Green Eyes on Pearl Harbor Day

She was “Low Irish, Dirty Dutch, Johnny Bull, and a Squelch of Welsh” and when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, she lined up all of her Japanese knickknacks on top of the piano and shot them off. Then she took her gun outside and shot the milk bottles off the porch. She was my grandmother. Her husband went off to war and she became one of those “Rosie the Riveter” women working in the factories. My daddy was just a little boy.

No, the girl in today’s art does not look like my Grandma Goldie but it is Pearl Harbor Day, a day that went down in infamy in our family stories, more so for grandma’s sharp shooting than the news broadcasted on the radio.

Grandma was, shall we say, a character.  Even many years after she passed, people I met remembered her and would ask if I was related and everyone had a story about her. Oh they remembered her from when she tended bar or belonged to the Slovak Club or from when she ran the Igloo restaurant out on, oh… I can’t remember, it was so many years ago…. Benton Road? I don’t recall exactly where the Igloo was; somewhere outside Salem, Ohio. The Igloo was cool because the building was shaped like an igloo. I was just a little girl then but I remember. The machines in the lobby were for kids, gum-ball machines and such, and the machines in the other room were for grown-ups so we weren’t allowed in there. Maybe I shouldn’t tell that, but so many years have passed that it doesn’t matter anymore.

I don’t think that she lived in Salem when she shot up the knickknacks because daddy also remembers drawing pictures of the street scenes that he saw outside his window when they lived in an apartment over an Italian bakery up in Detroit, Michigan, when he was a wee little boy. He saw “Zoot Suit” dressed men, gangsters riding on the running boards of automobiles shooting at each other, all sorts of things little boys should not see. He remembers what he calls the Black & White War (Detroit race riots of 1943) and saw the military shoot a black man off the roof of their building. That’s about the time his mother decided that Detroit was no place for a little boy and sent him to go live with his grandmother down in Salem, Ohio.

I think of that Italian bakery as that is where grandma got the recipe for the cannoli that she used to make every year for Christmas. They were the best cannolis that I ever tasted in my entire life and I have tasted a lot of cannolis over the years hoping to find something similar. I have that recipe, but she left something out or did not write the measurements down right for the filling as the shells come out perfect and the filling comes out really wrong – one big congealed glob, nothing like the smooth and creamy sweetness that I remember inside the flakey crunch of cinnamon and wine flavored shells, with the ends dipped in crushed cinnamon, almonds, and shaved chocolate.

And I think of Christmas Eve at Grandma Goldie’s… she’d invite everyone in the family and anyone who did not have anywhere else to go so there was always a full house with all the cousins and aunts and uncles and boarders and strangers we never met before.  It was always grand.  She cooked for an army, filled the dining room table with food, the kitchen table with pies and cakes, and had card tables set up for cookies, candies, and cannolis.

And most of all, I think of her laughter.

So what does this have to do with the art?  Nothing.  Except the art of this green-eyed elf girl peeking out through the greens is posted on Pearl Harbor Day.

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One Response

  1. I suppose some may find grandma’s way of expressing her heritage a tad offensive or at the least politically incorrect, but it was in no means a slam against her own self. In fact, quite the opposite. She used to say things like, “there are two types of Englishmen in this world, those who look like they just crawled out of a mushroom cellar and Johnny Bull don’t take no crap” so each represented traits she liked. She also told me to never hide money in my bra as it is the first place a man will look and all sorts of other sage advice.

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