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Location: Midwest, United States

"Power lines, my travlin' partner on this ride. Dripping, pulling - up and down, in this sing song, their lullaby blends with the swaying train. I curl myself into this journey; folding myself up into this pocket of time. Old familiars greet me - that swing set in the back yard, the ruins of an old church covered in new birth and old - mixed with unremembered newness." Journal Entry, October 13, 2005~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~All words are copyrighted by GoGo on a Page/gogoroku.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

What Do REO Speedwagon, Blue Skies, the Godfather, and an Immunity Idol have in common?

I grew up in a small city that really was a big town. In our neighborhood our house and two of our neighbors’ houses stood high on a hill above the other houses. Before the neighborhood became a neighborhood, it was farmland and the barn stood where our houses are now. I learned this from the neighbor, Old Mr. Mann, 4 doors down after I tried to sell him spices and he wound up giving me a history tour of the neighborhood.
I’ll do this. Given enough time, I always tell one story or another from my childhood. I admit, most the time in rambling fashion to include the minute details of the event. For the most part I had a wonderful childhood. For me growing up was like the movie "Stand By Me" without the body. There was a story in every moment and I loved the fact that I got that. Of course, I was the type of kid who thought if I could jump high enough I could see the angels on top of the clouds.

I tell you this because I’ve been thinking about my Grandmother, my father’s mother, getting lost in the details of my time with her. She died when I was six-years-old from Cancer, but I still remember her like the color of the sky. In fact, the day I found out she was going to pass away I went outside and hid between my grandmother’s garage and the neighbor’s rusty old fence and I burned the image of the sky into my brain. It was the deepest darkest blue I had ever seen. One singular cloud, no bigger than a puff, floated in the sky. I remembered thinking if I could remember the color of the sky, I’d remember her. (Hey, kid's logic here!)

Grandma was the matriarch of the family. You can tell a matriarch because like the Godfather, she ran the details of the family. Everyone yielded to her decisions; seasons and holidays were ushered in by her ritual, and family was always gathering around her. She was a proud woman who worked as a Janitor in the local High School where her children went. NO ONE dared to make fun of her or her children for it. On the weekends she was the bartender at the local American Legion, complete with sweet sass and bouncer capabilities*. The first words my sister spoke were "Son of a bitch" because "of Grandma". I know all the mothers, feminists, and any decent intellect cringes at this, but I can only offer that this was a different time... That and I loved her with my whole being, so I really don’t care.

For me, summer and my Grandmother are synonymous. I guess because we spent most our weekends at her house when she was alive. One time, I can remember listening to a REO Speedwagon 8track in my Dad’s fire orange (insert car type) with my brother and sister at Grandma's house. I believe a cousin was also involved, but mysteriously disappeared when we accidently put the car into neutral and it began rolling down the drive way. Needless to say, I remember at 5 years of age holding down the break while my brother ran to "get help". After my Dad saved the car from us kids, I remember him getting "full of spit fire" which meant he yelled so loud he was actually spitting. Grandma wouldn’t have it though. Her grandkids were not going to get yelled at for a "stupid orange car". I tell you, this woman was our immunity idol back then, and we knew that Dad could do nothing about it. [Insert Neener neener neeeener here].

She also ushered in summer with two rituals I dearly miss. First, she had all her children over to our house to plant my mother’s garden in the spring. My Mom still complains that "that woman" would have all the kids over to help plant, but she’d be damned if she could get them to weed it throughout the season too. Second, there was always a summer party because grandma wanted it. In my home town, family and friends mixed to the point that everyone had an Uncle this or Aunt that who turned out to be a friend of the family with an honored title. So, when Grandma had a party, it was an event that brought not only family, but friends of the family and their family to boot.

When she died, like a matriarch with no heir, this tradition faded with her. She was the glue that held her children together. Though my Dad and his siblings still talk, no one has stepped up to usher in the summer events or push the family to help each other plant gardens, except once. Grandma was a powerful force of spirit and courage, who always laughed and never held her tongue, even to my Dad’s Dad, a Southern Baptist Minister. He knew how to stimulate fear of G-d in men, but could not keep a G-d fearing woman from speaking her mind. Or at least that's how the family mythos goes since he died when my Dad was 16-years-old.

I miss her. But I’m not sad about this. I just think she was great woman and want to share her with this page.

*She was a bartender/bouncer at an American Legion, it wasn't Hooters!

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Blogger Jamie said...

I really enjoyed getting to know your grandmother in this post. I could just feel her presence - what a strong woman she was and what precious memories you have.

Thanks for coming by my Sunday Scribblings last week. I'm glad it led me here!

6:03 PM, April 08, 2006  

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