We were lucky enough to grow up with a great-grandmother in our lives. “Mamie” was our French connection. She lived to be 100 and, upon her death bed, wanted only an ice cold Southern Comfort Old Fashioned. She played the family matriarch role to a T, imparting wisdom and love (and cash and candy) to the great-grandchildren she was occasionally tasked with wrangling.
One day, out of the blue, she taught me a valuable lesson that might seem out of place, coming from a doting old lady. But then, this doting old lady had come of age in South San Fransisco and made bathtub “wine” in a still.
I was about 8 years old, playing with my Hot Wheels in the kitchen when she called me over.
“hold out your hands, Danny” She said in her ancient voice.
I held out my hands, thinking she was going to slip me five bucks or a roll of Life Savers. Instead, she gave me four dollars in the form of two nickel rolls.
This is weird, I thought. It’s still money, but bills are more convenient for walking around with.
“if you ever have any trouble at school, you hold these in your fist and let ’em have it!” she whispered, her blue eyes serious. “Then you break them open and all you have is some coins in your pocket. You understand?”
I looked at my hands and made fists around the nickel rolls. She had a point, and I’d been in pop-warner football, so I was no stranger to bullies. “Uh…thanks,” I said, and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
She patted my head and said “Good boy. Go play nice.”