Our daughter, Jill, has two grandmothers who are as different as chalk and cheese.
One grandmother taught her to count cards and make her face as blank as a huge, white
Kleenex when she bluffed at blackjack. They practiced in the bathroom mirror. The
other grandmother taught her where to place the salad forks. When Jill was three, this
grandmother taught her not to touch anything until invited to do so. The other
grandmother taught her to slide down four carpeted stairs on a cookie sheet.
They are both widows, these grandmothers, and one lives in a trailer park in Florida
from October until May, then moves north to an old lakefront camp in Maine for the
summer. This is a leaning discouraged-looking structure filled with furniture impervious
to wet swimsuits. Raccoons sleep on the deck every night. The other grandmother
resides in a townhouse at the best address in the city--a brick, regal-looking building
boasting a security system and plants in the hallways that are tended by florists who
arrive weekly in green vans.
One grandmother plays Lotto America, Tri-State Megabucks, and bingo at the Penobscot
Indian Reservation. The other grandmother plays bridge every Tuesday afternoon with
monogrammed playing cards. One wears primary colors, favoring fluorescents when she
has a tan; the other wears Leslie Fay suits, largely taupe or black.
They both take Jill on adventures, these grandmothers. One took her to a Bonnie Raitt
concert, and the other to a Monet exhibit at a fine arts museum.
One grandmother believes in magic; the other believes in the stock market. They both
believe in security. To one, security means plenty of white mushrooms, Vermont
cheddar, and fresh limes in the refrigerator when the meteorologist says, "We're gonna
have some weather." The other things security refers to a financial planner with solid
Both grandmothers are near 70 and have hair the color of good wood smoke. One wears
her hair long and braided, and pins her plaits into a crown around her head. Sometimes
in the evening she lets Jill loosen all of that heavy hair and fluff it free with an ancient
hairbrush. The other grandmother has her h...