I've come home to Linden for a couple of days before we set out for Boston. I love to come home because I always hear stories about people I thought I knew really well but clearly didn't. My favorite so far is this one about my great-grandmother, Mary Magdalene Jackson, or, affectionately, "Magda," the sweetest human that ever lived. Somehow, she gave birth to one of the cruelest -- my grandmother. During reminiscences over dinner, my parents told me a story about Grandmother Jackson I'd never heard before. It went like this:
Grammy (my grandmother) would frequently come over to her mother's house to "unload" all of the day's woes on her. As a school principal suffering from actual hypochondria and some kind of disease I'd call "chronic anger", my grandmother often had woes. So one day she sat in Grandmother Jackson's kitchen and said something like this: "The kids are horrible today and my children never behave. All of the parents are stupid and come to me with stupid problems I can't solve and the cleaners messed up my laundry. AGAIN. I can't see how they can't remember to just steam the shirts instead of starch them theyalwaysusetoomuchstarch and nooneeverlistenstomewhenItalk and Idon'tseewhypeoplearetooincompetenttodotheirjob" and just when she was about to get good and wound up, Grandmother Jackson would smilingly interrupt her, asking, "Did you know my bird has mites?"
This question would cause my grandmother to lose it. The conversation would end with I-DON'T-CARE-ABOUT-YOUR-DAMN-BIRD and Grammy would stomp out of the front door and not speak to her mother for a week. Grandmother Jackson would go back to stirring her butterbeans with the hamhock in it and tending to "Underfoot" and "Loudlung," her showcats, until Grammy would come around again to repeat the cycle all over again.