If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I, like most women my age, catch myself channeling my mother with greater and greater frequency. This is distressing--as I'm sure it is for most women. However every once in a while I channel one of my grandmothers and this is usually not disturbing but actually rather comforting. I think this must be the beauty of the grandmother-grandchild relationship. Grandparents have that extra degree of distance that I believe is necessary for successful channeling.

My earliest years were spent living in the same house with my paternal grandparents. My grandmother (GR) was a short and stocky woman with a very large nose. She was no great beauty and she knew it. She was also not an intellectual giant. I don't mean she was stupid, she wasn't, but she didn't live a life of the mind and was good with that. She was strong and loyal and devoted to family and friends. In her youth she was a bit of a tom-boy and had plans to be a "career woman." Those plans ended when she met my grandfather. He was a little younger, very handsome and smart. She thought she won the lottery. She never stopped thinking that. She doted on that man until the day he died--way too young and only a year into his retirement.

Everyone on our block loved her and I would sometimes follow her as she made her rounds--to the butcher, to the elderly shut-in next door, to church to pray. GR was loud--she talked loud, she laughed loud, she yelled when she was angry. She was not a particularly good cook but an amazing baker. She would give me a little piece of dough to knead besides her as she made her famous bread. GR had a heavy hand. She literally didn't know her own strength and she made that dough suffer. GR loved her garden. She grew tomatoes and cucumbers and morning glories and marigolds. She loved her rose bushes with a passion. It is GR's hands I use when I bake. It is GR's hands I use when I grow flowers and vegetables. It is GR's hands I use when I hit something (or someone) really hard....and I smile.

My maternal grandmother (GK) was a very small woman. She didn't quite make it to five feet. GK was a lady. She was quiet and reserved and liked to have things a certain way. She loved art and taught herself how to paint in her 50s, although she never learned to drive. She created an art studio in the little sun room right off of the living room. She reproduced famous paintings and hung them all over her house. GK was an early morning person. She liked to be up before anyone else to have some time to herself. GK drank tea and had a small dog that followed her everywhere. GK hated raised voices. She always wanted things to be "nice." If GK got mad she got quiet.

GK loved the beach but she wouldn't go in the middle of the day. She was never in the sun and didn't wear a bathing suit. Instead she would walk the beach in the early morning and again at dusk--her little dog trailing behind her. She collected shells and pebbles and driftwood. GK had dolls and she made them clothes but you couldn't really play with them. Instead GK would sit down and have tea and talk with you. I channel GK when I'm alone in the house and loving my solitude. I channel GK when I wander off by myself on the beach. I channel GK when I take delight in organizing my glassware just so. I channel GK when I'm quiet. I plan to take-up pottery in my 50s.


Deb said...

and hopefully you will take the best of both when you become a grand mother yourself.

Julie said...

This is so beautiful. You made me cry! You are so right about the grandmother-grandchild relationship. It used to drive my mother crazy, because we idolized my grandmother (who also drove my mother crazy).

My mother had to deal with a mother-in-law. But I saw her as a sweet little grandma (also barely five feet tall) who gave us cake and told us where to find the Easter eggs and thought we were the greatest things to walk the face of the earth, even when we were being little hell raisers.

Your grandmothers sound like beautiful women. Have you ever written poems about them? If so, I'd love to read them!!

Again, a lovely post. Thank you!

acmegirl said...

Beautiful post.

Nit said...

I love this post!!!

I, too, am very close to my grandmother & I can totally relate to how you feel :)