Ask A Grandma

Solicited words of wisdom.

Author by Katie Barsotti
Art Credit: Rebecca Clarke

Jean Marie Grewe is a woman of many skills and passions. She’s been a nurse, a stay-at-home mother, a seamstress, a tour guide, an amateur genealogist, and a grandmother—mine. She’s never been one to shy away from giving unsolicited advice, so I called her for some solicited words of wisdom.


So, I’m working on a column called “Ask a Grandma.”
Oh! My grandma used to always tell me, “Always wear a hat and moisturizer on your face,” and I said, “Oh, that’s a good idea, Grandma!” and ran right out and played tennis with no moisturizer or anything. That’s probably why she had a beautiful complexion. Everybody my age, we all look at our wrinkled bodies and we say, “Oh my god, remember? We would be on the beach with baby oil and we would put iodine in it!” You know how many hundreds of years ago that was.

What are some useful skills that you think everyone should know?
How to sew a button on, how to sort laundry, how to iron. That’s an old-timer thing—now you just send it out to the laundry. [No one does this. —KB]

Was there anything you thought was important when you were my age that you’ve since realized isn’t so important?
We all have different values. When I was 25, I was already married, so what was important to me was already my children. I think that your generation actually has more potential to use your time and your talents and your education than we did. You have this little streak of independence, though, when you’re that age, and I would say use this time now to take advantage of that. Things are important to you now that won’t be important in a few years. Unless you want to talk about things like faith and friends—those are serious, important things. I still have friends from high school.

What is one item of clothing you think every woman should own?

A brassiere!
Well! Think about those eighteenth-century women who didn’t have one. They had to use those corsets to hold their bodies up! What would you have said?

I don’t know, a pair of jeans?
Trust me, kiddo, you can always put something on over the bra. If you just have a pair of jeans, you’re in trouble.

What is something people used to do and don’t do anymore but that you think should come back?
Probably just good manners. We could start with table manners.

How do you make yourself feel better when you’re feeling down?
I find something to do. Read a good book. It used to be, when I had time and my own little sewing room, that I could go down there and sew and be creative. Creativity, I think, is the answer to that question. When I was a nurse I could sit at the doctor’s office, bored to death, and start deciding how I would make a new blazer or something. You can meditate, too!

What is the most important thing to look for in a potential spouse?
I was afraid you would get to that. Let’s see. Tall, handsome, short, smart, rich, poor. None of those things are probably as important as getting down to the values. Now, if they value money more than corn flakes, that might be a good sign. I would say, know somebody, know their values—go places where like-minded people exist.

Do you have any parenting advice?
Parenting is directing your children toward becoming good human beings. It’s different for each child. As long as it’s not a matter of faith or morals, as parents, we’ll consider that you can do what you want. But that’s for an older child. I don’t like it when I hear mothers in a grocery store with a younger child in the little cart, saying, “Now, do you want these Twinkies or do you want these Cheerios? You want the sugar? We can try that this week!” No. We cannot. That’s called benevolent guiding. We’ll have Cheerios or you’ll go hungry. A home is not a democracy. It’s a benevolent dictatorship. That’s a little bit humorous but there’s a lot of truth to it.

Any other general advice for people my age?
Follow your passion; follow what you really care about. And have an open mind. Be willing to stand up for what you feel is important. That is very difficult today. And be ready to bounce back. Go out and learn something new. Challenge yourself.


Originally published in the first print volume of Woolly, which you can buy here

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About Woolly

A curious exploration of comfort, wellness, and modern life — emotionally supported by Casper. It’s a beautiful magazine published by a mattress. Come on, you know it’s not the weirdest thing to happen this year. The first issue includes a love letter to comfort pants, a skeptic's guide to crystals, and an adulting coloring book.