As a child, who was your favorite relative? Hmmm. That’s a tough question. My sister and brother, and my cousin Carla were my favorite playmates. My favorite adult relative was probably my maternal grandmother. She could be a little strict with us (I’m sure I got more than one swat on the behind or spent more than one eternity confined to a chair), and after every event that involved the consumption of large quantities of candy (especially Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s, and Easter) she would make us drink a bitter hot drink she called “sage tea”, so we wouldn’t get worms from all the sugar we’d eaten. I have a vivid memory of the three of us sitting on her back porch trying to choke down our ‘tea’.
So why was she my favorite? Because she kept a large book of Grimm’s fairy tales in her linen closet, and being asked to get that book for her was a thrill because it meant we were going to hear a story. I loved looking at the drawings, but mostly I loved listening to her read the stories as we sat on the floor around her upholstered rocking chair. My favorite stories were “Snow White and Rose Red”, and “Little One-Eye, Little Two-Eyes, and Little Three Eyes.” I haven’t thought about those stories in years and about the only thing I remember is that Little Two-Eyes was a kind of Cinderella, with her mother and sisters always being mean to her because with her two eyes she was nothing special; she was ordinary because she looked like everyone else.
Grandma’s house and the way she lived was also fun. She never learned to drive, so we walked to the grocery store pulling a little cart. She had a garden every summer, and she grew morning glories around the house. We were always allowed to pick strawberries and rhubarb and wash them off with the garden hose, and I loved watching the morning glories close up at nightfall. In the middle of a small patch of lawn in the backyard she also had a little peach tree that never grew any peaches. In fact, I don’t think it ever grew at all, but she never gave up on it. In the basement she had two or three heavy crocks full of homemade pickles, and things like pickled watermelon rind. And, in her laundry room she had a wringer washing machine. We were always eager to help with the laundry–what kid wouldn’t love cranking a big handle and watching the water squish out of the clothes?
Looking back, I guess today we would call her a ‘high energy’ grandma. And, she was very much her own person. She practiced a fundamentalist religion and lived according to the values she believed in–she simply didn’t care what anyone else said. Even when I was very young, I remember somehow understanding her attitude that it was her life and she was going to live it her way. But, mostly I remember her as always busy–cooking, baking, cleaning, canning, doing laundry, sewing and mending, gardening–but never too busy to talk to us, or read a story.
The Never List: What are things you’ve never done? Or things you know you never will do?
Things I’ve never done: Jump from a plane, go into space, scuba dive, snorkel, been outside the U.S., had a passport, seen the Grand Canyon, been in a movie, played professional sports, been a corporate CEO, learned to ice skate, driven a boat or a motorcycle, gone camping alone, looked for buried treasure, been an economist, driven from ‘sea to shining sea’, written a romance, studied photography, acted in a Shakespearean play, worn a ball gown, been to the top of the Empire State Building, slept in a hammock, been a financial planner, designed a house, repaired a car engine, washed windows on a skyscraper, ridden a jet ski, walked through a cemetery at night, roasted a Christmas goose, driven a race car…the list of things I’ve never done is endless.
At my age, one of the things I do believe is, “Never say never.” When thinking of things I know I’ll never do, I was going to say, “Be 16 again,” but if reincarnation is real, then maybe I will be 16 again. Never say never.
Some of the things I’ve listed I would still like to do (among many others), some I would never consider doing (among many others), and a few hadn’t even occurred to me until just now. I’ll let the reader figure out which is which.