Mean smiles
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Mean smiles

Let’s talk about personalities. There are so many kinds. We have the quiet sweet ones. The quiet not-sweet ones. The funny obnoxious ones. The funny ones. The weird ones. The genuinely nice ones. The ones that are not nice, nor pretend to be. The boring ones. The really smart ones. The ones who think they are really smart. If you are self-aware, you know what kind of personality you have.

I have always thought that there are very few genuinely wonderful people in this world. This thought was validated when Husband #1 and I sat shiva for our fathers. The people who showed up, the people who didn’t — it all validated my opinion on people in general.

You might be wondering where I am going with this column. Well, it is about life lessons and personalities.

In the fall of 2019, I began my role as surrogate grandmother to my surrogate granddaughter. At the time, she was starting kindergarten and I was starting my new role as a mother-in-law. Looking back on that time, I realize that we were learning very similar lessons. How to play nicely with others, how to listen to our teachers, how to share — all of those lessons apply when your child gets married. In any event, I had a surrogate granddaughter and it was wonderful. We survived the pandemic together, we have learned about grief together (her grandfather passed away a month before my father-in-law) and let us not forget how she is helping me with my math skills. I also learned about the different ways to wear your hair and how many shades of pink there are. The difference between Shabbos “fancy” shoes and regular shoes — with boys, or at least my boys, there wasn’t much of a difference. If you found a pair of shoes, that is what you wore. And a whole new generation of dolls and “fidgets” and other assorted girl things that I never even knew existed. Not to mention YouTubers and a bunch of singers who I never heard of.

But what have I taught her? I know for sure that I taught her that you cannot cheat when you play games with friends because they won’t want to play with you anymore. And then there was this week, when I took her for an outing. In the past we have gone to do pottery in Teaneck, which has always been a wonderful experience, but I decided we should try something different. Years ago, my mom and I used to frequent a jewelry-making place in Ridgewood; I even made her a “big” birthday party there 13 years ago. For those of you who know my mom, she is very into accessories — jewelry being at the top of her list — and she used to make the most incredible creations. I was happy to string a few beads together and call it a day, but she still wears the masterpieces that she created all those years ago. Honestly, I was delighted to find out that this place was still open and that I could take my surrogate granddaughter there. I still can’t take Strudel there, because she would eat the beads.

Anyway, we got to the store 15 minutes before our scheduled time and the owner told us to leave and go get a drink somewhere because her beading camp hadn’t ended yet. Now she said this with a big smile on her face, but it was totally rude and obnoxious. I chalked it up to her being overwhelmed with the kids who were there. So we came back 15 minutes later and everything she said to us when we got back was also rude and obnoxious, but she still had that big smile on her face. And that is when I had to teach my surrogate granddaughter about different personalities. How some people smile and mean it and some people smile but are actually being mean. If I wasn’t there with one of my favorite little people, I would have left and taken my business back to the pottery place and told this woman with the fake smile what I thought of her.

So the moral of this column is don’t do jewelry making in Ridgewood and when you smile, be kind and wonderful to others. Happy Labor Day and happy birthday to Son #3, whose foot was as big as my thumb when he was born — but that is really all I remember. Sorry, kid….

Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck wishes her surrogate granddaughter and kids everywhere a very successful, healthy, and happy school year!

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