This is the sappy, remember-when, type of blog entry that might not interest anyone but my family, so I apologize to everyone else, but I must follow through...
My Grandma Blagg's birthday is on May 27...it would have been her 88th. She passed away in March of 2007. In honor of her birthday, I am remembering the things about her I loved, the memories I will always carry with me. By the time I was old enough to be interested in her as a person and not just as my Grandma Blagg, she had dementia and it was too late. She didn't know who I was anymore. The summers I spent at her house in Newport were the best of my life. I dreaded returning home to Fayetteville and a new school year every fall. Here are some of my memories of those summers, some fact, some feeling, some funny:
My grandmother could yodle with the best! Once, I remember her sitting at the kitchen table in Newport, yodling for me because I had begged and begged. She sang wonderful songs to us like, "Three Little Fishies" and she told amazing tall tales, sadly, none of which I remember. I wish someone remembered the tale she used to tell from the perspective of a little girl, a story about all the trouble the girl got into at her grandmother's house. I loved that story. I wish I could tell it to my kids. I do sing "Three Little Fishies" to my son and when I do, I think of her.
She also told stories about her life. I loved the stories about the time she saw a UFO at her cabin, and how she inspired the name of the restaurant chain, Whataburger! She relayed stories of her youth, playing basketball, how she met my grandfather, her highschool graduation day. I haven't heard these stories since I was a child, and I am sure I have forgotten or blurred the details of each and every one, but the feeling is still there. The way she held me captivated with her tales and details.
My grandmother was an artist. She created pictures with seeds. She made the most exquisite pictures and jewelry out of all types of seeds. The downstairs of her home had a desk covered in hundreds of different colors, shapes and sizes of seeds. When I was a child, she made a picture of a clown for me out of seeds. I have since lost it and this makes me so sad. I do, however, have some of the necklaces she made. On a couple of occasions, my grandmother helped my sister and I make seed jewelry, as well. Ours never turned out as beautiful as hers, but we felt so accomplished after creating our little works of art.
Her house didn't have central heat and air, so there was an AC unit in the living room. I loved sitting on the back of the couch, directly in front of it, the air cooling my neck and shoulders. The heat came out of a large grate in the floor of the living room, much like the grates one would see on sidewalks, which remained hot in the winter months. I was afraid of stepping on the metal grate and falling through into the unknown, dark abyss of whatever lay beneath the floor.
She had a TV on a rolling stand in the living room and sometimes she would let us roll it into the doorway of the kitchen so we could watch TV while we ate her cozy, home-cooked meals.
She kept pots and pans inside the stove.
She had a microwave that I never saw her use.
She wore a lot of wigs and kept the large, downstairs walk-in closet full of them, plus hats, scarves, jewelry, purses, and old clothes. My sister and I would pretend that the closet was our house and we would dress up in her wigs and hats, carry her purses around the house and fill them with bathroom accessories and trinkets.
Her house was split-level with a breezeway in between the two floors. I LOVED the breezeway. She kept plants in the breezeway, along with storage boxes and the deep freeze. I used to sit on the deep freeze until I was told to get down and I would search endlessly through the freezer, looking for ice cream treats. There was also a window above the freezer which led into one of the bedrooms. My sister and I thought it was so mysterious that there was a window in the house that didn't lead to the outdoors, but to another place inside! We would crawl through that window everytime we visited as well, until again, we were told to stop.
My grandmother had a pecan tree in her backyard and we spent hours every summer picking pecans from the lower branches and the ground. Then she would gather them up and bake something wonderful with them!
I loved the sound of the green, wooden, screen door slamming behind me when I went to the backyard from the laundry room and the sound of the swinging kitchen door, swooshing behind me as I went from one room to the next.
When we visited, my sister and I slept on the pull-out couch in the living room. Every night before bed, we would roll the TV up to the couch, curl up in our pajamas, and watch old episodes of Star Trek. It was a nightly ritual and my first exposure to the show. Then, if we were lucky, we got to stay up even later and watch the late night talk shows.
Before my great-grandmother, Mama Jane, went into a nursing home, she lived with my grandmother. She always wore housecoats and slippers and I'm not sure how much she enjoyed my sister and I visiting. We were a nuisance sometimes, I'm sure. The main thing I remember about her is that she DID NOT like it if my sister and I slept past dawn. She wanted us up early for breakfast and thought we were wasting the day if we weren't up by 8 am. Some mornings, I pretended I was sleeping on the pull-out couch and I would listen to my grandmother and great-grandmother arguing in the kitchen. My grandmother went to bat for us, telling Mama Jane that we could sleep in if we wanted to! I always loved her for that.
My grandmother had an old, long, green car which she never drove because she didn't like driving, so we never went anywhere when we visited, unless someone else drove.
There was an intoxicating portrait of my grandaddy hanging over the piano in the living room. I was always fascinated by it because it was so blue! His eyes were a soft blue, and either his shirt or the background were blue, I can't remember which. It was just blue and peaceful. I was also fascinated by it because I never got to meet my grandaddy. He died while my mother was pregnant with me. I liked staring at it, imagining what he might have been like and how we would have played together. Would he have carried me on his back like he carried my cousins in a picture I saw once? Would he tell me jokes? Would we eat ice cream and pie together (I was told that he always said he only liked two kinds of pie - hot and cold!)? Would he let me use his coffee mug?
There is one memory about my grandmother that will last for this entire lifetime, even if everything else fades away. And it is a strange, funny and embarassing one. I was quite the dramatic hypochondriac as a child. I was always afraid something was wrong with me, scared I was going to get cancer mostly, but my fear was certainly not limited to that particular disease. My dad was also a hypochondriac, which is why my sister and I worried about our health so much. One summer, before our visit to Newport, I had read or heard about how people can get worms. I think I was around nine or ten years old. Before that day, I didn't know it was possible for a human to contract worms. I was mortified, to say the least. So, we go to Newport and one night, my butt crack starts itching and it wouldn't stop. I couldn't sleep because it was itching so bad! Itch, scratch, itch, scratch. I didn't know what was wrong with me! There must be only one explanation, I thought. I have worms. I thought worms must have crawled into my butthole and now it itched because they weren't supposed to be there. I drove myself into a terrifed frenzy and started crying, afraid I was being eaten from the inside out. My parents were five to six hours away in Fayetteville! What was I going to do? So, I woke up my grandmother. We sat at the kitchen table and I told her all about my probable worm infestation. She sat and listened, never once laughing at me (which is what I think I might have done had one of my grandchildren told me she thought she had worms living in her butt). She hugged me and sat up with me into the wee hours of the night, reassuring me that everything would be fine and we would call my parents in the morning and tell them about my problem. I felt so much better that I eventually stopped crying and went to bed. The next morning, the itchy butt problem was gone and I had forgotten all about my worm fears. I was fine. I don't think I ever thanked my grandmother for sitting up with me all night, for hugging me, not laughing at me, and telling me everything was going to be okay. It meant so much to me and I'll never forget that night as long as I live.
Thank you Grandma for all the wonderful memories, thank you for loving me and taking care of me during those many summers. They were the best summers of my life. I miss you.