June 11th, 2010
As I've mentioned in my last few blog entries, my family has congregated on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina to celebrate my Grandma Rae's 90th birthday(my Grandma Harriet turned 90 in March. They're sticking around ...to keep an eye on me.)
As little Kabats, my brother and I would "summer" with our grandmother in Sumter, South Carolina, the southern town that's as big as it sounds. Our parents would drive us to meet my grandparents at a Burger King in Rockingham where my brother and I were passed off. We were a drug deal.
I was just having a General Mill's International Coffee moment with my brother on the porch of my mother's beach house and we were reminiscing about those weeks with Grandma and Grandpa in their (cliché of a cliché) small southern town.
A few reflections:
- Grandma always offered to scratch our backs. She had talent (minus a few times when she lost focus and would scratch “endearingly" too hard on the same area)...but otherwise...her ability was strong and I would drool.
- The smell - Grandma and Grandma's house had an odor. It wasn't unpleasant but it was...how you say... distinctive. To this day, should this essence enter my nasal passages... I'll hit the stranger closest to me and yell "It smells like Sumter!" They won't get it...or care. But you know whose heart will feel full? Mine.
- I was the youngest grandchild and my grandfather kept his toy store, Tiny Town, open until I was five years old. The grandiose awesomeness of having grandparents with a toy store can't be justified with words. I'll keep it simple. It was good.
- Grandma is a wonderful cook and always willing to think "outside the box" with some of her concoctions. Every morning we'd wake up to the most delightful breakfast array that would include her homemade cream cheese/cottage mix that spread easily and efficiently onto the nearest toasted edible. At lunch time (which was called dinner), we'd eat turkey and drink iced tea with (another grandma invention) ice tea cubes. In the evening, we'd eat "supper" which was always topped off with her signature dessert, Mandel bread (which looking back...is basically Jewish biscotti.)
- Our days were filled with swimming at her country club pool across the street, taking hour long baths in her giant whirlpool of a bathtub and getting presents from her friend Eileen Rubin...underwear and socks.
Having had the opportunity to have my Grandma as a pivotal part of my life for 35 years is not something I take lightly. We are all the sum of our experiences and I have no unpleasant memories of this women that I am certain might just be the kindest person in the world. Her gentle and soothing energy is like watching a sleeping baby...it's just calming.
So tonight is about this special woman whose parents were immigrants from the Austria-Hungary Empire, grew up in Ehrhardt, South Carolina, graduated high school at 15, went to Winthrop college, was a 1st grade teacher, is a MacGyver in the kitchen and has never said an unkind word about anyone.
Tonight we celebrate the woman who has always celebrated us.
This week, I had the opportunity to ask four generations of family what they think of...when they think of "Grandma Rae":
- Rae's Children
Ann - Sweetness, no judgment and love for her family
Ron - Her family focus has always been her mantra.
- Rae's Grandchildren:
Steven - The back scratching
Scott - Iced tea cubes, Mandel bread and back scratches
- Rae's Great Grandchildren:
Ethan (age 12) - She asks me the same questions 3 times. That means she's interested in me and so nice.
Emily (age 10) - She's so sweet and I'm always excited to see her
Eleanor (age 5) - I like when I'm on the phone with her and she tells me to go to the toy store to pick out a toy.
Lilly (age 4) - I like that she hugs me.
Jack (age 1) - I'm envious of Grandma Rae's mild disposition, pleasantness, tenderness and concern for others. I'd like to think I've gone through my 18 months of life with the same temperamental makeup. But for right now, I would just prefer to say 2 things...doggie and baby.