13 December 2010

Naomi P. Wright! Imagine shouting that down a neighbourhood street!

Yesterday was my grandmother's birthday. She died when I was still at university, but she lives on in my memories, in my stories, in how I do things nearly every day.

We'd spend part of the winter in her basement sewing or making crafts. I'd go round with her in what we called the "free rummage sale." In New Zealand it's called inorganic rubbish collection. Only part of what is put out is collected by the waste removal trucks. It's a bit of a free for all for the few days prior.

We'd make pumpkin bread in floured coffee cans, wrap them nicely and attach cards with our friends' and family's names on them. We were welcomed warmly when delivering our cylindrical parcels!

Granny was my mom's mom, but my brother and I called her Mom from early on. A generational hiccup or something had relegated that title to the grandmother. My mom was Mother from the day my dad announced that we were too old to call her Mommy. Fair enough! I was driving by then! Not really. But that whole evolution of role and maturation of offspring is an interesting topic for another time.

So my mom was Mother and my grandmother was Mom. Until she lost her glasses. Yep, lost 'em. They seemed to be nowhere in sight. Mumbling and grumbling she got Jeff and me in on the search. We moved sofas and magazines and looked in drawers, though how they could get far from her reach she couldn't figure out.

Only when we could stand it no longer did we inform my dear grandmother that they had been on top of her head all along! I can't describe the look she gave us; something of a blend of relief, betrayal, anger, humour, embarrassment, anger again . . . .

Later that evening, when things weren't so tense, I asked if we could call her Granny like the granny in 'The Beverly Hillbillies' cause she'd done the same thing in one of the recent shows. Granny said, "You can call me anything you like as long as it is with love and respect."

That wasn't a hard qualifier. She was an amazing woman. She made the first, and only, doll I ever really played with, carried around and shared secrets with. Barbie? Pphooooie! My doll was homemade, genetically linked to our family! She had a nightie made out of the same material as my own, liked what I liked and was a good reader. Her name was Naomi too. Musta been confusing for my mother sometimes, cause I'd sometimes ask where Naomi was and my mother wouldn't know at first whether I meant my grandmother or my doll. But then I never called Granny by her given name unless she was being unreasonable.

On Granny's birthday we let her tell any jokes she wanted and we were bound by a commitment to laugh. Her jokes were not very good, but the least we could do was laugh on her birthday! Over time a not-very-funny joke came to be known as a Granny-joke.

Her photographs were always easily distinguishable too. I mean the ones she took. Maybe she was better with the old Brownie cameras where you looked down in to the box. Once she got glasses and she had to look straight through the camera's viewfinder, heads rolled. Well, they didn't really roll, but they were consistently cut off, so you were left to wonder. Something about the optics in her glasses and the viewfinder frustrated her efforts.

Granny usually had a small garden. The tomatoes were staked along the fence and sometimes there were a few other things she could bring in at dinner time. She made the best mashed potatoes. Never a lump in them! And her vegetable soup!

My dad never liked her veggie soup. He was afraid she'd just cleaned out the fridge and chucked everything in the pot.

After Granny died I tried to make her Apple Cake recipe for my brother as a special gift. When Jeff commented to our dad that it just wasn't the same, my dad applied wisdom and said, 'No, and it never will be." with a follow-up discussion on how memories and reality seldom jell and how Granny's presence was the missing ingredient.

I had been home for Christmas and then gone to Haiti as team photographer on my first overseas ministry trip. Granny went out to Arizonia where the dry desert air was thought to be good for Congestive Heart Failure. It wasn't. She died amongst family.

She lives still through her recipe book in my kitchen, my sewing kit that she put together before I went off to college, in James Whitcomb Riley poems she taught me as a kid, and in my stories.


Woven and Spun said...

I love your Granny and I never even met her!
She sounds wonderful.
This post made my eyes tear up because the girls grandmother is now on her death bed.
I'm not sure their memories will be as fond, but I hope they are.

Sonia said...

Very cool to have memories of this! I wish I did!!