1) My grandmother grew up in Logan Square or Humboldt Park. I don’t remember which. Her father, who I came to know as Papa Zoom Zoom, was a terrible asshole by all accounts. One day he did something — I don’t know what — to royally piss off his kids. So my grandmother and her siblings got revenge the way any prepubescent morons would: They drank all of his wine while he was at work. Of course they got sick as dogs and puked everywhere, which only made him more mad when he got home, but at least they drank the fucker’s wine, right?
2) My grandmother and her siblings used to hang out in alleyways, as was the style at the time. One day she found a dog. A female dog. It was friendly but it was bleeding all over the place, so my grandmother took it home and swathed it in band-aids. My great grandmother returned home to find, in her kitchen, a dog with band-aids all over its crotch. The dog was on the rag.
3) When she was a teenager, my grandmother was warned by her father never to come home with a full belly. Apparently innuendo was lost on her, because she thought he meant not to eat anywhere except at home. If a friend of hers invited her over for dinner, my grandmother politely declined.
4) I have no idea where my grandmother and grandfather went on their first date, but considering that all their “dates” in the early years of their marriage consisted of them going out for strawberry sodas, I’m guessing it wasn’t all that extravagant. So anyway, before they’re married he takes her on a date. When he drops her off at her place, he kisses her, as any guy would. That’s what you do after a date. Duh. Well, my grandmother freaks out. She can barely sleep. She feels sick to her stomach. When my grandfather stops by again, she says, “Bob, we need to talk,” with all the pathos she can muster. He’s puzzled. My grandmother wrings her hands and blurts out, “Bob, I’m pregnant!” “With who?!” he demands. “With you, dummy!” she cries. And that’s when my grandfather explained to my grandmother that you can’t get pregnant by kissing.
5) (This one’s about my great grandmother, but since it was told to me by my grandmother, I guess it’s her story too.) My great grandmother grew up on a farm somewhere in the Midwest. I forget where. (Northern Illinois? Michigan?) When she was a kid, she and her sister would get into knock-down drag-out fights. Later on, when I was a teenager and could process things better, I came to realize that my great grandmother possessed an inherently rural character — folksy and syrupy sweet, but also tough as fuck — even though she was an urban transplant later in life. Anyway, my great grandmother and her sister got into an argument one day. Her sister said she was chickenshit. My great grandmother protested that she was, in fact, not chickenshit. “Oh yeah?” said her sister. “I bet you won’t chop my thumb off.” And then she placed her thumb atop the chopping block. A strange gambit for sure. Well, my great grandmother was indeed NOT chickenshit. She grabbed an ax and chopped her sister’s fucking thumb off. (SHE CHOPPED HER SISTER’S FUCKING THUMB OFF.)
I loved my great grandmother.
6) My grandmother used to tell me stories about her and her grandmother walking over to Humboldt Park to pick dandelions so they could make soup. I thought she was fucking with me until I found out people actually DO eat that shit.
Ah, the Great Depression. ‘Twas a culinary wonderland.