Friday, November 16, 2007

Stories of My Family, Part 2

This is the story about my Grandma Virginia. She was The Czarina's mother, and yes, I am named after her.

Virginia grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, the daughter of German-Irish stock. (I can't remember if she was half German or a quarter German...anyway, it's not important). Being Catholics, they had your typical large family. Here were the names of some of her siblings: Wilbur, Harold, Helen, Jerry...I know there were more, but I can't remember their names. I believe there were 9 children in all. Eventually, they all ended up getting married and having a between 2 and 6 children a piece. That was three generations ago.

By this point in time, there are approximately 5.2 million people in this branch of my family, which means that every resident of Kansas City is a first, second or third cousin of mine. When they have family reunions, each little segment of the family has to wear a designated-color tshirt, or else no one would know who the hell anyone is.

But I digress.

I don't know a lot about Grandma Virginia. I never met her or my Grandpa John. You see, both of my mom's parents died when she was about 21. Grandpa John was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Three months later, Grandma Virginia was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer. They died less than a year apart, when my mom was fresh out of college. Not surprisingly, this was rather traumatizing to The Czarina, who has a difficult time talking about her parents at all, to this day. (Oh crap, I'm getting sad again.)

So I don't know a whole lot about her. But I do know the following:

1. She is where my mother and I get our love of efficiency from. We enjoy being productive and making the most of our time. Apparently, multi-tasking IS genetic. We joke about how "German" we are. We are Type-A and want everything streamlined.

2. This is also where I get some of my penny-pinching ways from. Not that I'm a penny pincher. My bank account would be Exhibit A in that court case. But I do have my moments. Lord knows I didn't get it from my dad's side or Grandpa John's side. They were both constitutionally against saving money on anything. In fact, I believe it was physically painful for them to save money.

3. Grandma Virginia is responsible for the vast majority of my family's recipes, including the biscuit recipe, which originated with my great-great grandmother, who was a pioneer out west back in the 1800s. To this day, we make Grandma's gravy, pot roast, beef stew and spaghetti, among other things. She handed down this love of cooking to her daughter and granddaughter. We are all good cooks. I have a soup pot that belonged to her, and the handle just broke on it, and I'm really upset.

4. Apparently, my love of shoes was something I also have in common with Grandma V. Although my size 9 feet are nothing like her tiny size 6s (she was barely five feet tall, after all), the passion is the same: when it comes to heels, the higher, the better, the more, the merrier. Grandma used to go to the Saxon shoe sale in Richmond twice a year and buy about ten pairs at a time. This just makes my heart swell with pride. (By the way, if you are ever in Richmond and you love shoes, you have GOT to go to Saxon. It is the Holy Grail of shoedom.)

I don't know a lot about her childhood or her single-girl years, but I do know that she dated a guy (I think his name was Charlie) who was crazy about her. They had grown up together, and dated for a long time, ever since she was in high school. When World War II broke out, they decided to wait until after the war to get married. But he gave her this beautiful gold and mother-of-pearl locket to remember him by when he left. He even engraved it with a little love note and the date. We still have it. They wrote letters to each other, until one day, Virginia heard through the grapevine that Charlie had been killed in action or was missing in action -- something like that. (Oops, there goes the sad thing again!)

At about the same time, Grandma Virginia attempted to attend college, but was ultimately dismissed because on a dare, she rode a horse through downtown Kansas City, disrupting traffic and I assume, breaking several laws. This was not very acceptable behavior for a good German Catholic girl, and so she was kicked out of college.

Hmmm, this must also be where I get my wild streak.....

I am not sure why, but this, along with the sad news about Charlie, may have been the reason she decided to move to Washington state and work for Boeing during World War II.

She got a job as a secretary in the Headquarters building at Boeing. One day, she was sitting at her desk, doing some work, when a very tall (6'3") young, thin man walked up to her.

She didn't recognize him. "May I help you?" she asked.

