My maternal grandmother was very particular about clothing. It's not that she was overly fussy or uppity; she came from an old dirt farming community and lived during the depression so she knew about frugality and making every penny stretch. But she was also a beautiful woman who took pride in her appearance. As long as I knew her, I don't think I ever saw her wear slacks (she always called them "slacks," never "pants"), and she always dressed up to leave the house. By dressed up, I mean she put on nylons, sandals with heels, earrings, and a better dress than the dress she wore around the house to do chores. Dressed up to go to church was another level above dressed up to go to the grocery store, which was a level above dressed up for puttering around the kitchen, which was a level above dressed to go outside and dig in the garden.

Every one of us grandchildren can remember and tell stories of her hatred of ratty, torn clothing. It's not that she threw out anything that wasn't the latest style. To the contrary, she used everything. She kept clothing nice, cleaned, stain-free and ironed. And when things would move beyond that stage, they were demoted to other uses. Old, frayed towels became dust rags. Old clothing was cut up and used as fodder for quilts and other sewing projects. To this day, I can look at the quilt she made me and match most of the patchwork squares to dresses I remember her wearing when I was a kid. There's something wonderful about that, by the way. This was what it was like to grow up in the early twentieth century and live during the depression. You made do with less than nothing sometimes, but you always made do with class.

This is all to say that she knew when it was time to move an item of clothing from the "good to use" category to the "too old to use for it's intended purpose" category better than most of us. I vividly remember that after every time Grandma came to visit, we would get new bath towels because as she'd sit around helping to fold the laundry, she'd tear all the frayed and threadbare towels in half so my mother would be forced to replace them. It might seem insensitive, but she was right. Our bath towels got pretty ratty.

If any of us grandchildren who had worked for hours with a cheese grater to get those oh so popular, perfectly distressed jeans with holes just where all the style magazines said you had to have them, we knew damn well not to wear those coveted jeans to Grandma's. Because if you had on those totally awesome jeans when you walked by her, she would hitch her index finger into one of those holes and pull, tearing that hole into a giant crevasse and then a pant leg or a sleeve would fall off your body. I don't think there was a one of us who didn't have that experience at least half a dozen times. No one really got upset about it, because Grandma was also a well-known prankster. We knew it was all in fun.

Cousin #1: "Hey, what happened to those radical [insert brand name of $200 jeans with just the right amount of fading, worn, and/or holes in just the right places] you used to have? I haven't seen them in awhile."

Cousin #2: "Oh..." *pause... heavy sigh... and then one word* "Grandma."

Cousin #1: *bumps chest with fist and raises eyes to the heavens* "I feel you, Cuz. I feel you."

OK. So maybe it wasn't a scene from Platoon, but we understood each other.

That was just Grandma and we all accepted it. Thought it was funny even. Even my uncle by marriage, who once got dressed only to find all the flies in his underwear sewn shut after she'd "helped" with the laundry, joined in with the fun. I always loved her sense of humor and now as an adult, I appreciate how she dealt with things more than ever.

Grandma's been gone for many years now, but I was channeling her the other night when The Dormouse came home from school, sat down on the couch between The KoH and I and propped up her feet on the ottoman (I can't ever use that word without thinking of this clip) to reveal a giant hole in her yoga pants. (Yes, she has had a pair of yoga pants. No, she doesn't do yoga.)

"You have a hole in your pants," I pointed out.

It barely registered on The Dormouse's radar (the TV was on), "Yeah."

"I think it might be time to throw them out."

No response. Still staring at TV.

"Look there's another hole over here on the side too."

I stuck my finger into the hole and tickled her through it. She snapped out of her TV trance for a second and laughed but never looked away from the TV. The KoH joined in and started sticking his fingers through the other hole and tickling her too.

KoH: "Look the hole's getting bigger."

And that's when the spirit of Grandma came over us both and we each crooked an index finger, stuck it into the same hole in the seam and pulled in opposite directions. The pants made a loud, satisfying riiiiiiiip and pulled apart all the way down her leg backed by the sound of us laughing.

Well, not all of us laughing.

Because The Dormouse? She




There was kicking and crying and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. It was as if those pants had been made out of her favorite dancing hamster and we'd just eviscerated him right in front of her. It took me a good fifteen minutes just to calm her down.

Looking back, it was not my finest parenting moment.

I mean, it's true that my family is full of jokers and sometimes those jokes seem mean-spirited from the outside. But those of us who know and love our family members (and those of us who can take a joke) always knew they weren't. Everyone learned really quickly who among us could take a joke like that and who among us couldn't. Those who couldn't were never subjected to the tomfoolery.

I just thought my daughter was one of the ones who could.

Message received, darling daughter. Message received.

But I also believe that Grandma was looking down on that incident from where ever she is now and laughing silently like in the old days. And when I think about it - and The Dormouse is not looking - I secretly smile to myself.