Tag Archives: Grandma

Grandma’s Last Christmas

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Grandma’s Last Christmas

Something took apart my beanie, ripping seam from seam,
stealing my favorite panel for its evil scheme.
Dad’s boxers and Mom’s flowered blouse likewise disappeared.
Our baby sister’s blankie the next thing commandeered.
Mother’s apron, then a snip from her wedding dress,
taken from an inner seam, so who would ever guess?
And who would even notice Father’s tie now missed an inch?
Was there no sacred item that they were loath to pinch?
Auntie’s favorite hanky. Uncle’s tobacco pouch.
Grandma’s antimacassar that graced her threadbare couch.
Grandpa thought the moths had been at his old red flannels,
and several of our curtains were missing parts of panels.

All of us superstitious about what we’d next lose,
a semi-official inquiry offered no clear clues.
Sister’s last year’s prom dress was the next sacrifice.
Was it a new type of moth? Was it rats or mice
operating with precision, taking a tidy square?
What creature did its robberies with such exquisite care?
A year passed and another year. We began our defections
as our lives led us here and there in various directions.
Home again for Christmas, then off again to lives
involving universities and jobs and kids and wives.
Until that special Christmas, gathered at Grandma’s bed,
with Grandpa at the foot of it and Mother at the head.

We kids gathered around each side, except, that is, for one.
That was the year that Sis had said she could not join the fun.
Our husbands, wives and girlfriends did not quite fill the space.
Not one of all our children quite made up for that face
missing in the middle. That favorite of all.
That special pesky sister, sliding down the hall
on a purloined skate board, or filching Halloween
candy from the sack you’d saved. Center of every scene
that involved tricks or mischief, yet only bent on fun.
No mean bone in her body. Not a single one.
We’d sung Gram’s favorite carol, and, about to sing one more,
we heard a footstep in the hall. A creaking of the door.

A cloth-swathed creature leaped at us, then swirled it overhead.
It settled over Grandma, resting lightly on her bed.
It was a quilt of many fabrics, many colors, many shapes
made of communion dresses, knickers and wedding capes,
prom dresses and baby blankets, doilies, curtain panels,
and right there in the middle were Grandpa’s old red flannels.
I found my purloined beanie and a boy scout badge I’d missed.
I even found a scarf I stole from the first girl I’d kissed.
We all gathered around it, and stories fell like snow
upon this quilt that told them all, and on Grandma below.
We ate our Christmas dinner gathered around that quilt.
Everyone so careful that not a crumb was spilt.

Grandma with her bed tray, fingered now and then
a scrap of cloth that told another story of back when.
We should have known, of course, that our sister was the schemer.
What other one among us was such an inventive dreamer?
She knew the time would come when, scattered far apart,
something would be needed to rejoin our family’s heart.
We had no idea then that what seemed a dereliction
was  a noble enterprise, founded on her conviction
that our family history must somehow be recorded.
She kept her project secret from us, lest it be aborted.
All our buried memories needed to come to light,
so she bound them all together, in stitches neat and tight.

The prompts today are deep, official, light, conviction and bean.

Down in Grandma’s Cellar: NaPoWriMo Apr 13, 2019

Down in Grandma’s Cellar

Sleeping over at Grandma’s, her rooms all stuffed with treasure
there for my explorations, their pillaging my pleasure.
The barn so full and shadowed with pigeons, mice and more,
I did not venture farther than to peek in through the door.
But the basement was forbidden, so I overcame my fear.
To test my new maturity, I had to venture near.

Down in Grandma’s cellar, I could not see the stars.
There weren’t any planets like Jupiter or Mars.
But still it was as dark as night. The light from one mere candle
seemed the only light the ghosts who lived down there could handle.
As I creaked down the ladder rungs, glass rattled on the shelves
as though the time-dulled canning jars told stories on themselves.

Rhubarb on the nearest shelves, peaches in the back.
Watermelon pickles seemed poised for the attack,
swaying on the upper shelves, dusted by the years.
I gathered up my courage, pushing down my fears.
So many eyes caught in the dark. Glassy gleaming sprites
waiting there to satisfy the family’s appetites.

But no one came to gather them and spread them on a plate.
The waste of it was senseless—their empty, useless fate.
How many hours she’d labored to gather nature’s fruit.
How many other hours used up in the pursuit
of washing, peeling, cutting, and packing them in glass,
packing them in cauldrons and boiling them en masse.

Where did the hungry mouths go? Why did they go untasted?
What happened all those years ago that their richness was wasted?
Accustomed to the secrets kept hidden behind blinds,
we kids retained the questions that stirred our tiny minds.
So many of these mysteries lie hidden in my past.
Remarkable how long their spreading shadows seem to last.

I still have some of Grandma’s old canning jars, now relegated to a decorative use.
(Click on photos to enlarge.)

NaPoWriMo prompt: Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem about something mysterious and spooky! 

 

Generational Redux

As I sit in my art studio surveying the drawers full of the tiny objects I use for my assemblages, I often think of my Grandma Jane. Midwife, mother, knitter, crocheter, tatter, embroiderer, Chinese Checkers player, master at whipping up meals making use of whatever was at hand, in her old age she became a hoarder and was given to confusing liniment with vanilla when baking cakes. Consummate martyr, she was fond of muttering something in Dutch that to those of us other than my dad, who spoke Dutch, sounded exactly like “Mama milk my goat.” It came to be a family retort anytime one of us seemed to be feeling sorry for herself, and it was not until I returned from college, amazed that none of my friends had ever heard the phrase before, that my dad laughingly admitted that what she was actually saying was the equivalent of “Mama might be dead!” in Dutch. It was his little joke on us that he had never corrected our misquoting of the phrase.

Toward the end of her life, my grandma was not an especially pleasant person to be around and although we took her meals to her, had her over for Sunday dinner and holidays and took her shopping and for rides, we spent less and less time with her. At my 50th class reunion, a woman who had been in my class at school who had grown up in a house near my grandma, who came from a family of 13 children, told of how they’d all go over to grandma’s house to watch TV at night, and it was comforting to know she had not been as lonely as she always professed to be. As a little girl, I, too, had loved to visit her as she struggled to make me into the knitter or stitcher I’d never be, but as I grew into my teen years and as she became less of a pleasant companion, we spent less and less time together. She died at the age of 96 when I was 16.

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.

For RDP#1 Prompt.

Grandma’s Sneakers–Friday Fictioneers, 9/20/17

 

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My grandmother’s afternoons were written on her shoes––insides rubbed to fine parchment, once shiny trim worn down to dull cowhide, shoelaces loosened for easy ingress and escape, tongues swollen, vamps dusted from her habitual circling of gravel streets in search of treasures. Her pockets told the rest of the story–discarded Cracker Jack prizes, severed limbs of dolls, lost marbles, toy soldiers, single jacks separated from their families. Lined one slightly ahead of the other as though she had just stepped out of them, they told her last story that morning they carried her from her house without them.

 

To participate in this photo prompt, go here: https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/09/20/22-september-2017/

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.