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« In Which We Walk Around With Candy »

We Love You, Be Careful


illustrations by Ren Rossini

My grandmother died this week, and as a tribute to her, I would like to share a few things I think made her a class act. Everyone in the world loved her, and by breaking down the code she lived by, it is easy to see why. These tricks and traits work not only for a grandparent or old person, but also for a twenty-something just trying to get by.


Repeatedly call yourself crazy. This way, everyone will know what to expect. I often got voicemails on my machine that began with, “It’s your crazy grandma!” and that way I was not surprised when what followed was: “I’m working on my autobiography and I’m at the part about winning an Oscar!” (My grandmother never won an Oscar.) I think if I start telling people how crazy I am, or introducing myself with, “Hi, I’m your new crazy friend, Emma,” I will be able to get away with saying pretty much anything else I want, and nothing will ever seem like a non sequitur. I’ll finally be able to recite Elton John lyrics during lulls in conversation, and no one will bat an eyelash! “They said, get back honky cat.”


Tell everyone how wonderful and extraordinary they are all the time, even when they do things that are completely ordinary or unimpressive. It will raise spirits, and make people want to be around you. Comments like, “Your voice on my message machine sounded so lyrical!” or “The way you pour Snapple into a paper cup makes you look like Audrey Hepburn!” are surefire ways to win someone over. It worked on me for 23 years, and I’m no idiot. I plan to start complimenting my family and friends excessively, so that everyone will feel great about themselves, and in turn feel great about me. “Look at how you put your socks on one foot at a time, so delicately but also with such force! I can imagine Gregory Peck putting on his socks in a similar manner! Bravo, you!” I plan to say to my boyfriend tomorrow morning.


Speak in hyperboles. Say, “This is the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted!” and “This is my favorite movie!” about every flavor of ice cream and every movie. No one will trust your judgment, but it won’t matter, because you’ll be the one everyone will want to be eating ice cream and watching movies with. Those were the best two sentences I have ever written.


Put other peoples’ happiness above all else, even if it means being environmentally unfriendly. As a child, I would often stay over at my grandparents’ apartment. I was four or five or six, and my grandmother would give me a huge bowl and wooden spoon from the kitchen, and ask me to make a “concoction.” I was then allowed to go into their (at the time, seemingly) giant bathroom and use shampoo, mouthwash, toothpaste, perfume, and anything I could find. I would mix them all together in the bowl like a minty soapy stew. It was incredibly wasteful, but I was too young to notice and my grandma was too old to give a shit, as long as I was having fun. Life is about happiness! In the moment! We survived the depression! Make some concoctions! From here on out, I’ll be having parties where we throw out batteries and then dance around them. My place, Tuesday nights, E-mail for details. BYOBatteries.


Sew cartoon characters onto all of your clothing. This immediately shouts, “I’m friendly and harmless!” to everyone you meet. Also, it makes it really easy to boss people around. When Snoopy is stitched on your blouse (grandma’s word choice), you can get people to do whatever you want without them thinking you’re being demanding. You’re just kooky and playful! I’m going to sew Dora the Explorer onto all my skinny jeans. It’s your new crazy friend, Emma!


Carry candy. This should be obvious, but it’s not. Not enough people carry candy around with them at all times. When I lived in LA, I would go to the bank, and the women there would be snacking on Tootsie Rolls and Gummy Bears, asking me when my grandma was coming back to deposit more money. Everyone always seemed so disappointed to see me. If you don’t carry candy, and someone else you know does, at least have the smarts not to follow or be related to them. Next time you see me, ask me for Skittles. I will have them in all my jeans and cardigan pockets. They will be warm and a little linty, but at the end of the day, you’ll like me a lot better than at the beginning of the day, when you didn’t have candy at all.


When people are leaving your home, shout after them, “I love you be careful!” If you’re a real pro like my grandma was, you can get away with saying it all as one word, and the last part will just seep into the subconscious of whoever you’re shouting it to. No one will question why you’re telling them to be careful, and if they do walk into a street and get hit by a truck later in the day, you can say you did everything possible to prevent it. Imagine a guilt-free existence! My whole family has spent lifetimes of being careful, thanks to grandma. Other ideas of things I could shout to people on their way out to make their lives better: “Love you pay attention to changes in tide and phases of the moon!” “Love you don’t be coy!” “Love you nobody likes a hero!”


Keep money in your filing cabinet, under M. You will never forget where it is. You can also keep origami paper under O, and Red Vines under R, like my grandmother did. I plan to turn my entire room into a giant filing cabinet using fitted bed sheets I hang from the ceiling like big file pockets, and I will never lose socks or dimes or bobby pins or used Kleenex ever again. This method of storage is actually brilliant.


To make yourself feel better when someone is being rude to you, whisper obscenities behind their back. My grandmother never wanted to fight with anyone, but calmly reciting a curse word as the instigator left the room made her feel better. Curse words popular with my grandmother were “baldy” and “shitface.” “Baldy” was specifically for my grandfather, because he was bald, and “shitface” was reserved for anyone who beat her at one of those old lady tile games (Rummikub anyone?). I realize now that I am not vocal enough when it comes to my anger. So the next time someone beats me at the Seinfeld trivia board game, or is acting all bald at me, I will whisper “baldy shitface,” under my breath as they walk away.


Go out with a bang. Leave creepy things to people in your will, have a really absurd last request, and kick it on your ex-son-in-law’s birthday. When someone you love has a dying wish, you are pretty much obligated to obey it. As a result, my 28-year-old brother will have a stuffed bear in a raincoat that sings “Singing in the Rain” for the rest of his life. Also, my mother will never throw out a box of stale chocolates, because “they were an incredible bargain.” This is the most brilliant trick I’ve ever heard. After I finish writing this, I’m going out to buy a box of raisins. I’m going to write one friend’s name on each raisin. When I die, my will is going to say, “Each friend must sleep with his/her specific raisin under their pillow forever. Every morning, ‘Oh raisin my raisin’ must be the first thing that comes out of your mouth. It is my dying wish. Please.” Then I plan to choose someone’s birthday to ruin by dying on it. That way, every year on this person’s birthday, people will only think about me and how sad they are to have lost me. Everyone will forget that there is also a birthday taking place. I have a list of people who have wronged me, and they all have tally marks next to their names. Whoever wins gets their birthday fucked with for the rest of time. That’s what happens when you mess with your crazy friend Emma!

Emma Barrie is the senior contributor to This Recording. She last wrote in these pages about waitressing. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She tumbls here.

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Reader Comments (10)

I really enjoyed this. I'm sorry for your loss, but it looks like she imparted the secrets of a rich life to you. I really agree with the part about the compliments; growing up, my brother always said to my mother, "This is the best dinner I have ever tasted." He said it every night and we laughed at him, but she would beam and I knew it made her happy.

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKara

great piece and flawless author photo

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

lovely post. I laughed and cried a little. Thanks!

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Emma this is really beautiful.

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

I loved this a ton.

January 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

good & plenty!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTito Fitzcollins

Thanks for this article, it made me think of how crazy and loving and charmingly uninhibited my own grandma is.
I always like to read about people's individual life codes and personal rules.
Your grandma sounds like she was a woman who was full of love.

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJess

I love your crazy Grandma.

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohnny T.
This is one of the best post ive ever read in This recording.. i dont have a close relationship with my grandmas but i did had a close relationship with my godmother..this post made me remember her.. she was a dog person but my mom wasnt..now my mom has a dog and i have 5... i do think she send me this little angels.

Sorry about your lost but she left you great memories.
August 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaky
i love your crazy grandma too

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