Grandma Steps Out


Grandma Steps Out

It is one thing to be born before the age of computers or television, but my grandma lived in an age before flip-flops! So it was that she was reduced to modernizing herself with a pre-flip-flop substitute: a pair of navy blue Keds canvas tennis shoes, stretched out over her bunions to a point near bursting. She wore these Keds daily, whether she was combing the sidewalks and ditches of our little town for lost balls and toys and Cracker Jack prizes or shuffling into church in her best navy blue crepe dress with black glass beads and cake crumbs decorating the bodice.

The prompt: Odd Trio Redux—Time for another Odd Trio prompt: write a post about any topic you want, in whatever form or genre, but make sure it features a slice of cake, a pair of flip-flops, and someone old and wise.

(This is a short one, so I’m also including a longer poem  written about the same grandma:)

Buried Treasure

She always wore a navy dress of heavy crepe
with dozens of small black buttons down the front.
Her jewelry, turned dull black
by some body chemistry that I share,
lay abandoned in her dresser drawer,
the food stains spilling down her front,
her new adornment.

Trunks in her house were filled
with ill-stitched pillowcases,
her handiwork
rendered less carefully year-by-year
as her eyesight failed—
her useless glasses repaired at the bridge
with thick amber glue
she bought by the box to sell
but never did.

Every Christmas, her gift to me
was one more from her cache of dozens
of small plastic lamps powered by batteries—
another failed scheme received in the mail
that had promised to swell her fortune.

Her china cabinet
was crowded to each edge
with 96 years of carnival glass,
milk glass and heavy Dutch beer mugs,
green dishes from soap boxes
and cut glass jelly goblets—
treasures doled out to us
one per visit towards the end,
as though she sensed
the inescapable.

The day of the fire, she didn’t want to leave her things:
canning jars full of Cracker Jack prizes
and other treasures mined from her pockets
after a neighborhood stroll.
They carried her, kicking and screaming, from her house
and put her in our car.
“All right, old girl,” my dad said,
and drove her 50 miles
to the nearest residence for the elderly.

I remember all of this
after a Christmas gathering with friends
as I clean food spills
from my Mexican-embroidered blouse:
how they bulldozed her house
with most of her treasures inside
and built a hospital on the land;
how it, too, now lies abandoned
in the dying town,
its cobwebbed rooms giving no testament
to that which lies below:
trunks filled with yellowing embroidered sheets and pillowcases,
shelf upon shelf of Mason jars
filled with the collection of her lifetime:
buried riches
whose containers have acquired a worth
far beyond the trinkets they contain.

And, why not one more?  If you’ve been reading me for awhile, you may have read this one before, so just skip it if you wish. It’s another one about my grandma and her sister.

“Sisterly Squabbles”

A little weep, a little sigh,
a little teardrop in each eye.

Grandma Jane and her sister Sue,
one wanted one hole, the other, two

punched into their can of milk.
(All their squabbles were of this ilk.)

The rest, of course, is family fable.
They sat, chins trembling, at the table.

When my dad entered, we’ve all been told,
their milk-less coffee had grown cold.

9 thoughts on “Grandma Steps Out

  1. john flanagan

    …and you absolutely nailed it, Judy. How i LOVE the ‘black glass beads and cake crumbs
    decorating the bodice’ …and that’s before i got to the ‘Squabbles’ !!
    This has been a real pleasure, thank you.


  2. grieflessons Post author

    Thanks, John. What I wanted to post was a longer poem about that grandma, but it was alas lost earlier this year when I somehow erased my whole year’s writing from my computer. I’ve been plowing through old files and finally found a copy in a folder, retyped it, and it is now on that same posting. If your thirst for poetry isn’t quenched by now, you may want to go back to today’s posting to read it.


  3. Pingback: Daily Prompt: Odd Trio Redux | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice

  4. Laura M.

    Loved these! The first stanza in Buried Treasure is wonderful and I love how you packed the poem so full of recollections that it mirrors her hoarding. Beautifully sad.


  5. Tamara

    What I feel from this is the frugality of that age. Repairing stuff, saving little things that are like treasures and may be useful. Then, as we grow older, hanging onto the stuff and hoping that somebody will see the value in the stuff that we kept. I’m glad I got rid of much of that when I moved because I won’t cling so hopelessly to it when it’s time to let go again. I do keep a ball of string that I collect from the tops of feed bags, though! And it comes in very handy.


  6. grieflessons Post author

    You have hit the nail on the head. I think all of us born of parents and grandparents who lived through the depression have vestiges of this hoarding in us, and not carried to excess, it is a good thing. It teaches us to value utilitarian things and I think has a lot to do with my love of “found” objects. You speak so directly to what I’m going through now when you talk about knowing when to let go. I got rid of tons of stuff when I moved to Mexico, but I fear it has been replaced. Time to start going through the garage and getting rid of tools I haven’t used in 13 years and papers I haven’t looked at in that amount of time. Hard to let loose of our past. I do appreciate your being such a faithful reader, Tamara. You can have no idea how gratifying it is to have someone value what I write.



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