My mom just gave Moomin an earful of stories from her childhood. I tried to get my great-grandma to tell me about her childhood once. “Come on, Nana, what was it like, what was different? What was it like being a little girl in 190-whatever?” She couldn’t think of anything to say but finally said that she missed the fun of chasing the iceman’s horse-drawn wagon and begging for chips of ice. Since she got so embarrassed and her story made it sound like her childhood utterly sucked, I never asked again!
Not so with my mom. She regaled Moomin with stories of how her sisters and she would brutally gang up on each other for elbow and kick fights. Usually she wasn’t the one ganged up on, because she was the middle sister. She always tried to be the goody goody.
Life was incredibly unfair. She had eczema, so she couldn’t wash the dishes. Instead, one sister would wash the dishes one night. (Mime a sister daintily doing the dishes, nose stuck in the air, lording it over Tiny Grandma-to-Be and then flouncing off.) And the other sister would do the dishes on the other night. But *every night* my mom had to set the table, clear the table, dry the dishes and put them away, take out the trash, burn the trash! “Now I ask you, is that fair? Why didn’t they just buy me some fucking rubber gloves and let me take my turn washing the dishes!” (By this time Moomin is on the floor laughing, rolling around and holding his stomach.) Never mind the part about having to leave off watching Perry Mason 5 minutes early to set the table. How is THAT fair. Why didn’t they just have dinner 10 minutes later?
Every time she said “We were BRATS!” it was the funniest thing in the universe.
We ended up with some 50 year old resentment from the middle sister that she had to wear her (taller) younger sister’s hand me downs and constantly endure people’s surprise that she was the older one because she was so short. Then, a grim tale.
“And one day we were waiting for the bus after school and I got SO FED UP. I pushed her off the steps, and a teacher saw me. She said “K—!!!! You go right inside and tell your teacher what you did!” (Look of disbelief and deep consideration-of-not-doing-it.)
Moomin was hanging on every word… he completely understood…
“And I thought, what the hell! I’m going to feel like an asshole! So I went in (miming it) and told her (high little voice) “Teacher I pushed my sister down the steps.” And my teacher said “Did she get hurt?” and I said “No!” and she said “Why did you do it?” and I was like “Because she’s a little bitch! She’s a 5 year old bitch!”
Moomin was in physical pain from laughing so hard at his hilarious grandma. I followed him to his room where he kept trying to unfurl himself from laughing-too-hard-position. “OH MY GOD I can’t believe she SAID that” he screeched. “Please help me stop laughing!”
“Do you really think she said that when she was so little?”
“No!!! Why I can’t I stop laughing?”
I think of the bit in Louise Fitzhugh’s book “The Long Secret” where the grandmother tells Beth Ellen, “Shy people are angry people.” Certainly true for both my mom and Moomin. I think her stories are awesome, because little kids like Moomin don’t really hear enough about the actual feelings of people and instead a bit too much about what we want them to feel or think they should feel.
I’m not sure what he will conclude about the olden days. Maybe that little kids in crinolines swore a lot and went around brutally elbowing each other over rolls of Lifesavers.
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