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  • Last time I saw my brother, the one in Colorado, he said to me, "You look more and more like Grandma every time I see you," and I snapped back, in a fit of hurt and embarrassment, "That's not exactly a compliment." I've been worrying about it ever since.

    How could I love her as much I did and not want to be like her?

    It's a complicated question.

    My grandmother came from Itlay when she was 18 or 19 years old. She was beautiful then, a dark-haired beauty. Before she came she worked and slept in a stables and rode horses along the wild coasts of northern Italy and ate wild pomegranates.

    Then, she got married, came here, had four children. She got fat and, eventually, she got old.

    My friend, AT, says don't use the word fat, it's demeaning.
    My grandmother was very heavy. She had a square face, like my father, my daughter, my grandson. She had a big belly that left only the ends of her knees as a lap for me to sit on. She had dark skin and long hair that she wore in braids, wrapped around her head. I loved to watch her let loose its shining waves and comb it out.

    Grandma's grandpa was supposedly a pirate, or so the story goes. I'd like imagine him a good pirate, if there was such a thing. Please.

    Grandma scowled a lot. She may have been in pain, like I am. But she had a warm heart. Sh e liked to cook, and she showed her love by feeding me. By feeding all of us. Mange, mange. Fat was equasted with being healthy. With being rich. It meant you had enough, more than enough.

    It was after the hard times, no wonder people ate and ate.

    As I am writing this on my tiny Psion computer, I see myself in the mirrored door of the post office, where I have come to mail a package. The woman scowling back at me looks like my granmother, except she isn't wearing a cotton gingham dress and an apron, and her braids aren't wrapped around her head. Instead, she's wearing my clothes, and her braids swing loose.

    Wait, that's me, of course. Grandma died when I was 16. That was 50 years ago. And when I release my hair from those grizzled braids, the waves shine just like hers did.

    I want to be as loving as she was, and as patient. I want to ride horses along the rocky coast of Italy and eat wild pomegrantes or have other adventure as exciting and romatic as hers. I want a pirate for a great grandfather, and actually have one. I don't want people to see her in me because I'm fat and cranky with pain but because I have inherited and managed to express her good qualities.

    Grandma, I love you. You were one of my first loves, and I'll never forget you.

    Image: Picnic, 1949. Grandma in the center, me on the left. My brother, who set me worrying, is on the lower right.
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