It was the early ’70s when I sat with Grandma to watch “I Love Lucy.” We’d sit on the couch in her wood-paneled den, watching on the TV with the rabbit ears. I was only 10, but I can clearly recall the pleasure we shared as we watched and laughed at the black-and-white antics on the TV channel that had already been playing reruns for 20 years.
The show was first aired Oct. 15, 1951, nine years before I was even born.
My Grandma passed away in 1971. Forty-seven years later, I still sit in a wood-paneled den and watch reruns of “I Love Lucy.”
They remind me of her — and how I came to love all things ’50s. I currently own a home not only built in the ’50s, but preserved in that time. It has wood-paneled walls and a sunken living room, a signature design of the day. It has a powder blue tiled bathroom and a mail slot that still comes right into the house.
My Grandma adored me, and I adored her. I was so young when she died that I don’t remember that much about her. I rely mostly the stories my parents have told me about her, but I will never forget those times we sat on that couch and watched Lucy. They were filled with laughter and cuddles, and a ringing princess phone left unanswered so we could share those 30 minutes.
Of the few things I do remember from those days is the joy of watching my Grandma strip. I’m not kidding!
The minute we would arrive home from any outing, the first thing to go would be her dress. Down to her pointy bra, her girdle, her slip, and her stockings, she would then proceed to peel those off too until she could put on her bathrobe and slippers and saunter into the living room to switch on the TV.
To this day, I do the very same thing. Although I never wore a girdle — and no longer wear even pantyhose — I still can’t wait to get home at the end of every day to perform the traditional family striptease right down to nothing but my schmatta. That’s Yiddish for a rag or a robe that’s old with holes and hangs, doing nothing but making me feel as close to naked as possible.
Grandma would have me call the “time and temperature” service to see if the show was about to start or if we had time for a snack first. She’d walk into the kitchen with her Aqua Net-sprayed hair in that big old blue schmatta of hers with the holes and the enormous pockets that always held at least one embroidered linen hanky for whomever needed a little schmutz rubbed off.
Grandma to the rescue
We used to go over to Grandma’s for dinner every Friday. One Friday night, Mom and Dad needed a break and Grandma needed some granddaughter cuddles. As for me, I wasn’t too keen on spending the night. It wasn’t that I didn’t cherish my times with Grandma, it was just the thought of missing my nightly routine that had me feeling discombobulated. I didn’t have my pj’s, my toothbrush, or the kitty cat stuffed animal I always slept with.
That’s when Grandma disappeared for a few minutes. When she returned, in her hands was an extra schmatta and toothbrush just for me and something else. She had taken the mink collar off of her dressy wool sweater and wrapped it around a balled-up pair of Grandpa’s socks.
“Here,” she said. “Here’s a kitty cat for you to sleep with. Now you have everything you need to have a sleepover, yes?”
“Yes,” I said. “This kitty is softer than the one I have at home.”
I spent that night at Grandma’s house with a pair of socks wrapped in the softest love imaginable.
Today is National I Love Lucy Day. I’m not sure when it was made a national day, but I’m pretty sure that whoever decided it was an important day knew my Grandma. My memories have faded over the years but I must have shared them at some point with my own children because they knew enough to buy me a deck of cards that came in an “I Love Lucy” tin for my birthday one year.
It sits proudly on my coffee table as I sit undressed watching “I Love Lucy” reruns with a little mink collar still stored on the top shelf of my bedroom closet next to clippings from first haircuts, first lost teeth, and first love letters written by a younger version of my husband, the husband who understands the daily resurrection of a holey schmatta and the patience to let his wife watch an old rerun on TV now and then.