September 23 is my grandma Amelia’s birthday. “Granny” was my best friend when I was growing up. A second generation San Franciscan, she was born on September 23, 1893 and lived in the City until she passed away at the age of 93. She called me “honey dear,” and there was no doubt in my mind that I was her pet. I loved sleeping over at her apartment on Friday nights. She broiled round-bone lamb chops and carefully trimmed artichokes, which we ate with melted butter at her kitchen table. Then I had permission to peek into all her candy tins in the dining room closet and help myself to gum drops, caramels, and sugared orange slices.
We snuggled on her sofa while she told me stories about our family settling in San Francisco after the Gold Rush. I was mesmerized by her storytelling and could listen for hours, especially to her adventures of camping out in Golden Gate Park after the 1906 earthquake. She described trips to exotic countries that she and my grandpa took in the 1950s.
On Saturdays we got all dressed up—she always wore a hat and gloves—and rode the bus downtown to Union Square. We window-shopped and then had lunch at H. Liebes Department store on the corner of Grant and Geary. Other times we rode the cable car to Chinatown and visited Old St. Mary’s Church where we lit candles. But my favorite outings were the Saturday matinees at the Four Star Theater on Clement St. Before the show we stopped at the penny candy store across the street for ten cents worth of candy that lasted the entire show.
I have so many wonderful memories of my Grandma Amelia and the qualities that made her so dear to me. Besides being a great storyteller, she also listened to me. She was gregarious and talked to people wherever we went. She loved to play cards and taught me canasta, gin rummy, and cribbage. She got down on the kitchen floor and played jacks. When I graduated from high school, she and I rode the Southern Pacific railroad across the country and visited historical landmarks. She also took my two younger brothers and me to Honolulu for a week’s vacation.
When I think about my grandma, I marvel at her energy, her vitality, and her devotion to our family. I wish I could tell her what a wonderful role model she was for me. She would be so proud that her little granddaughter grew up to be a grandma of two beautiful granddaughters, and that one is named after her. She would be fascinated by how different the activities are that I enjoy with my granddaughters today. And yet, at the core, there is the same loving devotion, the storytelling and the passing on of traditions that she gave to me.
Happy Birthday, Grandma Amelia.