Ada With Strawberries

I am in love with my grandmother. In awe. Enraptured. I want to exaggerate the pieces of genetics she’s graciously handed down. I relish them, but, sadly, I am no Ada. The world will only ever have one.  My grandmother dislikes excess. Her parents, in a psychic show of support, never gave her a middle name. When asked about this, she says, “What do I need with a middle name? We were poor. Poor people didn’t have middle names. Did they?” When I tell her that almost everyone has a middle name, she shrugs and says, “Who needs it? Not me. I got by without one.” Truth: My middle name has never once picked up a check or bailed me out of jail. Grandma, you’re right. As usual.

Ada was always the proud master of her home. Or yours. She will walk into anyone’s kitchen and rearrange it, and, I don’t mean with her stares. She will literally rearrange your kitchen. You’re a professional chef? She’s not impressed. You’re doing it wrong. Make yourself at home in your own home while she spends most of three seasons of any syndicated television series telling you exactly what you’re doing wrong, demonstrating by physically moving your dishwasher to the opposite side of your galley kitchen. Just grab a beer, sit down and relax. Turn the chair somewhat in her direction and maintain moderate to negligent eye contact. In 4 – 5 hours, you will not know where anything in your house is. Let me help you, the batteries are in the butter drawer. Why? “They LAST longer there. Didn’t you KNOW that?” No, Grandma. I didn’t.

She will talk to anyone. Forever. If you have a meeting to get to across town, I will pray that you don’t run into her, while simultaneously hoping that you do run into Ada on the way. The grandma vortex is strong. Fourteen hours later, you’re found holding a suspiciously delicious egg salad sandwich in your newly rearranged kitchen.

She calls every male who touches produce, “Young man!” and, she insists that your local market is
storing the freshest produce in a secret location. Yes. Somewhere in your very own store, there is a separate produce section marked with red carpet entry and a bouncer a la Fruit of the Loom. Telling her this isn’t so yields no passivity. Congratulations, you’ve just thrown fresh chum into shark infested waters. Repress any attempts to tell her that the, “young man!” found unloading oranges is a college student on Spring Break. To her, he is King Tropicana, Ruler of Florida’s prestigious orange groves and her ticket to the VIP produce section. Five minutes later, she’s invited him to date one of her eligible granddaughters. “Orange Groves are a lovely place to get married!”

Ada cuts the excess plastic off of her bread bag. You should try it. You won’t be disappointed OR, maybe you will be. You’ll never know until you try. When I ask her why she does this, she says, “The plastic takes up too much space in my refrigerator. Look at how much room I have now!” * points proudly to shelf with no visible space.* It’s hard to argue with completely fabricated fact. Spoiler alert: *whispers* It doesn’t save space, it just LOOKS better. Don’t tell her I said that as I, long ago, drank the kool-aid and religiously do the same.

When we told her the name of our fourth child, she cried, “WHAT? I was JUST getting over the the last name. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?”

When we told her our trees would have to be removed after Tropical Storm Irene, she sighed the world’s largest weight off shoulders sigh,  “Oh GOOD. I’m so happy you thought of it. I was wondering if you would be out there one day and those damn trees would fall right on the children!”

When I told her that her non-Catholic granddaughter was sending her great-grandchildren to Catholic School, she sat silent for a few moments and then said, “Well, those Catholics are crazy, but, they sure have good schools.” Ahem, agreed.

When we told her we were moving across the country, she said, “I love you. You do what you have to do for your family.”

My grandmother is honest. If you are an asshole, she will tell you. You will just have to sit pretty with the knowledge that you are, indeed, an asshole because Ada NEVER lies. Ada’s scepter of truth is always blinking; guiding all of her assholes home.

My childhood was sordid, difficult and tumultuous. Grandma Ada was home in a sea of houses. The home that was safe. The home where good food, warm blankets and love were always offered. Where you were unconditionally loved, despite your selfish tendencies. Where advice was given whether you asked for it or felt you needed it. But, rest assured, when she gives it, you need it.

Ada was the youngest of 10 children. She has told me that she believes her mother was not really meant to be a mother. She has said, so matter of factly, that those were just the times they lived in. You had children in the middle of great poverty or personal depression. She remembers being dirty. She will coolly tell you that her mother didn’t care for her.  She tells these stories with the greatest strength. That strength breaks my heart.

Everything she owns, she earned. Everything she says, she means. Every child she watched grow, she loves.

Every good and truly selfless thing I’ve done, I learned by watching her. Here is to Ada No Middle Name, storer of cold batteries, severed bread bags and bearer of the undying love of a thousand mothers despite her failure to find even an ounce of it in the mother she was given. To the woman who tells us when we’re assholes and loves us right through it.

I love you too.

My Grandmother. “Ada With Strawberries” by artist Susan Brabeau


  1. I am so jealous that you are close to your grandmother, and that she is such a character. I never had that, but it seems my kids will.

    • She is an amazing lady. I owe so much of ME to my grandmothers. I tell myself every day that grandmothering is as important of a “job” as mothering. I hope that I improve as I age like wine. I love you, lady!

