“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

6.01.2011

she had pictures of jesus on the walls


it's my grandmother's trunk and i've had it for ages, since i first moved away from home, and even before that it sat in my teenage bedroom under a poster of steve winwood; it's been black - back when i was younger and liked that kind of thing, all shiny & black like a cadillac convertible waiting for me on the corner, all shiny & black like the harley this guy i once dated drove - but it's mostly been white, partly because i've been older longer than i was young, but also because i moved through that shiny-black-vehicle-long-green-fingernails phase on into who i really am and who i really am likes things a little cluttered and likes to go barefoot, which my grandmother also liked to do, and which my mother liked to do, so i get it honest, which is for sure the best way to get anything.  my grandmother would putter around her house with no shoes on and she would let me drink coffee from a saucer and she would let me gather eggs from her many chicken coops, and her catalogs were fair game for paper dolls, and she would send my brothers and me to the store, to buy rc colas and payday candy bars - the store had a wooden floor and a butcher counter in the back and i was mesmerized by the jar of pickled pigs' feet that sat there, stunned that anyone could and would eat such a thing. 

her house had screened in porches and no air conditioning, though there was a window unit water cooler fan and hand fans and floor fans and screen doors and open windows, and i mostly remember it in the summer, i seldom remember it in winter, when it must have been cold, no fireplace, just gas heat, though i do recall a fabulously soft down comforter, all peachy in color, on the bed in the front bedroom, the one that looked out onto the front porch - all my other memories there are summer ones, maybe because we spent more time with her then, school being out and time unending spread before us.

she had pictures of jesus on the walls and no tv, and she listened to radio evangelists and preachers, and walked to church every sunday; she kept her collection plate money tied in a handkerchief, and if we were with her, we'd always get a few cents to drop in the plate.  the church has changed hands and denominations many times since i was a child and she was alive, but inside is still the pew with her name on it. 

she was not a fancy cook and my love for fresh fruits and naked vegetables is her doing - homegrown tomatoes, butter beans, fried okra, boiled new potatoes, green beans, corn on the cob, fried squash, cream peas, watermelon, blackberries.  fresh eggs from the chickens and fresh chicken from the same - i didn't know what a pizza was until i was 10 years old or so.  she had dogs and cats and an attic full of books and a yard full of 4 o'clocks and she made quilts by hand and sewed all her dresses.  she would let dishes pile up in the sink, saying they would be there to wash when she was ready, and i admit she passed that gift to me.  she took in ironing to help pay her bills and would stand over her ironing board, whistling an almost whistle - she gave me that also.  i can't whistle a note and family traits being what they are, neither can my niece, who also likes her feet bare.

my grandmother's trunk is now full of old drawings
and rolled up paintings
and exercise dvds i should throw away,
and that empty spot on the left is where skye the cat now lays each morning,
soaking up the sun's warmth. 
the latch won't stay up and hasn't for years. 
mi casa imperfecta. 
muchas gracias y love.

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15 comments:

  1. this sounds just like my childhood and spending time with my great grandmother (whom i stayed with constantly)....thanks for bringing back such a flood of memories. :)

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  2. What wonderful memories, makes me think of my own grandparents who are now no longer with us.

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  3. Your writing always brings tears to my eyes - so full of beauty and nostalgia and love of life, all of it, even the parts that rip you to shreds. Voluptuous.

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  4. Your description of your grandmother is very similar to my mom. I like that you have kept the trunk and treasure it no matter what color it is. Mine is olive green. I think white would be very nice.

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  5. I LOVE this, so rich in all the things that really matter in life, those memories that you hold dear, the people and the days that formed who you are.
    this made me so nostalgic for those days gone by that seemed so much simpler, maybe just because we were young, maybe because they actually were simpler.
    bare feet are the best.

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  6. I was reading this beautiful litany of memories that form & sustain, and (you know me) I was thinking, with a happy sigh, "Oh! This is just like being wrapped up in a good, worn quilt." And then, there was the line: your grandma quilted.
    And I am barefoot everywhere too.
    I am smiling, smiling!!

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  7. It is always good to start a morning with a good cry, no? I spent many summers with my grandmother and loved every moment!

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  8. oh the feelings of a grandmother and the simple beauty of what the trunk is and holds


    ..and steve winwood..have not thought of him in awhile ;)

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  9. i love this post. when i hear stories of grandmothers it always strikes me how easily they conjure up memories and images of my own - so many things similar. the fresh vegetables and fruit, the open windows and wood floors, the quilts and hand sewn dresses, walking to the corner store, to church... it was such a wonderful time in many ways.
    what a wonderful piece holding memories

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  10. Thank you for this post - it sounds so much like my own beloved Quaker "gran", and I loved her - I loved her more than anything.

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  11. What a lovely inheritance, infused with so much detail and memory, I'm sure your grandmother would be delighted by all that you carry with you of her and all that you remember. Such a gift.

    And this post is a gift to us - it is lyrical and dreamy and makes me want to write about my own grandmother.

    Thank you for sharing her with us. ♥

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  12. Beautiful photograph and beautiful story. I sure hope you write a book of fiction on day, Deb. You have such a gift for writing - it just blows my mind. I hope you know this of yourself. I hope you know that if YOU - YES, YOU! - wrote a book, people like me would buy it and read it.

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  13. I've only read your first paragraph and already I'm so stunned. Just... boggled. There is so much I want to say to you. So many conversations I'd like to begin. Oh, I do wish we could sit down for a few hours of telephone chat. We could each drink a cold Coke in an icy mug and much Nutter Butters.

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  14. big sigh...

    I do love you, sweet Debi. You and your casa imperfecta and your wonderful memories and your magical thinking and your great big heart.

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