March 6th, 2005


Irene Wise

My grandmother was born March 2, 1914. She died a year ago today, four days after her 90th birthday. I wrote about that here.

Though my grandmother wasn't a big part of my life, I've found myself thinking about her from time to time, as one might expect. She never seemed very happy to me. She was critical and difficult and pessimistic. She called me a pollyanna in order to dismiss my optimism, but I think it helped her, too, when she let it in.

She was a fine grandmother, in occasional week-long visits here and there, but I'm lucky that my mom fell far from the tree of Irene's example of mothering. I think both of us, my mom from the front and I from the rear, missed Irene's best years, once her kids had left the home and before her second husband died. My mom tells me that she and Amil travelled a lot, all over the world. It's hard for me to imagine Irene being such a traveller.

Indeed, most of the examples Irene set for me were warnings. She didn't make being old look very good, though some of her neighbors set a cheerier example for me. She was a difficult person in many respects, due, no doubt, to having a challenging childhood, from what I've gathered. She was one of three girls. Sylvia, the other of the sisters who I know, is very similar. I imagine their natal family was no bed of roses.

Irene was beautiful. She liked crossword puzzles, and she fell asleep in front of the nightly news. She was a great swimmer. She might have had a happier life if she were more creative. I don't believe in an afterlife, so the goodbyes I had, I said last year at her deathbed. Nevertheless, I can't help wondering if she might be elsewhere, finding a happier way. And though it doesn't really change anything at all, I like to imagine her in her traveling years, sipping tropical beverages and smoking on the deck of some ridiculous cruise ship, really enjoying her life.

dishes and utensils

I've always been strangely (I think) fussy about utensils and dishes. Although in a pinch, I'm willing to use imperfect dishes, I usually have a fairly strong preference about what I'd like to use for any given instance of consuming food or drink. I remember fighting with my brother about which fork to use when I was little, so presumably, I've had this fussiness all along, though that may just have been fighting about wanting something I didn't have!

Now, I prefer tall tumblers to short, almost always, since I'm usually drinking water, and I prefer not to have to refill with the frequency that a smaller glass requires. Ditto mugs: I want a cup of tea that will last me more than a few minutes. I prefer glass or ceramic to plastic (though that's another post entirely). I almost always prefer a curvaceous glass than one with straight sides, and if I must use one with straight sides, I'd rather they be vertical than angled (ie, a tumbler rather than a pint glass).

In bowls, I usually like deep, round ones rather than wide, platelike ones. I like to be able to pick up my bowl easily without making a mess.

I haven't observed particular consistencies in my preferences regarding plates, however, which is interesting.

I will choose silver flatware over stainless, all else being equal, but balance is obviously important.

In some cases, my preferences are strong enough that I'd rather not eat or drink something at all than have it in a sub-par container.

And, of course, what I'm eating matters for what I'm eating it in:

Ice cream: always in a mug (this is the one time I like a small mug)
Soups (most): big, round, bowly mugs
Water: big glass
Juice: smaller glass
Salad: wider shallow bowl
Cereal (which I almost never eat, and when I do, usually with yogurt): deep bowl

So, I'm fussy. It turns out some other people are, too. I guess I need to visit Asia sometime :)