an Important person

Grandma Girlfriend

Sharing Stories
June 23, 2024 at 7:48 p.m.
This is my grandmother with a couple of other relatives. She is the short one in front.
This is my grandmother with a couple of other relatives. She is the short one in front.

...by April Ryan

Grandma Girlfriend

Lillian Pearl Davis was my best friend and my grandmother. I stayed at my grandparents’ house whenever I could—which was a lot. I was blessed to be the first grandchild.

Rescued from her hardworking Missouri farm life to marry my generous grandfather, Grandma relished the ease of Seattle’s U District until she was 98 years old.

Like the best of girlfriends, even when I was quite young, we shopped together. Mannings was a favorite restaurant for us and Buddy Nut Squirrel was a favorite place to get goodies.

But the tiny grocery, a block from her home also excited “Pearly May” (Grandpa’s adoring nickname for her). She was endlessly delighted with any new foods. Frozen “TV dinners,” the little boxes of different cereals packaged together, Tang, Chef Boyardee “pizza kits,” and Jiffy Pop. We’d grab whatever was new and rush back to her lovely clean kitchen to figure out how to make these treats and then gorge on them.

Though most of us now would recall this list as barely worthy of the name “food,” for Pearl they were magically easy.

Whenever I stayed at their home, I was treated to a bath in their large green and white tiled bathroom with a tub she cleaned for me with ivory soap.

At night, until I was in my teens, I slept with her in a bed with sheets dried in the sun and ironed and a fabulous light and beautiful quilt. She read to me every night. We went through all the “twins books”—The Dutch Twins, The Swedish Twins, etc.

As we waited for my father to come and pick me up, she’d read from the newspaper comics and explain especially the one with Pogo, the Okefenokee alligator. Then we’d just sit and talk, and she’d stroke my hands, telling me I had “seamstress” fingers.

I once asked her why I had to prepare for my father’s coming hours before he did. With a look of surprise, she admitted this was an entrenched habit from her childhood. She said, women and children of her time, had to sit on the front porch bench all dressed up with packed suitcases, until the man of the house brought the wagon or carriage around from the stable to pick them up. She said that you just didn’t keep a man with a ready horse waiting. Period.

I spent my 16th summer living at my grandparents’ house to attend a class at the high school near them, Roosevelt High School.

After my grandfather died, Pearl moved to an apartment in the area, and I visited her there too.

I can’t recall how old I was when I began to have daily calls with my grandmother, certainly by my early teens. It just seemed like a pleasant part of the day. When I married, I continued that and also talked to my mother daily, adding my sister in at some point too. My heritage, my female support system, but Grandma was my girlfriend as well.


Ariele Huff has written for Northwest Prime Time since 2000. She has ZOOM and online writing classes and has over 30 books at amazon.com. Connect at ariele@comcast.net.


SHARING STORIES is a weekly column for about the 50 plus crowd living in the Puget Sound region. Send your stories and photos to ariele@comcast.net. Tell local or personal stories; discuss concerns around aging and other issues; share solutions, good luck, and reasons to celebrate; poems are fine too. Pieces may be edited or excerpted. We reserve the right to select among pieces. Photos are always a plus and a one-sentence bio is requested (where you live, maybe age or career, retired status, etc.).

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