Thursday, January 25, 2007

Regarding My Grandmother

We talked about the things we remembered, the things that happened when I was young enough to be completely self-centered, the things that happened when she was completely healthy and whole, married and happy.

The week spent each summer at her house going to Vacation Bible school, riding in her red Mustang, my sister and I taking turns on the hump between the crème colored leather seats pointing the half-egg air conditioning vent straight at us, its refrigerator cold blasting up our cotton dresses and cooling our thighs.

We talk about how Lisa and I swam in the backyard, clad in our flowered cotton underpants and undershirts, splashing in the square cement fountain, the statue of a chubby legged cherub above us, pouring water from a jar. Swimming, if you could call it that, with hands padding along the bottom, as though we were in a wheelbarrow race, our legs buoyed by the water.

In the evening after Grandpa came home from work and tended his cactus garden, we’d walk through the cut in the wall at the end of the cul-de-sac, past Von’s and to Baskin Robbins for an ice cream. He always ordered pistachio, cool and green, a friendly ice cream. I don’t remember what she ordered, or what I got either, but my sister liked bubble gum, a mouthful of candy coated balls squirreled in her cheeks to chomp open and work into gooey matter on the walk home in the evening heat, asphalt and sidewalk still singeing from the day’s sun.

What I carry, the things I remember, the coolness of the air-conditioned house. The unyielding stiffness of the quilted bedspread in the guest room, ugly brown on the double bed I shared with my sister, bickering over who crossed the invisible line dividing the mattress, who was hogging the covers, and which statues of horses would grace the shelf behind our heads. They weren’t for play, but we could arrange them, each eschewing the black Stallion for the dainty Palomino.

My grandmother and I talked about small things, the spools of thread in our memory boxes, because that is what we had given each other over the years. That thread gently wrapped from my sturdy fingers to hers, bony and shaking, and eased its way around us, binding one to another, testifying to what made us grandmother and granddaughter. And when she dropped her spool, it spun across her death, and beyond keeping me fast to it.

This post dedicated to Reverend Erika and her grandmother.

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