Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog

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TidBits About Donna #64 She Was Just Gram


You might imagine my excitement when I answered my cell phone and heard Gloria Chambers-Benoit’s (pronounced Ben-Wah) voice tell me that I was a winner of the 2013 Essex County Legacy Contest.


I sent the piece, She Was Just Gram a week before the deadline in late March. Then I forgot about it. A lot of things took my mind away from the contest – my writing groups (at least 2 each week), my breakfast or lunches or book club meetings with my teacher friends, the push to finish and submit my book about David’s TBI (traumatic brain injury) to agents, Donna & BAnner 4working in the theater four nights a week, and my two emergency surgeries. I never expected to win the contest and after I dropped the manuscript in the mail, it flew from my mind.

I had written a piece last year too. Though it didn’t win, I attended the award luncheon with a writer friend in Donna Podiumsupport of the winners. They read their pieces to a jam-packed room full of guests. The competition was impressive. It was good practice to watch.

Now it was my turn to address nearly 270 people. I stood behind a podium so large it nearly swallowed me whole. I adjusted the microphone, looked out at the audience, thanked my hosts, Jaklyn De Vore and Gloria Chambers-Benoit, took a deep breath, and began . . .  She Was Just Gram.

Gram for Blog

She Was Just Gram

She was just Gram – rotund, soft, and loving. And she was old too.  After all, she was a grandmother. My grandmother. We didn’t see each other often, but we were close. I think we bonded when, as an infant, my parents left me with her while they searched for our new home more than a hundred miles away. Our love grew as we shared visits throughout my childhood. It strengthened when I lived with her again the first months of my freshman year of college. My fondest memories of Gram are her visits with me in my own home in Rochester, New York when I was a young wife and mother. She came for extended visits – visits that were “short,” though they were three weeks long.

But in all my years with Gram, I never considered her as anyone other than “My Gram.” I never thought of her as a child or as a teenager or as a young mother. I had tucked Gram away in a nice little box – just for me. I didn’t think about what her world had been like as she moved through her life. Did she like to play in the sandbox when she was a toddler? Or swing on the swings – so high – her feet nearly scraping the clouds? What was her favorite subject in school? Did she struggle with her multiplication tables in third grade, as I had? Did she love to read and spend much of her time in the library, like me? Who was her best friend? Did they have sleepovers and share their most secret of secrets? Or walk to school together and giggle about the boys in their classes? Who was her first crush? As a young woman when she met Pop, my grandfather, did she fall head-over-heals about him, as I did when I met my husband, David? As she raised her children, my father and my aunt, did she fret by their beds when they were ill? Did she dab that smelly pink lotion on their chickenpox? Did she carpool them to soccer games and dance classes? Probably not! Soccer was not popular in Gram’s day. And I don’t think Gram drove. I never saw her drive. I don’t even know if she and Pop owned a car. So how did she go shopping – for food – for clothes? I only saw her in her frumpy “house dresses” – dresses that she thought were stylish. Did she beam with pride when her son graduated college? When her daughter walked down the aisle to begin her married life? These life moments will remain a mystery to me because as a self-centered, doted-upon granddaughter I never asked those all-telling questions. I saw my grandmother only as a woman whose arms folded me in as she hugged me – as she loved me. I knew her as the woman who pampered me and with whom I could do no wrong. She treated me as a princess. I guess that is the definition of a grandmother – the epitome of a grandmother. And now I am a grandmother too. I’m a granny … to my two granddaughters. Will they know my dreams? Will they know what made me laugh or cry? Will they know what impassioned me? Will they know my love of reading and writing and the theatre? Will they know that teaching was my life? I don’t know. Have they tucked me away too in a little box, as I had Gram?

When I think of Gram now I wonder … she must have had dreams … hopes … passions. Don’t we all? I wonder what moved her world. What made her happy and sad? But I’ll never know because, as a young girl, I thought Gram would be here forever; and I didn’t pay attention. I regret not tapping into her innermost self. And now those answers will be forever a mystery.

But if I could have Gram back for just one more precious day, if I could align the stars to merge our worlds, if we could both be grannys together, I would not waste those moments. We would join our lives as we stroll through the parks walking and talking arm through arm – like girlfriends. We could compare our grandmother worlds and whisper about our grandchildren and sip coffee at the local daily grind. And I would slip back into her world of horse and carriage days … her days with no television and two-party-line telephones and silent movies. I would find out if she liked jazz as I liked folk music or new age? If she finger-waved her hair and styled it with pincurls, as I blow mine dry and use a flat iron to straighten it? I wonder what she would think of our world affairs, our social networks. Oh, she would have a lot to say about them, I am sure. Was Gram so different from me or I from her? I don’t think so. If we could have just one more day, we could tie our worlds together. And I would fold her in my arms and hug her … if we had only one more day!


Gram is never far from my mind. She is with me every day. With her wedding ring that I wear on my finger – she is daily present – if only in my mind … and heart.

More Winners!

{Sara Turner, Peg La Vake, Joe Cervasio (wife, Maria), Donald Hults}



{Peg La Vake

{The folks behind the scenes who made the contest happen. Gloria Chambers-Benoit, Jaklyn DeVore and their staff}

Gloria Chambers-Benoit

Jakly DeVore and Ladies


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(Photos compliments of ME.)

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Group Photo compliments of (Senior Citizen “Legacies” Award Winners Announced.)


June 5, 2013 - Posted by | TidBits About Donna | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I never had a grandmother. Both of them died before I was born. I envy your joy and closeness with such a beautiful person, who belonged to you and still does in your heart. A wonderful essay, congratulations on you win. Keep it up- you are a writer.

    Comment by Colleen | June 5, 2013 | Reply

    • Colleen, thanks so much. I wonder if she knew how much I loved and admired her. Sorry you couldn’t have a grandmother in your life. They are special – or should be. I guess I was lucky. I had two grandmothers whom I loved dearly. I was just closer to Gram.

      Comment by donnaodonnellfigurski | June 5, 2013 | Reply

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