it either. The only reason she gave it to me at all was to derail my father who was on a mission to name me after a gemstone. His top picks were Pearl and Opal which were a close second and third only to Ruby. Can you imagine this? In the 1970s? Good God! If I had the name Ruby on top of the plaid dresses that my mother made me wear along with my flat chest, my Dorothy Hamill hair cut and ugly shoes; Kevin McNamara would have beaten the pulp out of me for good. Curtains. And buried me in the sewage pipes back in Beech Woods.
But, mother was brilliant. While Dad went out to get a burger after I was born, my mother filled out the paperwork and expertly decided to name me after both of my grandmothers – Christine for my Dad’s mother; and Agnes for my mom’s mother. Now what exactly was he going to say to THAT?! “No! I object! How dare you name our daughter after my mother!!” Well played, Mom. Well played.
Over the years I have suffered a fair amount of ridicule because of my middle name. And, in fact, my mother has even used it as a weapon against me “You know, Chris, I could have named you Agnes Christine.” She makes a good point. I owed her one. And I more than paid up.
She was strong and soft at the same time. She was proud and Scottish. And tall. (I always wished I had gotten that from her). She taught me lessons like “take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves” and “waste not, want not.” She and my grandfather had weathered the Great Depression, after all, with grace and humor. She taught me to “never start a fight but, if someone else starts one, be sure to finish it right” and taught me how to hit someone square. (The one time I did it, it felt so good I did it again.) I have fond memories of July 4th volleyball and horseshoe tournaments at their tiny house in Levittown which was so small the only place left for me to sleep when we were all there was under the dining room table. I liked that just fine and thought for a time that I was the only one who knew about the secret “gold ring” underneath which was nothing more than the trigger for the cord used to insert the table leaf. She wrote me letters at Colgate through some dark years. And sometimes sent me money from her secret account about which my grandfather knew nothing. The trick was knowing that if only Granny signed the card with the money in it then I wasn’t to send a ‘thank you’ note. She expected hard work and decency and required that we report our academic grades each time we visited. She used her china every Thanksgiving. She always wore a scarf to cover the scar from having her thyroid removed years ago. (She may haunt me for revealing it now). She taught me how to iron. We enjoyed lollapalooza ice creams from Carvel…or was that just a name that they made up and convinced me existed? I have an entire treasure chest of memories. She never forgot my kids’ birthdays or any special Holiday and took a special interest in them. In all of us – 5 kids, 14 grandkids, and 22 great-grandkids. But, she was also a tough old biddy and, if you ever got on her bad side, you were there for good. I saw it happen more than once. She was certainly one of a kind.
I hope this evening Grandpa is having his “cook and milkies” (Chips Ahoy, of course) and Granny snuck a little more Bailey’s on ice while he wasn’t looking.
And today I’ll simply say “I’m glad to have it” and will do my best to continue to make her proud.