This Sunday is Grandparents’ Day, which means we all get a chance to show our grandparents how much we love them by mailing them hand-knitted sweater vests or taking them fly-fishing. If that’s not your style, I’m sure an old-fashioned phone call never went amiss. Grandparents are inexhaustible resources of kindness, wisdom, and snickerdoodles, and yet it seems like they never get a formal thanks. Ilene Beckerman’s new book, The Smartest Woman I Know, pays homage to her grandmother Ettie, who doled out wisdom on everything from romance to cooking. It’s guaranteed to remind you of your own grandparents and everything they’ve done for you. Email Ilene with memories of your own grandmother, and take some time out for Gran and Gramps this Sunday. If you’re lucky enough to be a grandparent yourself, sit back and let us do the spoiling for once. Below is a letter from Ilene to her readers.
“Don’t go out without lipstick—you never know who you might run into.”
Grandma Ettie told me that—many times. She had many words of wisdom for me, in addition to the ones in my book, The Smartest Woman I Know.
What about your grandmother—what was she always telling you?
Come share the wise words, and the funny words, you remember your grandmother saying. Or, if you’re lucky enough to be a grandmother, tell us what you want your grandkids to know and to remember.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Grandmothers today are blondes, play tennis, and have French manicures. When I was growing up, grandmothers lived in Brooklyn, knitted sweaters, and made soup. Not my grandmother, the star of my book.
She and her husband had a store on 65th and Madison Avenue—a fancy neighborhood even then.
Everybody who was anybody came into the store and schmoozed with my grandmother. She was the smartest woman I ever knew, even though she never got past the 3rd grade.
Sara Delano Roosevelt, FDR’s mother who lived around the corner, would come in and tell my grandmother how worried she was because her son Franklin had polio. “Don’t worry,” my grandmother told her, “your son’s got a good head on his shoulders. Someday he’ll be president.” My grandmother said that to everyone who had a son. “That’s how you make a customer,” she told me.
The wisdom of my grandmother is now part of the off Broadway hit, “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” based on two of my books. The brilliant Nora Ephron – you know her from “Julie and Julia” and more – optioned my books for a theater piece, now in its second year.
So there’s my grandmother—in spirit—giving out pearls of wisdom about life, love, sex, and Jewish holidays to hip young women at the Westside Theatre. Who could argue with this remedy of hers: “For everything wrong inside the body, hot tea and lemon. For everything wrong outside the body—Vaseline.”
Almost all grandmothers—whether they’re Italian, Irish, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, or something else–have special wisdom to pass on. So, to paraphrase that commercial, “You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy Levy’s bread,” you don’t have to be Jewish to laugh and get misty-eyed when you read about my grandmother. And, judging from the responses of the young audiences at The Westside Theatre, you don’t even have to be a grandmother!
See the wisdom and worries of my Grandma Ettie. And don’t forget to send me your own memories of your grandmothers!