  2. That. Was. Beautiful.

  3. I was 22 and tending bar at a crap-hole dive in Idaho. These two mid-60s women walked in and ordered beers. They then proceeded to try to scam me (I gave you a $20, no ma’am you did not), scam drinks out of my crap-ass customers and generally behave in a con artist fashion. The ringleader tried to get me to call her Grandma. Fat chance lady; I only have one and she would keel over and die if she knew I worked in a dump like this let alone set foot in one herself. Yet she never judged. RIP Adeline we all miss you!

  4. Reminds me of my relationship with my grandmother who was also named Ada!

  5. That was probably the best tribute to anyone that I have read in long time. Thank you for sharing.

  6. That was probably the best tribute to anyone that I have read in long time. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Somehow when you get crappy parents or grandparents And decide to become a parent anyway, it makes you want to be a much better one. My parents werent very good at it, but they loved me and thought I was quite perfect. My grandmothers were really bad at it. My dad’s mom only had eyes for one perfect child, hers. And my brother and I belonged to THAT woman he married. The other one didnt like kids. Hers or her daughters.
    As a result I try to do better at mom and grandma.

    • That’s the best that we can do…better than what came before. My grandmothers were both amazing ladies. In the luck of the draw, I drew beautiful grandmothers. I am grateful. I have a LOT to live up to. Doing better is the best we can strive for. Thank you for reading.

  8. Your grandma sounds wonderful! She kinda reminds me of my great grandma. As my mom puts it, I come from a long line of tough cookies! My great grandpa passed away when my grandma was 13 years old. She never remarried raised 5 kids by herself during a era when women who worked where looked down on. She was without the love of her life longer than she was with him.I think my favorite memory of her was when at 96 years old, the workers at the nursing home put on her little 90 lb body on Santa’s lap and when he asked her what she wanted for Christmas, her response was “For you not to drop me in the floor fat man!!!”

    • I love this comment. Yes,we both come from tough cookies. Your great grandma and my Ada would have been fast friends. Ada worked her whole life as well. I so appreciate you sharing a piece of your great grandma here. Here’s to the fat man never dropping us! xo

  9. Thank you for sharing this, so beautiful. Ada reminds me very much of my grandma, who told people they were assholes all the time.

  10. How I want to have tea with Ada. Can she come and arrange my kitchen? OH heavens, it needs it! Love this BPM <3

  11. OI loved reading this and your grandmother sounds like a wonderful and strong woman. Makes me remember yet again how much I miss my own grandmother though with all her love, quirkiness and stories, too. Thanks for sharing!!

  12. I loveloveloved this, truly – but please don’t write stuff like this when I’m about to start my period. I’m crying like an asshole over here.

  13. GREAT post. Just loved it.

    My mom doesn’t have a middle name either! (Neither do her 7 siblings. They were also very poor. Not sure of the correlation!)

    Happy New Year to you and yours!

    Teach On.

    • Happy New Year to you as well and thank you for reading! I’m finding it SO interesting the number of folks without middle names.

    • I come from a family of 8 girls and 4 boys. I’m the 9th in the line up. We were definitely not well to do. I am the first of my sisters to have a middle name, and only one other sister has one. My Father was of the firm belief that girls don’t need middle names because when you get married your maiden name becomes your middle name. . . I’m glad I have one. Just because.

    • I come from a family of 8 girls and 4 boys. I’m the 9th in the line up. We were definitely not well to do. I am the first of my sisters to have a middle name, and only one other sister has one. My Father was of the firm belief that girls don’t need middle names because when you get married your maiden name becomes your middle name. . . I’m glad I have one. Just because.

  14. I love Ada – and totally agree with the Catholic school comment.

    Signed, She-Also-Without-a-Middle-Name

  15. I love Ada. I love you. I love your middle name 🙂

  16. Anonymous says:

    That was just lovely to read. How wonderful to learn that Ada overcame her lack of parenting role models and became a loving figurehead to many others. My parents were also those people who should not have been parents. They didn’t love each other and they only saw children as a burden. Yet they had us because they felt they were supposed to.

    When I met my future husband and he informed me he would eventually like to have a small family (despite my very generous counteroffer of having a pack of well-trained dogs instead), I panicked, worried that I would continue the cycle of non-love. But then I realized that A) I was marrying a man who loved me more than anyone had ever loved me and who had demonstrated a commitment to spending his life with me and B)If I did the exact opposite of everything my mother ever did, I would probably turn out okay as a parent. Not a perfect parent, but one who was capable of showing her kids that she loved them and did her best without a training manual.

    And guess what? I now have a wonderful family to call my own and my husband and I are the kind of parents we wish we had had. (I do consider selling my kids at least once a day, but I keep that thought to myself.) Maybe if I try really, really hard, I can be as awesome as Ada one day.

    • I loved reading this. Isn’t it wonderful to know that we can make a choice to do things better than those who came before. I absolutely loved this response. Thank you for reading and for sharing this awesome story here. xo

  17. That painting! That painting! Two beautiful portraits of your grandmother.

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