January 12, 2012

gramma beverly

Monday I visited my gramma Beverly in Kankakee. Her husband made us lunch and we looked at pictures of her when she was a baby, when she was 15, and when she was engaged to my grampa. We talked about all of her children (my aunts and uncles), she told me about growing up in Skokie with parents who were far ahead of their time, I asked her about her mom and dad, we talked about what I should do with my life.

Do you know what she told me? She said, "I didn't even know what 'prejudice' was, until years after I was married to your grandfather. My family always had friends who had different skin colors and different religions, and different ethnic backgrounds. And they were always at our house for dinner." I didn't beleive her. It always seemed to me, after growing up in the house I grew up and constantly hearing what I heard from my parents, that everyone was prejudiced in some way. Even the teachers in school told me that "Everyone discriminates in some way against other people." So naturally I thought my gramma was just being... haughty.

Then she told me that the first time she realized that not every family was like hers was when she and my grampa moved into their big house in Mahomet and met all of their fancy neighbors, and people started to make comments about her 'other' friends and about people who were not rich, fancy architects. Gramma told me, "I called my mother, and I said, 'Hello, mother. Uhm, why didn't you tell me that there are people who don't like black people?'" And my great-gramma Cupcake said, "Well, I figured you'd find out soon enough."

I found that story... incredible, and inspiring, and it made me respect her even more than I already do. Beverly really is an incredible woman. Do you know she helped start the Harbor House in Kankakee? It was the first shelter for women in that area at the time; she used to get calls in the middle of the night and drive out to pick up women she didn't know who had no one closer to them to call. She tutored a boy who one day, left her house only to come back in a few minutes, saying that his grampa met him at the door with a gun. Gramma said, "Well, I guess you're staying here now!"

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