Thursday, April 19, 2012


April 18, 2012

A quick glance at my bookshelf in the left column reveals some that I have had going for quite a while and a couple recently added reads.  I don't know if you know Wilkie Collins or The Moonstone.  I didn't.  First published in 1868, folks who more in the know than me identify The Moonstone as the first detective novel.  It also has the quirk of telling the story through the eyes of several different characters, over time and in different countries.

I'm in the part told by the house steward, a seventy-something family servant named Betteredge, and given the pithy asides he adds to his storytelling, I would say that I'm not he first to notice that he is aptly named.  He also has the habit of dipping into Robinson Crusoe when confronted with a problem, needing wisdom, or just looking for comfort.  I found that funny and endearing enough to tell the Sunday school class about it on Sunday.  Of course, some people do that with the Bible, which I guess is the point, and also why I brought it up in Sunday.  

As soon as I set it up and delivered the part about about Betteredge consulting Robinson Crusoe for divine insight and had worn out eight copies over the years, my good friend Bill jumped in and said,  "My mom did the same thing with The Count of Monte Cristo."  I didn't believe him, but he insisted it was true.  Do you think this is as funny as I do?  I mean, it was funny for a made up eighteenth century servant with little education to consult a work of fiction for sustenance, but I have laughed every time I have thought of an actual 21st century woman dipping into The Count, just like Walter's grandmother relied on The Bible.  I have also added Robinson Crusoe and The Count of Monte Cristo to my future reading list, just to see what the buzz is.

Speaking of grandmothers (that wasn't a very clever segue, was it?), Walter's grandmother not only consulted her Bible, she took it another step.  Apparently, she got a new Bible every year, read it cover to cover, annotating heavily as she went.  At the end of the year, she would put the Bible in a shoebox, tie it up with a ribbon, and stack it in the closet (never to be viewed again).  When she died there were layers of boxes lined up on the shelf in the closet.  His other grandmother (maybe great-grandmother, I will have to check) was a Freethinker (if you don't know what that is, you should look it up).  When Walter's dad went to her to explore the idea that he wanted to be a minister, she listened carefully until he was done, then sent him on with the advice that went something like "Why don't you find honest work?"

My grandmothers were just as different.  I grew up thinking of them as the "cooking" grandmother and the "playing" grandmother.  I think that is a little one-dimensional of me, but I do think, like Walter's grandmothers they represented somewhat distinct points fairly distant from each other on the grandmother continuum.  

I can remember my mother's mother loving to play canasta and bridge (I was taught bridge as a ten-year old so she and my mom and my aunt would always have a fourth).  She could keep the conversational ball rolling with anyone.  I have a fixed memory of her stretched out in front of the huge black and white console television, working out with Jack LaLane.  She liked the horse races.  The only thing she could cook that I remember enjoying was "Sock-It-To-Me" cake.  Everything else was a disaster.

My father's mother was a cleaner, from cleanersville.  When she visited, I had to sleep on sheets and pillowcases that she had starched and ironed.  By the time she left my cheeks were rubbed raw.  The upside to her lengthy visits was that she cooked a full hot lunch every day and we all came home from school and work to eat.  She sewed me so many dresses that when I started first grade I didn't repeat an outfit until October.  

When I was young I just thought of them as work v. play, but my "work" grandmother also taught me to play poker and honed my skills until I was pretty scrappy.  She'd fly kites, fish, and work jigsaw puzzles with me--everything was very Vickie-centric. This was different from my other grandmother, who made no real effort to endear herself to me on my terms.  I think she was much more adult-oreinted, and it pleased her to no end when I finally caught on to her bawdy jokes and her clever charm.

In hindsight they were a contrast, just not the contrast I grew up thinking I understood.


  1. I enjoyed this post so much, Vickie... Walters bible reading grandmother's anual habit is something out of the ordinary! I wonder what the thought process was behind it. Your play grandmother sounds like she was a wonderful influence.

    My own two were a very serious immigrant Italian grandmother who cleaned house and cooked good meals and didn't speak much english that I could understand. She always had a giant hershey bar in the refrigerator and would break off a piece for each of us when we'd come to visit. My other, Nana.. was a wonderful, warm woman who cooked like Julia Child, dressed like Jackie O, loved like no other... I just adored her and 11 years after her passing I miss her terribly still. She always GOT me.

    Thanks for sharing, loved reading this.

    1. I think we would all be a little kinder in our thinking about immigrants if we spent a little more time thinking about our grandmothers. And you are exactly right about Walter's grandmother. She took the Bible very seriously, but I think she always wanted to bring it to place and time, which meant it wouldn't mean the same thing to her at 25 as it did at 50 or 75. Perhaps worth another post?

      Thank you for the kind words about the post. I consider it high praise!

  2. My Grandmas were polar opposites across the board, except on the cooking...both were BAD! One of them acknowledged this, the other had no clue because we were all great pretenders, never wanting to hurt her feelings!

    Great post!

    1. I'm sorry you didn't have at least one that could make your taste buds water. I have to admit, I always hoped we'd be going out to the Jack Tar or whatever other restaurant we could find, when we visiting the non-cooking grandmother.

  3. Vickie,how have I known you all of these years and not known about your grandmothers? I loved reading about them. Christine

    1. Christine,

      I guess I just thought everyone's grandmothers were all the same. . . just like mine. So what was there to talk about?

      Are you hanging in there as the semester winds down? Your precious Ana Sofia can not possibly be as old as the young lady in your FB profile pic!

  4. Vickie -- I am so curious what you will think of Robinson Crusoe! I "reread" it with one of my boys a few years back, and it was SO different than what I remember from reading it as a child (not sure whether I read the unabridged one and just forgot/failed to understand 90% of it, or whether I read a highly abridged version, and only forgot half).

    Be SURE you get an unabridged version (they are not always clearly marked, and some of the abridged ones are so cleverly abridged that you can't pick it up easily). So much of the book deals with his internal growth, changes in his thinking about religion, changes in his relationship with God, changes in his character as his "adventure" shapes him, etc. And even after hunting around for what I thought was an unabridged version -- I discovered that one we had been reading had "edited out" much of the description of his internal growth and reflections. To be fair to the abridgers, a kidwouldn't miss those deletions from the adventure story -- and in fact, as some of them are very lengthy, they "get in the way" of the adventure part of the story. But as an adult, I found the reflective portions very interesting -- and felt that I knew much more about DeFoe and his reasons for writing the story when I had finished the unabridged version.

    I need to add The Count of Monte Cristo to MY list now -- and thanks for the heads up on what to do with MY heavily highlighted bibles (I find my own highlighting to be distracting on the next read through -- but never thought to just replace them with a new one and start over clean).

    1. Thanks for the background on RC. I try to get unabridged when I can, so I will be especially careful.