My Grandma Chromey died in 1990 when I was a seventeen-year-old senior in high school. Her death was not unexpected. She died surrounded by most of her ten kids, some of her twenty-six (I think) grandkids. I wasn’t there at the hospital when she died. I was at home babysitting a few of her great grandkids. There’s forty-two of those suckers now. Plus, nine and a half great-great grandkids. My cousin Nick’s wife is due sometime this year.
When you are one of twenty-six grandkids, you don’t have a lot of chances to be close to your grandmother. Especially if she dies when you’re a teenager.
Even though we weren’t close, I have very fond memories of my Grandma Chromey. She was an Avon Lady and she collected samples and such things in a Junk Box she kept on a shelf in her close. My sisters and I loved that box more than we loved most things on Earth. Our draconian dad did not allow such things as makeup or perfume or any other kind of girlie frippery we longed for, except the kind of frippery we (well, me) hated, which was long hair. But that’s a tale for another time.
Whenever we’d visit Grandma Chromey in her apartment in Roseville we’d huddle in her bedroom where we were sent to play, often with our cousin, Christopher who lived there, and plot how to ask if we could dig through the Junk Box. For reasons I don’t understand when the makeup came from the Junk Box it was deemed okay by our dad. Or at least okay enough. Inevitably we’d con Sister #3, the littlest and therefore the cutest, amongst us to ask Grandma if we could dig through her Junk Box. It was a glory of teeny, tiny sample lipsticks and the reekiest perfume you can imagine.
Now, I don’t know if this is true or if this was some sort of family legend passed down from my older cousins, the J.Chromey girls (which are not girls of me, but my uncle John. My sisters and I are the D. Chromey girls), but the legend was about how upon some magical birthday Grandma Chromey would start a knick-knack collection of some sort for her granddaughter.
I might be making all this up, but in my head my cousins told me Grandma decided all ladies should collect something. My cousin Laurie collected candles. My cousin Patty collected bells. I think Terri collected figurines of some sort. I collected thimbles by grandmotherly decree.
I wish I could remember at what magical age this collection began, because I’m pretty Sister #2 never had to collect anything and she would have been fifteen when Grandma died.
When I think about this now I kind of question the veracity. However, I really hope it is true, because it’s genius. What a perfect way to ensure that you always know what to buy each of your seventeen grand daughters. I have no idea if the boys collected anything.
The other thing Grandma Chromey did? She made each grandchild an afghan using your favorite colors. I still have mine.
And another thing Grandma Chromey did? She gave each of us granddaughters a porcelain figurine of our birth month. Some of my cousins had fancy ones that featured a beautiful lady in a ball gown holding a bouquet of flowers made from simulated birthstones.
Mine was not fancy. It was a small pig-tailed girl in an apron holding a rose. I love that thing and carried it with me from move to move to move, always displaying it some place in my room or apartment. Even after I gave Jaycie my unicorn collection, I kept that tiny figurine.
That is, until I moved here to Supergenius HQ and got careless. Then that little doll, which was shoved into a Christmas stocking, busted into a thousand pieces. I mourned the loss for a long time.
That is until, in a fit of who knows what, I discovered one on eBay. And made it mine again. While it’s not as good as the original, obviously. It’s still pretty rad.