My older sister was referred to as “Poor Christine” by Grandma from the minute she was born. Apparently she had a pointy little cone head that made dad cry the first time he saw her. Although, seventy two hours later her head was shaped just fine, the whole incident qualified her, in Grandma’s eyes, to be referred to as “Poor Christine” for eternity.
When apparently malnourished “Poor Christine” grew up and went to live on campus at Gonzaga University, Grandma, who lived close by, made a habit of calling her at the dorm and insisting she come over for food. As Grandma saw it, Poor Christine was far too thin and desperately needed some help fattening up. After all, how was she ever going to attract a husband when all she was, was skin and bones?
My sister would go to Grandma’s house and eat enough to hold her over for a week. “Oh! Poor Christine!” Grandma would cry at first sight of her. “Come. Sit. Mangi, mangi, mangi!” she would insist. My sister would eat, eat, eat, till she thought she would explode, then leave Grandma’s with her arms full. She would arrive back at the dorm with homemade pies, breads, and rolls and she and her roommate would proceed to have a party in their room, inviting the whole floor. All her dorm mates loved Grandma.
Then, a few years after graduation, Poor Christine had a beautiful wedding and moved into a lovely home up on the South Hill in Spokane. Feeling so sorry and worried for Poor Christine, Grandma insisted on providing her with extra blankets as she was sure Poor Christine was freezing to death in her new home. After all, that’s what poor people did – they froze to death.
Not being able to stand it another minute, Dad arranged to take Grandma on a drive to see where Poor Christine was living so she could rest assured her granddaughter was not now, nor had she ever been, in dire straits.
Entering the house, Grandma took on a glow of redemption. Poor Christine had been saved. Awe struck as she was, Grandma barely uttered a word as my sister graciously escorted her around her spacious home. The bedrooms where furnished with beds made up with blankets, comforters, and pillows. There were towels and rugs in the bathrooms, furniture in the living and dining rooms, and actual food in the refrigerator and in the well stocked pantry.
Poor Christine may still have been skinny, but she appeared to be happy and the house was surprisingly warm. Apparently, it had come with a working furnace and, as Chris pointed out, an actual thermostat that was set well above freezing. Grandma was forced to admit she would probably be alright without the supply of extra blankets.
It was a tall order for Grandma to give up on the idea of Poor Christine. Though the vision of a tragic young woman lost to the aftermath of a difficult birth, shivering and malnourished, was almost too good to let go of, Grandma did managed to loosen her grip on it, even if it was just a bit.
And, although I’m not sure she ever quit calling my sister “Poor Christine,”she did quit acting like the end of the world was upon us at the mere mention of her name. Grandma had to admit that Poor Christine was somehow, miraculously, doing all right for herself after all.