We Were Two Peas in a Pod
Even 20 years after her death, Grandma still has plenty to teach me
Growing up, my grandma was my favorite person in the world. Weekends at her apartment allowed me the freedom to be myself instead of having to worry about taking care of my sisters or upsetting my dad. My grandparents were always a month from eviction, so they moved around a lot, but for a couple of years, they had this great apartment on Seeley with a screened-in porch and easy access to both the small park and the good park. There was always a pile of boxes in the kitchen with whatever Grandpa was selling on the street — newspapers, ice cream, flowers — as long as someone paid him in cash, he was in. Once, we even took the l’ephant bus to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Sure, I lived in Chicago, but I could walk from my house to a suburb in 10 minutes. That zoo and the surrounding park were “the city,” and they were both magnificent. With free admission and sandwiches brought from Grandma’s place, we spent the day exploring. To top it off, I was able to stay overnight at my grandparents’ apartment.
Smiles and smiley stickers
We had fun, but Grandma also taught me about helping others. Once a year, we’d put on yellow smocks and go collect money for Little City, a community where people with developmental disabilities can live and work. My sister is profoundly autistic, so that particular charity was close to Grandma’s heart. The last time we donned the smocks was right before my grandparents moved in with my family. We lucked out and were assigned to the corner of Kimball and Belmont, two blocks from Grandma’s apartment. It was also a busy dang intersection because there was a subway stop and a bus depot at that corner. We usually took in about $100 between us, which was a decent haul for four hours handing out smiley stickers, but that year our final tally was $223. My love of helping others took me through the first three hours, but promises of Pepsi and a frozen Snickers bar got me that last hour. Now they have Snickers ice cream, but back then, she’d buy a few candy bars and chuck them in the freezer for special occasions. When we wanted…