Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Selective Memories..OR.. Grandma's Ugly Chair

Grandmas are made of memories.
But the problem is - you never know what kind of memories about a grandma that a child is going to keep and which ones will be forgotten.

I always felt like grandmas were special.
Like they were fairy godmothers that would swoop you up and save you just about the time you were in line for a whooping.

Grandmas were like angels that always had an extra cookie in their aprons or a spare fifty cents in their pocket books.

Grandmas were like big mother hens that would hug you so tight your eyes would pop with glee, sing you songs till you fell into a wonderland of slumber, and encourage you to grow up and be whatever you wanted to be.

But for me -that was only in fairy tales and dreams...

I don't remember much about my grandmothers, other than their appearance.
I always felt I was cheated in that department- that life took them from me too soon to appreciate their personalities or to reap the benefits from their affection.

My Mother's mom was a big Croatian woman who always wore a dress, knee high support hose and an apron tied around her thick waist. I remember her mostly in the kitchen of her home- a bright, open sunny room that always smelled wonderfully of fresh baked bread and coffee. She served us milk or juice from gem-colored melamine tea cups, always positioned on a matching saucer- or from a purple aluminum cup that forever stayed cold.

She spoke to us in her native language- a Yugoslavian dialect that seemed to roll off the tongues of every adult that gathered in her house. We would just listen and hope we could figure out what was being said or being asked of us.

Of course, when Grandma pushed a plate of cinnamon donuts in front of you, you pretty much knew what she wanted. Usually Mom was there to translate, though, but I regret to this day that we weren't taught at least the basics of her foreign language.

My Dad's mom was also a big woman, but short and stocky, with thick ankles that always seemed to be stuffed in little pumps or corduroy house slippers. She was harder around the edges from being a farmer's wife and never seemed to warm up to us kids like grandmas should.
I was grown and married before she died, but those extra years that we had her with us were no more endearing than those of my childhood.

I am a grandmother.
And, in reflection, I suppose I haven't really been ideal.

When the grand kids beg to play Connect Four or Go Fish, I usually come up with an excuse like, "I'm too busy", or "Later".
I limit their ice cream treats and refuse them messy candy.
I get angry when their wear their shoes on the carpet or blow bubbles in their chocolate milk.
I never take them to movies, I never bake fresh bread, and I can't remember the last time I wore a dress.

But I love them and I tell them I love them.
I hug them, kiss them often, and tell them they can do -and be -anything they set their hearts and minds to.
And I watch with pride and wonderment each time they come running up the porch steps, smiling and ready to raid my fridge, fingerprint my TV screen, or go wild with the dog.

My grandson Jackson came over last night,( a four year old with exuberant energy and non-stop
inquisitiveness), and left his trail across my house that is unmistakably his trademark.

I have an old wing chair that I got for free a few years ago, and I used it as an art experiment. One day I decided to paint a guitar on the cushions using bright acrylics, and even fabric-glued on thin gold thread for the strings.

It was the ugliest chair in the entire world!
So, I did what I always do- I attempted to cover it up-( and did so rather successfully).

That is-until Jackson discovered it about a year ago. Ripping off the covering, he was in awe at the guitar and declared he "Loved it!!"
I would sigh and grit my teeth every time he left, knowing that the first thing I would have to do is go cover up the chair.
He was here last night and this morning I proceeded to cover the ugly chair.

But, suddenly, I looked at it differently.

I wondered if this is how Jackson will remember me.
Grandma the artist.
Grandma the creative pioneer.
Grandma who let me sit in her guitar chair,
who fashioned little strings from gold thread,
who wasn't afraid to go ahead and try something even at the risk of failure...

if he'll remember me as Grandma the Weirdo
who had the ugliest chair in the world!

You just never know!