My Vo

My whole life I thought everyone's grandmother wore conservative brown skirts and sensible pumps (if there is such a thing).  And if there was a need to go out of the house, a tan lightweight trench coat and a smooth leather "pocketbook" were necessities.  This is what I knew from my own experience with my grandmother, my "Vo".

She was the epitome of a textbook grandma, not just because of her clothing, but also because of her fierce love for her grandchildren.  She was the one who would stand up for my cousins Jen and Sara (my only two cousins on that side) when they would wear bikinis and my aunt would be mortified.  She would rub our arms when we sat beside her on the couch.  And she would call us each by nicknames, mine being Kazzy Wazzy.  

Her house always smelled like warm grandma food (you know what I mean), and she brought that smell with her when she came to visit.  I am not really sure how that works with grandmothers, but it is an interesting phenomenon.  

She lived on a big hill in Tiverton, Rhode Island, and until the time she had to move in with my parents she would walk that hill to go to the market or to the Catholic church she attended. 

When I was born we lived with Vo for about 18 months.  She had been widowed from my equally-perfect grandfather six months before my parents' wedding and our presence helped her tremendously.  My mom tells me it was MY presence mostly that saved her.  She wore her black clothes and black lace for a full year after being widowed, and once she got to rock me in her wooden spindled rocker on a regular basis it helped in her healing.  I felt a special connection with Vo my whole life.  When my engagement fell apart in 1986 I called her for comfort and advice and I was wrapped up in a big thick blanket of it.  She was my biggest fan and I still miss her so much.

But the most important lesson I learned from Vo was taught very indirectly from a story she never told me herself.  She moved to New England when she was 3- years old with her parents.  She (along with every single ancestor I have ever researched) was born in the Azores, which are small islands owned by Portugal way out in the Atlantic.  When she was only 15 she had to drop out of school to work in the textile mills in Fall River, Massachusetts, and by the time she was 19 both parents had died, leaving her with an 8-year old younger sister that she took care of.  Once her fiance had heard about the new responsibility of the younger sister, Georgiana, he asked Vo to find a new place for her.  Refusing, she soon broke off her engagement and got on with the business of caring for Georgie.  A few years later she married my grandfather, who loved his little sister-in-law like a daughter.  Until the day Vo died I wondered why Georgie's kids called Vo "Grandma Mary" instead of "Aunt Mary", and then I heard the story of her selfless sacrifice and realized who she really was.  She was my hero.

ps.. I am being published today at


Connie | September 10, 2008 at 5:39 AM

I was wondering if when your grandmother left the house did she also have to put on lipstick or do the brown skirt and sensible pumps say it all? Reading about your Vo conjured up memories of my own Grandmas. I can remember the way my Grandma Hansen smelled. It was sweet and warm - just like her love for her grandchildren. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. p.s. Congrats on being published! You're awesome!

Heather of the EO | September 10, 2008 at 6:59 AM

I absolutely love your thoughts over on the Annex! And this is such a great post too. I love the way you express your thoughts and feelings-so genuine and well said!

Anonymous | September 10, 2008 at 7:17 AM

I love this beautiful memory of your grandma. She was everything a grandma/hero should be. You were very fortunate to be loved by her and have her as a wonderful example.

Graciesmom | September 10, 2008 at 5:10 PM

What wonderful memories of your Grandma. Thanks for sharing :)

charrette | September 10, 2008 at 11:29 PM

I loved reading this post about your grandmother. I have my own hero-grandma that I thought of as I read this post. Yours sounds like such a strong woman, with a powerful commitment to family and a powerful sense of her place in the world.... Sounds a lot like YOU!

charrette | September 10, 2008 at 11:31 PM

p.s. Congrats -- I was so happy to see your Softening post up on the Annex tonight. (I tried to leave a comment there, but I think there's something wrong with the interface. I'll try again later.)

Mrs4444 | September 14, 2008 at 8:01 AM

LOVED this post. Reminds me of something my cousin wrote about my grandma: "The car was pretty crowded when we picked up Grandma for church. I liked to sit next to her so I could play with her ring and the loose, soft skin on her hands. If we got hungry during the service, Grandma shared her Tums." Is that awesome, or what?! Everyone needs a grandma like that :)

I'm going to link to it in my Friday Fragments post this week. Thank you.