My high school English teacher, Mrs Hilger once told me that I was a spitfire, in fact, that every red head she had ever known was a spit-fire. Takes one to know one, Mrs. Hilger, takes one to know one. Mable Beyer was Irish. She fought hard and worked hard and loved hard and played hard. She swore and told you what was on her mind and she had nine kids, countless spitfire grandchildren, and one love of her life.
When I was 15, I was sitting in her den on Christmas Day watching the weather channel, which was always on at grandma's house, and generally trying to pretend I wasn't mortified to be there. Ugh. How could it be that this is where I was on Christmas Day?- this is just great. Mable looked at me over her reading glases on a string. "Sarah, how old are you?" "15," I answered, "Grandma, I am 15." "When I was your age" Oh, lordy, here it comes. "I had a best friend, and Carol did not like my best friend, and she made her life miserable. Carol, well, one day, she crossed the line and called my best friend a bitch. That was just not okay. I thought to myself that something had to be done, so I cornered Carol in sewing class and punched her. That should teach her."
What is our heritage, Grandma? "Well, between me and your Grandfather, we have about 100% Irish and 100% percent German. I am more Irish than German, and your Grandfather is more German than Irish." With a maiden name like Mable McLanahan, you best be mostly Irish, and there was little room for doubt.
We were wandering the streets of Cincinnati, looking at a model train display and probably just having come from Skyline Chili, when the New Year's song came on. And Mable, she just started singing along. Truthfully, I didn't know that song had words, and yet, here was Mable, singing words, clear as day and in perfect time. "What, Sarah? I have been to a party or two in my day, I know all the words, just you watch."
After college, we wrote good, old-fashioned letters. I asked all about what it was like to raise nine kids, and how she met Grandpa. "I saw him in the dance hall, I just knew that he would be mine, so I made my way over there and made sure that is what happened." I asked about Grandpa changing his last name and about what it was like to be alive during the space race and the Cold War. I heard all about those things and about what it was that was ailling her, who she saw that week, how her bowling league was going, and even what she ate. I heard much more than I asked, and that was Mable.
Last year when year Grandma turned ninety, we called her on Christmas Day. "You're 90, how do you feel, Grandma?" "I'm still alive and kicking." In return, I teased, "I would expect no less." "Sarah, my plan is to die at 100, shot over jealousy about another woman's man."
I have the quick wit and the Irish temper. I am more likely to threaten violence than to back down. I have no hestiations about giving you the truth straight, no chaser, and I am awfully fond of whiskey. But it is more than that. I am Mable's granddaughter and I had best live my life the best way I know how and with as much heart as possible. I had best open my heart and love those around me, I should find hobbies and lean into them, I should cross dance floors and flirt with attractive men.
I have her bad knees thanks, Grandma, and her red hair thanks, Grandma, and her spitfire thanks, Grandma.