Thursday, February 8

Day 39 — Granny's stuff

granny's stuff — Feb 8

My great-grandmother, for as long as I knew her, was a small woman: frail, with a humpback, who we always assumed went to great pains to keep her hair dyed a velvety almond brown. She would go every week at the same time — Saturday morning, if I recall — and sit beneath one of those mammoth dryers at the beauty shop on Main Street in Saltillo, for as long as it took to get her hair perfectly round and airy. It wasn't until she became too ill to live alone and take care of herself that we realized, after no one had done much more than comb and style her hair for weeks, that the woman barely had a grey hair on her head.

And that was the way with my great-grandmother; there was always more about her that I didn't know than I did. From the way my family talks about her, it seems like she was a completely different person before I was born than she was after. My father speaks of the awful things she would do and say — and truly some of them are downright evil — and I just can't imagine my Granny — my small, frail, shaky, cackling Granny — acting like that.

My sister loves to tell the story of the time Granny got so mad at Krissie's pet rooster that she chased it around the yard and whacked its head off. Then she chopped off one of its feet and put it in a small white box on top of a layer of cotton and brought it back to prove to Krissie what she'd done. My sister kept that foot for a long time. I remember looking at it in that same white box and wondering what a rooster could do to make someone so mad.

During my lifetime, Granny's meanness was, as far as I can tell, tempered somewhat by the steady breakdown of her body. I look at pictures of her in her younger days, when her only son was meeting my grandmother and preparing to marry, and it's amazing how solid she was: tall and thick, and muscular like a farm wife has to be when she's carrying slop to the hogs and spending hours with her arms in the air, pinning wet sheets to cables strung up in the back yard. But as she topped 70, 80, and 90, she shrank in stature and I watched as her skin began to droop and sag and nearly drip off her bones. It became soft and easy to bruise, like the skin of a finicky banana. It showed the marks of a hundred accidental bumps and nicks.

And no matter how crooked and gnarled her hands became, she always kept her fingernails — which were long and impeccably filed — painted mauve.

On my way to my parents' the other day, I passed by her old house, which has sat vacant pretty much since her death, and noticed my dad's car in the driveway. I turned around and went back to see what he was up to there.

He was inside, changing out some light bulbs. I looked around at what was left of the place — an old Zenith floor unit TV, a stack of gilded-frame mirrors and landscape prints, boxes of fabric patterns and clothes, some dishes and glassware, and some random papers — and noticed that, since the last time I'd been in there, they'd managed to condense everything that was left into the living room. We're getting ready to put the house on the market. Part of me wants to just move in and clean it up and keep it in the family. I've got lots of memories in that house: Toasting grilled cheeses in the toaster oven, trimming the hedges for piddly amounts of money, peeking into the cedar chest and taking big whiffs of the woody scent, pilfering through the secret compartment of Granny's jewelry box and trying on her clip-on earrings, watching Wheel of Fortune, greeting trick-or-treaters at her front door.

On the floor was a dark-brown fedora. My great-grandfather's. He used to wear those and carry a cane, and I have these memories of my brother, when he was a baby, wearing the hat and carting the cane around, to the great amusement of Grandaddy. He died not long after those memories were imprinted.

Granny never got over him. I would sit with her on trips home from college and she would talk about how much she missed him.

What heartache is left in that house.

So I decided to take some with me. Not heartache, per se, but little pieces to remind me of that house and the people who lived in it, who I never really even got the chance to meet.

Project 365

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Blogger grandefille said...

You are one gifted storyteller, miss.

Gifted, I tellya.

And a good shooter, too.

Thu Feb 08, 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger grandefille said...

P.S. -- Ferret alert at Cute Overload today. Almost as cute as The Amazing Felix.

Thu Feb 08, 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger theogeo said...

Thank you. :) That means a whole lot to me, I want you to know. If I can transmit even a fraction of what the people in my life mean to me, I'll be happy.

And thanks for the heads-up about Cute Overload! I need to start submitting Felix's photos and make him an internet star. Er, more of an internet star.

Thu Feb 08, 08:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this story was beautiful! I hope we get to read lots more like it.

Thu Feb 08, 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous john h said...

Wow, Lindsey. You DID convey some powerful feelings about your family, esp. your granny. The picture is wonderful as well.

I agree with grandefille: One gifted storyteller.

PS. thanks for changing your 'commenting rules!'

Thu Feb 08, 10:25:00 PM  

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