Think about you weirdest family member and write out one short scene that depicts why he or she is such an oddball
This assignment does not lack for material; the issue is choosing which family member to highlight. As I’ve stated in a blog post a few years ago, my family wasn’t the type to shove skeletons in the closet, but rather drag them out as interesting conversation pieces and stories during family gatherings. As a child, I loved the play You Can’t Take It with You, because it wasn’t too far off from some of the stories I had heard about my own odd relatives, as well as mirroring the creative environment I grew up in with my sisters and Mom.
But I think I’ll focus on my Nana, who was my maternal grandmother. She was a tough German American woman, who had a less than easy life. She married at 16 to escape her domineering mother in New Jersey and ended up across the country on a ranch in Washington State. After my mother was born, she and my Grandfather moved back east, where they had what seems to be a rather tumultuous marriage. Divorced in the 1940s, she worked in a wood factory, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City and eventually for Solo products. She was a highly intelligent woman who had a mind like a calculator. (She could also “count cards” making her a formidable gin rummy player). I often wonder if the limits placed on a woman of her intelligence at the time was a factor in her battle with alcoholism, which finally caused her death in her early sixties.
But back to the story. To understand this scene you need to know two things. First, my Nana was a “big purse” woman, and carried a carpet bag purse, full of all sorts of necessary items. To put it mildly, Mary Poppins had nothing on my Nana. Second, this was the early 1960s where at the end of week, you received a pay packet with cash inside, not a paper paycheck.
My Nana was coming home from her job in New York City, and was walking through the Port Authority bus terminal to get her bus back to New Jersey. A mugger approached her brandishing a hunting knife, and demanded her cash. She proceeded to beat the living daylights out of him with her purse, yelling at the top of her lungs, “This is my hard earned money! Why don’t you go out and get a job”. The Port Authority Police quickly came over and arrested the man and I can imagine the conversation between my Nana and the police went something like this:
Policeman: “Ma’am, he had a hunting knife on him. What were you thinking? You could have been killed”
Nana: “This is my money. I worked hard for it. He should go and get a job and earn his money, instead of mugging a poor, defenseless woman”
Policeman rolls his eyes at the ‘poor, defenseless woman’ comment
Policeman: “Ma’am your life is worth more than that cash in your purse. Next time just hand him the money and alert the police”
Nana: “I’m not going to hand over my pay to some nut job who doesn’t have the moral fiber to work hard for his money and has to mug women in the Port Authority”
I imagine at this point the Police realized they were arguing with a stubborn German woman with a loaded purse. And that the mugger probably got off easy being arrested, instead of beat to death by a poor, defenseless woman.