Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chick Lit Cheerleader: The stories not found in books

Introduction by Melissa Amster

I've recently read some novels that involve the grandmother and granddaughter relationship. I even reviewed one such novel last week. This got me thinking about my relationships with my own grandparents and all the fond memories I have of them. Back in the beginning of 2010, I wrote a blog post about my grandparents who had passed away, the most recent (at the time) being my paternal grandfather. It's one of my favorite posts that I've written and I still look at it from time-to-time. Shortly after my daughter was born, I wrote a post about my late maternal grandmother and what it would be like to get another day with her.

So when our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, asked me if she could write a post about her grandparents, I was all for it. I love reading what she has to say about them and I hope you will too!

History Becomes Her Story

I miss my grandparents. I miss them very much. My father’s parents were very dear to me, yet June and Ernie Ponicki, my mom’s parents, were tops in my book. As a little girl, I would migrate to their home in Kalamazoo, Michigan as often as possible. Vacations with them couldn’t last long enough.

With my grandma on Thanksgiving, 1975

There were trips to The Chicken Coop for a bucket of fried, juicy yumminess that we’d take to Milham Park. Grandma always saved the heels from a loaf of Hillbilly Bread for me to feed the ducks after I climbed the rocket ship jungle gym. I’m convinced it was laced with lead paint. I’m sure that explains a lot about me, right? My grandpa drove me to the shores of Lake Michigan where intensive rock skipping tutoring commenced. Fridays meant a trip to the beauty parlor. For years, Grandma loved to tell the story of six-year-old Jenny who hopped into the hairdresser’s chair in the small salon, saying, “I’ll just have the usual.” And I wonder where my daughter gets her vivaciousness.

My grandparents at the Dunes, 1938

From time to time, something will spark a memory of them. Sometimes the pictures in my head bring smiles and laughs. Sometimes tears fall. Seeing images out of Washington DC lately have made me sad. Lines of World War II heroes whose pilgrimages to visit the memorial in our nation’s capital have been well documented in the news. When I saw the frail men and women, who fought for our country as babes, denied access to outdoor monuments, I wept. Not only for the veterans before me, but for the ones who’d never make the journey, like my grandfather.

My grandpa never spoke about being stationed by the Navy in Hawaii. For many years his curious children asked him questions, only to be shooed away by their mother, saying, "That’s private," or, "You shouldn’t ask questions like that!" Things such as service to your country were not talked about in their family. Simply put, "Daddy went away and now he’s home;" that should be enough.

My grandpa serving in WWII
Holding his newborn great grandson must have changed something for Ernest Ponicki in 1996. It was the day he opened up. The day he spoke about serving his country. What it was like to leave his wife and young son to go to war, all while holding my son, Wil, close to his chest. The beautiful thing is that it all unfolded on camera. Mike was taking his new camcorder (remember those?) for a spin, and captured the moments on film. What a treasure for me, but especially for my mom. All the years she wondered about what happened to her daddy while he was away were revealed.

You might be thinking, Jen what the heck does this have to do with anything chick lit? Are you getting political on us? Did you really eat lead paint chips as a child? I’m definitely not using this as a platform for anything other than chatting up the beauty of life even after death. Isn’t it amazing a scent or song can transport you back in time? Maybe for you, it’s decorating for the winter holidays that reminds you of your grandmother. Perhaps it’s a trip to the shores, searching for Petoskey Stones, sea glass or even seashells with your children, that makes your heart swell with thoughts of your gramps. Every time my daughter, Gracie, crushes on NBC’s Today Show host Matt Lauer (yes, Matt Lauer), I reach for my phone to tell my friend Trish, who loved Matt Lauer almost as much as Gracie did. Trish died after a brave battle with cancer a year and a half ago. I hope I never stop reaching for that phone when I think of her.

No matter what triggers the images of those I’ve loved and lost, they’re a gift. Little blessings in disguise. For me, it’s a way they remind me they’re always with me in spirit. So to those veterans who sojourned to Washington to breathe in a part of history; their history, I’m so sorry you got the appalling runaround. Seeing your story gave me a moment to reminisce and connect to one of the greatest people I was lucky enough to know who served alongside you. The man who carried me everywhere even after my toddling days were long over. The one who let me eat Cool Whip for breakfast. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Jen Tucker is the author of the funny and true stories, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of SaltIn September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. She also blogs monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at TwitterFacebook, her blog and on her website. And in case you missed them. check out her previous Chick Lit Cheerleader posts here.


Unknown said...

Am I styling in those red knee socks, or what? XOXO Jen

Samantha Stroh Bailey said...

Oh, Jen, this is so beautiful. My grandmother made chicken wings and cherry pie like nobody else. Thank you for this. xoxoxo

Jackie Bouchard said...

Lovely post, Jen. And lovely socks too. So sorry about your friend.

Yes, those triggers to remember our lost loved ones are definitely a gift.

Anna Garner said...

Aww, what a sweet post. I'll be thinking about my grandparents a lot today, I suspect. :-)

Unknown said...

I love hearing about your Grandmother, Sam. Thank you for sharing! Jackie, do you like my plastic, blue gems from the grocery store gum ball machine too? I was one styling preschooler! Libby, thank you so much for stopping by too. We're blessed to have wonderful memories, aren't we? XOXO Jen

Anonymous said...

Perfect post! I miss my grandparents tremendously; they were amazing people. They took care of me for several years while my mom got her life together after a divorce. I still find myself needing them so much as well as wishing I could have gotten to know them as an adult.


Unknown said...

I tweeted to you about my grandmother yesterday--my mom's mom. Her husband passed away when I was a little girl, but I remember him fondly. When he babysat me, he would sneak me chocolate. I never knew my other grandparents though. :-( My girls are lucky enough to have all four, and we try and get them together with them as much as we can. Thanks for sharing this, Jen! (And truly, no one rocks knee socks like Jen Jen!)

Anonymous said...


I am building a tree on Family Search. Your grandparents are my great aunt and uncle. If you are interested in contributing to the tree please log in and fill in info for June. Couldn't find much about her Father John, or her mother. There is an image of Ernie, and June's marriage certificate there. Cool to see this tory:)