Oh those darned things Grandmothers say

We while away the time by cooking and eating. My grandma cooks, and I eat. Before and after our copious meals we talk. It turns out that my grandma’s preserves and roast turkey hock also come with a rich accompaniment of home-cooked Polish expressions. Like idioms, just no one else has ever heard of them. I ask if we two are expecting company for lunch because the quantity of food prepared could easily feed a hungry family of six. “Narobiłam tego wszystkiego jak głupi piwa” (I cooked as much food as an idiot brewing insane amounts of beer) which, when I think about it, is a very colourful turn of phrase for any unnecessary excess.


Life discussions commence and we arrive at the conclusion that there is always more than one solution to any problem. To quote grannie: “świat nie torba – z każdego wyjścia są dwa wyjścia” (the world is not a handbag – for every way out there are atleast two exits”)


In regards to several noted Polish politicians: “Ciemny jak tabaka w rogu” (he’s as dark as the snuff in the corner). Read: very stupid.


Me: Grandma, do you feel that your mom and dad really loved each other?

Grandma: Energetically: “Well yes, of course they loved each other.”

Her voice begins trailing…

Me: “Why the hesitation?”

Grandma: “My father really loved my mother. My mother loved him too, but she also had a lot of other ideas in her head.”


Grandma continues on the topic of love.

Grandma: “I don’t understand those głupie baby (stupid women) who fawn all over men and fall apart when things go wrong, yet again, and their poor hearts are broken.” She sighs heavily. “What the hell is their problem? An intelligent women checks to see if the man is in love with her first before falling in love herself.”

Me: Half laughing, half amazed. “Let me write that down”.


Grandma: “Really, life is made up of a lot of small, quirky details. “Drobne rzeczy uwierają jak ciasny but.” (The small things can wear you down step by step like an ill-fitting shoe).


Grandma tells about her first husband’s (my grandpa’s) field work in the forests of Poland circa 1950s and 1960s aka. back in communist times. He studied biology and forestry. He wasn’t a very organized fellow. He was also an artysta and liked to paint and write poetry in his free time.

Grandma: “He came home from the field work with his mapa sztabowa (a kind of military map) of some of the forests of Poland. He and his team had spent many months working out the exact details of the terrain. Every last tree and mushroom were outlined on this map. Marian lost the map. He lost the map at the train station. I nearly lost my mind from worry. The general public is not meant to see these maps; they were considered top secret military information. We could have gone to jail for leaving a document like that lying about.”

Me: “So what did you do?”

Grandma: “I dropped everything and immediately went to the train station to look for it. I hunted high and low at every bench and nook and cranny and I found no trace of the map. Marian went back to the office that winter to rework the map with his team from scratch. Luckily no one ever got upset with us for that first one which got lost.”

She was holding her breath and slowly lets it go.


Grandma continues to dish out her marital advice and I eagerly take notes. I’m not married, but I might be one day, so I’m eager to learn.

Grandma: “One of my cleaning ladies, well she told me about her sister, who got into some fuss with her husband. The man started drinking more and more and even became violent and started hitting her. She tried to put up with it and then to find a solution but to no avail. She left the man. The trouble is that now her grandmother is angry at her and tells her that she should go back to her husband! She goes on and on about how marriage is for life and that she should stick to her husband for better and for worse and so on.”

I’m in shock, and irritated with that other grandmother for being so painfully old-fashioned.

Grandma: “Last time she was here (the cleaning lady), she was very upset about her sister and this situation with their grandmother so she told me about it. I recommended that her sister come and see me and we can have a chat and she can talk to a grandma who is more modern and certainly won’t try to talk her into going back into a bad relationship.”

Me: “That’s it?”

Grandma: “Well, no. In all honesty, I’d like to tell her: “Pani Helenko: niech Pani weźmie coś ciężkiego i mu przyłoży, to z niego gówno i buty zostaną.” (Dear Ms. Helen, please take a heavy object and apply it to your idiot of a husband and all that will be left of him is his shit and shoes).


We are pulling her small Fiat out of grannie’s garage and someone has awkwardly parked their large van in front of the gate blocking our way.

Grandma: “Krowa na pastwisku lepiej się zaparkuje niż niejeden chłop” (A cow in a field knows how to park herself better than many a man).

Me: “But Grandma, we can’t even see the driver. You don’t know if it’s a man or not.”

Sure enough, we pull up to the gate and we see a man behind the wheel.

Grandma: “Oh my dear”, she says to me in a knowing way “No woman would be stupid enough to park like that.”


After lunch, grandma and I like to turn on the T.V. and watch silly programs (by silly programs I mean cop shows, sit-coms or Polish politics, but between you and me there isn’t much difference between any of them). One of the sitcoms is called “School” and portrays teenagers in a typical, Polish high-school. It’s complete with elaborate romantic dramas of the many youths and their unstable emotions. Today the students are sharing about their sexual experiences and one of the girls is desperate to find a guy, any guy, who she can sleep with just so that she can lose her virginity. She feels left behind since everyone else is “doing it”.

Grandma: “What the hell is wrong with the young fry today. They have sex like I used to go sledding. Some school friend would come by the house in the winter and it didn’t matter whether I liked him or not, if he invited me to go sledding, I would go.”


Me: “Grandma, yesterday I received a text message from you, but it only contained the letter “B”. Just that single letter, nothing more.

I’ve been texting my grandma every day while I’m in town and when I see her she lets me know that she has received my messages. She never texts me back though.

I was therefore very surprised to receive a message, and a peculiar one at that.

Grandma: “Yes that was me, I sent you a text message.”

Me: “Does the “B” stand for Babcia*?”

Grandma: “Yes, my finger slipped.”

She had hit send before she could write the rest of her message 🙂

*Babcia, meaning grandmother in Polish.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s