Ojibwe Granmas Are Everything by Ivy Vainio

Ojibwe granmas are everything.

Mine turned ninety-five in March. She is so strong, resilient and so young at heart.

She’s as extroverted as me so when the pandemic hit, it really about did us both in, her more so than I. The 10-minute visits with the front door open in the coldest of winter with the fireplace aglow will be our into-the-future pandemic memories.

Rainbow saved her. His love has kept her spirit strong.

Ojibwe Great Granmas are everything.

Now that we are able to share dinners together again, I will sometimes look over at her profile, and I get a glimpse of her Ma, Frances Beargrease Mercer. She died fourteen years before I was born at the same age I am now. She was so beautiful and so Indian looking. Her brown skin, dark hair, her chiseled face. Granma has her facial features and makes me realize I’m connected beyond her.

Granma will answer all of my questions to the best of her memory will allow. Topics include her childhood, her 14 siblings, the parties, her children, the elders in her life, and her trips to casino for polka dances. Most times though she just wants both of us to sit together and watch her favorite television programs with the volume set to 20.

Granma didn’t attend boarding school, but her older and younger siblings were taken to Pipestone Indian Boarding School in Southern Minnesota. She was saved from going. One time Granma shared how her Ma had requested her kids back from THAT school but her pleas were not heard. She then found someone with a large car, and somehow they drove seven hours one way, and when she got to the school, she demanded that her children leave with her. She must have been fierce as Anishinaabeg mothers can be as they let the kids go back home with her. My granma gets her fierceness from her Ma.

Granma has been married three times. Her last marriage ceremony was only three years ago to the love of her life, Rainbow Trout.

Granma has/had thirteen children; two that were stillborn, two were taken from her, and two died as adults. My uncle Dave was her last child. He weighed 13 pounds at birth!

Granma makes the best oven fried chicken; well, she used too anyway. My love wishes she could make it again as this was his favorite meal of hers.

Up until she turned 87, she still drove around in a big red pickup truck to the store, casino, and community polka dances.

She is slowing down as she is almost 100 percent wheelchair bound. She told me as I was leaving after our last visit, “You know, Ivy, I won’t be here forever for you.” Ten more years, Granma. That’s what I used to tell her.

This ongoing pandemic is making things tough and isolating for her. She is still fierce, resilient like Anishinaabeg granmas can be.

Granma, don’t ever leave me.


Bringing Joy: A Local Literary Welcome Copyright © 2021 by Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. All Rights Reserved.

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