Strong Women: Ila And The Truth

Four strong women have influenced my life in different ways and with Mother’s Day approaching, I can’t help but think of them. 

Grandma Ila was formidable. She commanded respect from everyone in the family.  Even as a little girl sitting at the table in her kitchen in Kansas, I could see how my mother changed when in the presence of her mother, straightening our clothes and brushing hair back from our faces.  We weren’t actually allowed to call her Ila, as I think of her now that I’m an adult, but we were told to use the more formal Grandma Landau when addressing her.

Grandma Ila was the first one to use the  phrase,”little pitchers have big ears” as we sat at her table.  Fascinating visual image for a small child – what do these pitchers look like and where do the ears go?  I had no idea until later what family secrets were being discussed that might be hiding behind that phrase. 

When I was 11, my brothers and I spent two weeks with Ila as they replaced her roof. Thinking back on that time, I’m not sure what my parents were thinking. My brothers were 15 and 16, barely old enough to drive and certainly had no roofing experience. At least they had a job to do, whereas I wandered Grandma’s house and followed closely on her heels.  

Finally she snapped and sent me to the grocery store with a $10 bill and a shopping list.  I was thrilled with the responsibility and took off, walking the six cobblestoned blocks down East Street on a hot Kansas morning.  

As I stood in line to pay, the candy bar rack stared me down.  They had Seven Ups, which my mom never let me buy at home, and they were only a quarter. Surely, it would be fine to buy one after doing this errand?  I ate it as soon as I left the store and threw away the evidence that it ever existed in the trash can outside the public library. 

When I returned to Ila’s house, she immediately knew what I had done looking at the receipt but proceeded to grill me as mercilessly as any police officer. 

“Looks like you are a quarter short.”  Rather than confessing, I became dodgy. 

“Maybe they miscounted the change?” Not really a lie yet but more that I posed a general observation of something that could possibly have happened. 

“Well, guess I better call Ray and let him know how disappointed I am that they cheated a little girl out of her money.” She shrewdly watched me, knowing I would crack quickly. 

“Please Grandma, don’t! It’s my fault…” While she looked on, I started to cry and tell her about the stupid candy bar.  She didn’t hug me or tell me to sit down.  She didn’t yell or threaten to tell my folks. She calmly turned back to washing dishes and said, “Next time, just tell me the truth.” 

To this day, I break out in a cold sweat when I think about lying and know that it isn’t worth disappointing people I love and respect.  

Thanks, Grandma Ila.

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