In my early childhood, I spent many idyllic days with my paternal
grandmother. The things that inspire me most, I can trace back to
this dear woman. For instance, my uncles tell me that I've inherited
her ability to artistically arrange things, like tablescapes. I have to
be careful not to turn every surface in the manor into some sort of
dramatic scene. I have fond memories of tagging along with her, to
an empty church on a Saturday afternoon, and watching her arrange
a beautiful altarscape. She used fresh flower cuttings from her
garden, rich fabrics, and an assortment of odd antiques for her
Speaking of flowers, I've also inherited her green thumb. Grandma
adored plants of all kinds. Local people would drive around her
corner lot, in the rural Indiana village of Burlington, extra slowly, just
to admire her glorious flowers, little fish pond, and fountain. One of
my favorite memories is helping her gather dandelion greens along
cornfield lined country roads. She taught me how to do essential life
tasks, like how to bait a fishhook with a nightcrawler at Wildcat
Lazy afternoons, I sat by her side, as she peeled mountains of apples
for homemade pies. She wouldn't make just one. Her kitchen became
a pie factory, baking six or eight at a time. The charming fern pattern,
I watched her make in the crusts, with the tip of a teaspoon, I still use
to decorate my pies today. While the pies were cooling, I would
snuggle on her lap and listen to generous portions of the delightful
Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley.
Even though she could play the piano beautifully, she rarely did, but
insisted her children, my aunt and uncles, practice daily, with much
chiding and an occasional slap with the fly swatter. All the classics,
along with Chopsticks, of course, were indelibly embedded in my
little head. A daily dose of classical music is a must for me, to
chase the cobwebs away, and feel a sense of balance.
A year or two ago, I was randomly obsessed with Boris Pasternak
and all things Russian. I reread Doctor Zhivago, and bought both the
Lean, 1969 version and the HBO, 2002 series. When I mentioned
this to my uncle, he said it happened to be Grandma's favorite
movie, that she was crazy about Lara's Theme, and even had a little
music box that played the song. "Oh, I didn't know." I said, DNA
tingling. She would get such a kick out of my Zhivago hat. I can see
her smiling, and trying it on for size.
So, what, you're wondering, does the Statue of Liberty have to do
with this post? For me, Grandma's striking features favored those of
Lady Liberty's, and the souvenir statue she kept on her roll top desk.
Sadly, she died three days after her 56th birthday, when I was just
13. I regret she never knew the woman I grew to become, and was
not around to enjoy my lovely family. She will, however, always be
my Lady Liberty, lifting her symbolic ancestral lamp, giving me the
freedom and insight to embrace all she inspired in me.
This is a Sepia Saturday post.