Naughty or nice? Grandma makes the call

When we gave my mother a grandma necklace years ago, we never dreamed a woman could get so much mileage out of a simple gold chain with five little figurines.

Mom loved wearing the necklace. She said it was a way to keep the grandkids close to her heart. The thing was, you never knew how many grandkids were close to her heart. Some days all five might be on the chain; other days there might be only three or four.

“I see one of the grandkids is missing, Mom. What happened?”

“Your brother’s youngest smarted off. I took him off the chain until he straightens out.”

If one of the grandkids got cheeky with her, she took them off the necklace. She didn’t really take them off, but she would fling their figurine around to the back of the chain. Swinging in style one minute, gone from glory the next.

She told whichever kids had been acting up that they could come back to the front of the necklace and join the others when they straightened out. She was a matriarch who knew how to hold a crowd.

Her antics with the grandma necklace were second only to the Great Pillow Caper. Mom and Dad, completely devoid of all rationality, once rented a huge van to take 11 of us a fair distance to a family reunion. It was a tight fit, elbows in one another’s rib cages, window space at a premium, crying babies and cranky kids. Squabbles mounted on the long drive home. A dispute ensued between a couple of the kids over a pillow.

Grandma demanded the pillow be passed up front to her and announced she would “dispose” of the matter once and for all. She lowered her window. Then raised it; then lowered it.

The kids were spellbound.

Kids nothing —we all were.

Someone yelled, “Do it, Grandma! Show ‘em what you’re made of!”

Of course, she wouldn’t really throw a pillow out of a vehicle window, which would be both illegal and hazardous, but it did keep the kids at rapt attention with the possibility that she might.

The fighting stopped immediately. Those children, now all adults, are exceptionally well-behaved on long car-trips but have an aversion to traveling with pillows.

Being that the grandma baton has been passed to the next generation, it only seemed fitting that I, too, have a means of holding a crowd. I, too, have a grandma necklace.

There are nine little figurines on the chain. The grands know that I love wearing it and love keeping them close to my heart. They also know that jumping out of closets in order to hear me scream, or commenting about the wrinkles around my eyes will get them removed from the necklace.

Periodically, chaos erupts when we are all together and an instigator will run over, check the necklace to make sure he or she is still in place, then take off yelling, “I’m still on the necklace!”

“For now you are! Don’t push it!”


Warped comments fly at warp speed

A friend who has a peculiar habit of thinking before she speaks refers to the seamy side of what transpires on social media as “popping off.”

“That’s all it is,” she says, with a twinkle in her eye. “Just people popping off.”

It is a struggle to remember life before people began popping off, before you could barb someone with a snarky comment, take a swipe at someone on another continent, or decimate a total stranger in 240 characters or less.

In an effort to limit my exposure to all the popping off, I make it a practice to avoid the comments sections that follow online news stories. Except for when I don’t. My self-control needs work.

I fall off the wagon every now and then and read a few comments. Then, there I sit, picking crumbs out of the computer keyboard, wondering if there is intelligent life left on the planet.

We all have opinions. People always have had opinions. Just like people have always had conflicting opinions. But there’s something different about disagreements today.

Perhaps it’s the pseudo anonymity that spurs us, or the adrenalin rush of speed, seeing thoughts fly from our fingertips into cyberspace. Whatever the impetus, we seem to be—and I don’t know how to put this gently—a bit more, well, rotten.

Nasty. Aggressive. Bellicose. Belligerent.

Being that I can be given to popping off, I once wrote some dictums on an index card that I keep in a desk drawer. I would do well to look at the card more often and I tell myself I must. But then that old problem with self-control pops up again.

The first one asks, “Is my opinion timely?”

Timely is not about being the first out of the gate. We’ve mastered that one.
Timely is about finding the apt moment. Maybe I don’t need to say what I wanted to say right now. Maybe the opportunity passed, or maybe what I have to say would be better heard at a different time and in a different setting.

The second one asks, “Is what I am about to say true?”

Is it true because it came from my friend’s former co-worker with an aunt in Montana whose daughter, now living in the D.C. area, does yoga with the niece of the person under discussion? Or is it true because I heard it with my own ears and saw it with my own eyes?

If I knowingly say something of a dubious nature, or patently false, I should probably ask myself, “Why do I like throwing gasoline on the fire?”

The third question asks, “Is what I am about to say kind?”

I know—what if it’s not kind, but it’s true? Truth cancels out kindness, right? Not so fast. With some finesse, grace and thoughtfully chosen words, it is possible to speak the truth with kindness. I’ve seen it done. Once. I think it was on a Tuesday.

Finally, “Is what I am about to say necessary?”

As much as I’d like to think what I have to say is necessary, it’s probably not.

I’ll end now.