He leaned on the desk and casually asked over his shoulder, "How 'bout a cup o' coffee, Babe?"

And that is how my grandparents met.

They started dating immediately, and Grandpa was a total goner for her -- hook, line and sinker. They reached a crossroads when World War II came to an end: their jobs were also coming to an end, since there was no longer a need for new wartime aircraft. This meant that Virginia was going to move back home to Kansas City.

This did not sit well with Grandpa John.

So he followed her there uninvited. He somehow found her parents' house and knocked on the door. After explaining to her mother who he was, Virginia came down to talk to him alone in the living room. Grandma V's mom left them alone so they could talk privately. A few minutes later, there was a big commotion. Much to the family's surprise, they ran into the living room to find John, chasing Virginia in circles around the sofa, pleading with her to marry him.

This did not sit well with Virginia's father, who was a big jerk and thought Virginia should only marry a German Catholic, not an Irish Catholic. (Because they are SO different, right?!)

But it didn't sit well with Virginia, either. She said to John: "I won't marry you until you quit drinking and save up $1,000."

As we all know from the last post, John liked to drink. A LOT. It was pretty much his only hobby. But he was also terrible with money, as I just mentioned. So this was a double-whammy challenge for him.

"Okay," John said.

He quit drinking that day, and found a job. He saved up $1,000 and went straight back to Virginia's house to propose again. This time, he had a ring and she said yes. They got married on January 11, 1945 and had their honeymoon in New Orleans.

Their wedding pictures are really funny, because he's more than a foot taller than her.

Her father didn't walk her down the aisle, because he didn't approve of her marrying an Irishman. (He didn't walk any of his daughters down the aisle, actually, because none of them married German Catholics. I think the girls did it for spite, actually.) I think he got over it, eventually, though. Czarina spent many happy summers visiting her Kansas City cousins and eating her grandmother's applesauce cake. So things couldn't have been too bad between Grandma V and her dad.

Grandpa John never drank a drop of alcohol again for the rest of his life.

But that was the first and last time he ever saved $1,000.

And what about Charlie? Well, I just realized, after typing all of this, that I have posted the Charlie story before. Duh! Go read the side-story about Charlie here. It's the freakin' saddest thing I've ever heard of in my life.

8 comments:

teahouse said...

What a great story about your grandparents! It's sad for your mom that she lost them both around the same time.

The Czarina sounds like a very strong lady. I'm always envious of friends who have close relationships with their moms; I've never been so lucky, and I often wonder what kind of mom I'll be because of it...

one girl said...

oh my god- that's too sad... especially after following your link :(

When Darkness Falls... said...

What a wonderful/tragic story! The little detail about Charlie from your link gave me tears...

Lady Wanderlust said...

Wouldn't it be interesting if this Cute Neighbor was a descendent of Charlie's and the two of you go married?

The Dummy said...

VB, that story about Charlie is like from a storybook. Beautiful, yet so full of sorrow.

Coco said...

Aw, I love this story!

Yeah for Kansas City!! Hmmm . . .maybe we're related and don't even know it . . .

kimmykins13 said...

I remember reading the story on Charlie.

My grandmother and grandfather on my Dad's side died within a year or each other too and both of cancer.

I had all 4 of my grandparents up until college. I have one grandmother left.

My other grandmother died the day after Thanksgiving. My Dad came and picked me up from college and took me to my Aunt's where she was staying with a hospice set up. They said she was just holding on for me to get there. The night before she died I was sitting with her and she told me the story of how she and my grandfather met. She was from England and met my grandfather (who was a Capt. in the Navy) overseas during the war. They were both engaged to other people at the time but they both attended a dance without their S.O's (for some reason I can't remember). Anyways, she said she knew from the moment they danced they would be together forever. They broke up with their S.O's and moved to my Grandfather's home state of Maine (where she was chaperoned)until they married and eventually migrated down to Virginia Beach as he became stationed in Norfolk.

Neat stories!!!

RWA said...

That is a great story and very touching. Thanks for sharing.