On the Holy Family, Domestic Labor, and Losing One's Pants

Fragments from holidays with my nonna, who, at 91, is the most entertaining person I know.

Taking my grandparents home from Thanksgiving involves painstaking choreography to establish everyone safely in the car. "Watch your head, Watch your head, WATCH YOUR HEAD, ok, wow, very deftly handled," I say to my grandmother as she lowers herself into the passenger seat. "Yes," she replies, "but now I appear to be losing my pants." "That's just the sign of a successful Thanksgiving," I say confidently. We're nearly home by the time we stop laughing.

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And my grandfather's no slouch in the hilarity department, although somewhat less intentionally than my nonna.  The other day, I got this report from my mother: 'Tried to explain Occupy Wall Street (Nova Scotia, DC, St. Paul's London, Oakland, Portland, etc. etc.) to my nonagenarian parents. Finally, my father said, "wait, was this during the Depression?".'

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In this holiday season of creches and carols, I always think of my grandmother's quest to find a single painting of the Holy Family in any of the world's major galleries depicting Joseph engaged in domestic labor or, more pointedly, childcare. 

"Oh sure," she would say, "he'll do a bit of carpentry or tend the donkey. But meanwhile Mary's got her arms full of books and Jesus and sometimes John the Baptist for good measure. Do we ever see him change a diaper, read a story, or play with the baby?". 

She was indescribably delighted when she finally found a late Renaissance image of Joseph making what appeared to be an omelet.

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This recalls to me some summertime tales of my grandmother that I don't believe I ever told here. It all started with brunch at Great Falls with my grandparents. A drink arrives for me. 

Grandmother: "What *is* that?" [She's having a mimosa.] "Did you order it?" 
Me: "Er, yes. It's a Coca Cola." 
Grandmother: "That's amazing. It looks extraordinarily like a *Coca Cola*." 
Me: "It's extraordinary, yes." 
Grandmother, with quiet disgust: "I just couldn't imagine any daughter or granddaughter of mine ordering such a thing."

Conversation, needless to say, unfolds naturally from that point. 

My grandmother: "I so admire how you keep up with friends from all different times of your life." 
Me: "Oh, well, I'm not that good. It's just easier in the age of Facebook." 
My nonna, darkly: "Maybe TOO easy."

Me: "Uh, what do you mean by that?"
My nonna, who's never been on Facebook except to be shown pictures by my mother: "People feel free to post the minute details of their day, and its nothing but trivia."
Me: "Well, but there's..."
Nonna: "Trivia!" [Now she's really yelling.] "TRIVIA!!!"
Me: "I had no idea you felt so strongly...."

(We've had this same conversation several times since then.  "How do you know this?" I ask her.  She gives me a knowing smile and a sidelong glance: "People tell me things.")

On the way home from brunch, my grandmother doesn't care for the way another driver honks at us. So, naturally, this is what she says: "I don't know any rude hand signals. I must learn some. I think receiving a rude hand signal from a nonagenarian woman would be a very effective deterrent in situations like this, don't you?"

She immediately transitioned from this to telling me about witnessing her father have a heart attack (from which he shortly died) when she was a teenager. I'd never heard this story before.

It was a roller-coaster drive back from brunch.