Lies My Grandma Told Me

Would a church-going, God-fearing, hardworking and respectable woman, who frowned on liquor, playing cards, and gambling, tell lies to her grandchildren?

Darned right she would.

Okay, okay, "lies" is a little strong. But by now, as a more or less respectable grandmother myself, it's clear that some of the things Grandma used to tell us weren't always purely and wholly the truth.

For instance, "A lazy tailor takes a long thread." I never did understand that one, and I still don't quite get it. As a novice seamstress, needing to hem a skirt or struggling with the embroidery I never could learn to like, it seemed efficient rather than lazy to arm my needle with a generous length of thread. Fewer knots to tie, less time wasted stopping to rethread the needle—what was the problem?

Of course, there was that small matter of the thread sometimes being longer than my arm, so I couldn't pull it tight in one smooth motion. I'd have to drop the needle, grab the thread with my fingers, pull it the rest of the way through, then scrabble around for the needle again so I could repeat the whole enterprise. Then there were the times the long thread got tangled up in itself and made such a mess of knots that the only recourse was to snip the whole thing off with the scissors and start over.

It's possible, I suppose, that these little "efficiencies" wasted more time than I would have spent rethreading the needle two or three times. So maybe Grandma wasn't exactly lying with that one.

Then there was, "You're leaving the best part." She would say this as she'd retrieve from one of our plates the fat off a piece of roast beef, or the skin, or, most disgustingly, even the tail of a roasted chicken.

Ewww! Gross! And I still think so.

Of course, unlike Grandma, I never had to keep ten children fed on a dust-blown farm during the 1930's. I'm sure there were times in her life when every scrap of protein, down to the fat and skin, was precious. Being the mother, of course, and the kind of person she was, Grandma would have routinely picked out the worse pieces for herself.

Maybe over the years she had genuinely persuaded herself that the portions no self-respecting well-fed child would touch were the "best parts." Or maybe she had just pretended to like them for so long that it was a habit too deep to break. Since she lived to be 97, apparently this didn't do her any harm. But I do hope that once in a while, in her later years, she went ahead and took the breast of the chicken instead of the neck and the back.

Another of Grandma's admonitions was, "Eat your bread crusts—it will make your hair curly."

I dutifully used to eat my bread crusts. I still do. Actually, I rather like the crusts, at least on good, fresh homemade bread. But after all these years and all those crusts, my hair is still as straight as it was back when I was in high school and never had to iron it to get that fashionable wannabe hippie look.

Grandma ate all her crusts, of course, and sometimes ours as well. Had I been paying closer attention as a teenager, I might have realized the truth back then. Sometimes I would comb and braid Grandma's hair. Her long hair, gray by then, fine and smooth—and absolutely straight.

About the bread crusts, Grandma just plain lied.

Categories: Remembering When | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Lies My Grandma Told Me

  1. Ginny

    Women, especially hard-up mothers, do make good liars. When I was growing up in the ‘dirty thirties’, I was sometimes allowed to stay over night with a neighbor girl, whose family were really hard-up..struggling to keep four kids fed, clothed and sent to school. I would walk home with the kids after school and we would play around until supper time. Supper was usually fried potatoes and ‘ring balogna’ which was about the cheapest meat one could buy. [These folks were not farmers, the dad worked in town at whatever he could do] I never thought much about those meals, until many, many, many years later. This family had moved away in the thirties, and we lost track on them until the mother came back to our area to visit relatives,as I say, many years later..I was a grandmother myself by that time. She and my mother were talking about the ‘old days’ and she told of how she would ‘lie’ and say she had already eaten her supper, when there wasn’t enough food to go around for her husband and the kids. I was horrified, and wondered to myself about how many times I may have eaten her share of fried potatoes and ring balogna. I still feel guilty when I think about it.

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