Grandma’s House

I remember when I was 10 years old. My mother would send my brother and me to grandma’s house every Sunday, to “spend quality time with her”. So every Sunday, we’d trek three blocks to her house, dressed like we were going to church. Every Sunday we’d sit in her cigarette smoke filled living room, listening to her berate us at length for being the root of all her suffering and woe throughout the years with a heavy middle-European accent. She held us responsible for the pain she had been dealt both during and after the second world war in Poland. She held us responsible for her divorce, for her drinking, for her broken toilet. In her eyes, we were two of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. She spent every Sunday wearing nothing more than a horrible pink bathrobe and matching slippers with a lime green shower cap, a bottle of brandy in her left hand and a lit cigarette in the right, one leg crossed over the other. And if my brother or I made so much as a whisper, she’d leap across the room with surprising agility and hit us both with an old clothes iron. Then she’d threaten to cut off our toes if we ratted on her, “just like they used to do in the old country”. Christmas eve was always fun too. Every year was the same story. Half-way through opening presents, she’d start drinking and by the time we were done, she’d be in a drunken stupor. My mother would inevitably help her upstairs to her bedroom and put her in bed while my dad and I cleaned up the living room. Then we left her house quietly, not saying a word as we walked to the car.

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