First, a little background. My Grandma Eve was my Grampa Mike’s second wife. His first wife, my dad’s beloved mother, passed away before any of us grandchildren got to meet her. So Grandma Eve was the grandmother we knew growing up. If I have the story straight, my grandfather engaged the services of a matchmaker, and that’s how he met and married Eve Kaufman. Eve was my only American-born grandparent. She came from Cleveland, and had been a secretary. When she married my grandfather, she moved into the house on Turk Street in San Francisco. Eve did not have children of her own, so she became stepmother to my dad and his siblings, and just plain grandmother to the six of us grandkids.
Eve was nothing like my other grandmother, to put it mildly. She had a sense of humor, liked to play cards, and kidded around with us kids. And this brings me to card games.
My parents would occasionally drop us off with our grandparents in San Francisco, so we had some special routines: watching wrestling on TV with my grandfather, and playing card games with Grandma Eve. When we were younger, my grandfather would take us to the Palace of Fine Arts to feed the water fowl some of the stale bread he always seemed to have boxes of in the trunk of his car.
My grandparents liked to take trips to Reno every so often, and sometimes they brought back souvenirs for us. Since Grandma Eve had taught us how to play Solitaire, my sister and I each received a deck of cards after one of those trips to Reno. I have a very clear memory of those cards.
I claimed the redheads, and my sister chose the blondes. They were, as the expression goes, “scantily clad,” in a cowgirl motif: tiny fringed vests that barely covered their breasts, short shorts, boots, and hats tilted at a rakish angle. I believe they were winking. They may have been brandishing pistols or wearing sheriff’s badges. Not 100% sure about that, but I do know I’m right about the outfits, what there was of them.
Were we shocked? Were we upset? No, our grandparents gave us pin-up girl decks of cards and we thought it was cool. We showed them off to our friends: Ha! Look what our GRANDMOTHER gave us! I don’t remember baking cookies (she liked poppy seed cakes from the bakery) or any of that other traditional stuff, but I’ll always remember sitting in front of the soap operas and slapping down cards with her. She taught us another game that she called “Oh, Hell!,” but I don’t remember the rules. I did look it up, but I think she must’ve taught us something else and just called it that.
And I didn’t remember how to play Solitaire either, which I discovered just recently on a family vacation. As a dutiful grandmother, I had brought along a couple of decks of cards in case we had a non-beach day or some evening time to kill. As I laid out the cards to demonstrate the game for my granddaughter, I realized I didn’t know how to proceed. So, I did what any savvy grannie would do: I Googled it. Then it all came back to me–just like riding a bike, which I do remember how to do.
Giving young granddaughters rather risqué cards and teaching them a game that allowed them to swear may be non-typical behavior for a grandmother, but it was just her way of showing us she loved us– and she did it with a wink.